Daily Archives: June 9, 2017

9 June 1943

Memphis Belle over England, heading home, 9 June 1943. (U.S. Air Force)

9 June 1943: After completing 25 combat missions over Western Europe from its base at Air Force Station 121 (RAF Bassingbourne, Cambridgeshire, England), Memphis Belle, a U.S. Army Air Forces Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress, serial number 41-24485, assigned to the 91st Bombardment Group (Heavy), 324th Bomb Squadron (Heavy), was flown home by Captain Robert K. Morgan and Captain James A. Verinis.

The daylight bombing campaign of Nazi-occupied Europe was very dangerous with high losses in both airmen and aircraft. For a bomber crew, 25 combat missions was a complete tour, and they were sent on to other assignments. Memphis Belle was only the second B-17 to survive 25 missions, so it was withdrawn from combat and sent back to the United States for a publicity tour.

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-22485, Memphis Belle, in flight over England, 1943. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-22485, Memphis Belle, in flight over England, 1943. (U.S. Air Force)
Miss Margaret Polk
Miss Margaret Polk

The B-17’s name was a reference to Captain Morgan’s girlfriend, Miss Margaret Polk, who lived in Memphis, Tennessee. The artwork painted on the airplane’s nose was a “Petty Girl” based on the work of pin-up artist George Petty of Esquire magazine. (Morgan named his next airplane—a B-29 Superfortress—Dauntless Dotty after his wife, Dorothy Morgan. With it, he led the first B-29 bombing mission against Tokyo, Japan, in 1944. It was also decorated with a Petty Girl.)

Memphis Belle and her crew were the subject of a 45-minute documentary, “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress,” directed by William Wyler and released in April 1944. It was filmed in combat aboard Memphis Belle and several other B-17s. The United States Library of Congress named it for preservation as a culturally significant film.

After the war, Memphis Belle was put on display in the city of Memphis. For decades it suffered from time, weather and neglect. The Air Force finally took the bomber back and placed it in the permanent collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where it has been undergoing a total restoration for the last several years.

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485, the Memphis Belle, under restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. Museum staff tried to save the original markings on the bomber.(U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485, Memphis Belle, under restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. Museum staff have tried to preserve the original markings on the bomber. The “Petty Girl” on the right side of the airplane is in red. (U.S. Air Force)

The Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress was a four-engine heavy bomber operated by a flight crew of ten. It was 74 feet, 9 inches (22.784 meters) long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9-3/8 inches (31.633 meters) and an overall height of 19 feet, 1 inch (5.187 meters). Its empty weight was 34,000 pounds (15,422 kilograms), 40,437 pounds (18,342 kilograms) loaded, and the maximum takeoff weight was 56,500 pounds (25,628 kilograms).

The B-17F was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.876 liters) Wright Cyclone C9GC (R-1820-97) nine-cylinder radial engines with turbochargers, rated at 1,000 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. at Sea Level, and 1,200 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. for takeoff. War Emergency Power was 1,380 horsepower. The Cyclones turned three-bladed, constant-speed, Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic propellers with a diameter of 11 feet, 7 inches (3.835 meters) though a 0.5625:1 gear reduction. The R-1820-97 engine is 47.80 inches (1.214 meters) long and 55.10 inches (1.399 meters) in diameter. It weighs 1,315 pounds (596 kilograms).

The B-17F had a cruising speed of 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour). The maximum speed was 299 miles per hour (481 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters), though with War Emergency Power, the bomber could reach 325 miles per hour (523 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet for short periods. The service ceiling was 37,500 feet (11,430 meters).

With a normal fuel load of 2,520 gallons (9,540 liters) the B-17F had a maximum range of 2,880 miles (4,635 kilometers). Carrying a 6,000 pound (2,722 kilogram) bomb load, the range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).

The forward fuselage of Memphis Belle under restoration at the national Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton Ohio. The "Petty Girl" on the right side of the airplane is in red. (U.S. Air Force)
The forward fuselage of Memphis Belle under restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton Ohio. The pilots’ instrument panel is in the foreground. The “Petty Girl” on the left side of the airplane is in blue. (U.S. Air Force)

The B-17F Flying Fortress was armed with up to 13 air-cooled Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns. Power turrets mounting two guns each were located at the dorsal and ventral positions. A pair of machine guns were mounted in the tail, and single guns on flexible mounts were placed in the nose, radio compartment, and right and left waist positions.

The maximum bomb load was 20,800 pounds over very short ranges. Normally, 4,000–6,000 pounds (1,815–2,722 kilograms) were carried. The internal bomb bay could be loaded with a maximum of eight 1,600 pound (725.75 kilogram) bombs. Two external bomb racks mounted under the wings between the fuselage and the inboard engines could carry one 4,000 pound (1,814.4 kilogram) bomb, each, though this option was rarely used.

The B-17 Flying Fortress first flew in 1935, and was in production from 1937 to 1945. 12,731 B-17s were built by Boeing, Douglas Aircraft Company and Lockheed-Vega. (The Manufacturer Codes, -BO, -DL and -VE, follow the Block Number in each airplane’s type designation.) 3,405 of the total were B-17Fs, with 2,000 built by Boeing, 605 by Douglas and 500 by Lockheed-Vega.

Only three B-17F Flying Fortresses remain in existence. Memphis belle is scheduled to go on public display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force on 17 May 2018, 75 years after it flew its final combat mission.

Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485, Memphis Belle, under restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)
Boeing B-17F-10-BO Flying Fortress 41-24485, Memphis Belle, under restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force)

Memphis Belle ® is a Registered Trademark of the United States Air Force.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

9 June 1928

Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, MC, AFC. (National Archives of Australia)
Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, MC, AFC. (National Archives of Australia, A1200, L93634)

9 June 1928: At 10:50 a.m., Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, MC, AFC, and his crew completed the first trans-Pacific flight from the mainland United States to Australia when they landed their Fokker F.VIIb/3m, Southern Cross at Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The airplane’s crew was Kingsford Smith, pilot; Charles Ulm, co-pilot, Harry Lyon, navigator; and James Warren, radio operator. Their historic flight began on May 31.

The first leg of the flight from Oakland Field, California to Wheeler Field was 2,408 miles (3,875 kilometers). The elapsed time was 27 hours, 27 minutes. After resting in Hawaii, the crew took off on the second leg to Suva, Fiji, a distance of 3,144 miles (5,060 kilometers). Southern Cross landed at Albert Park. It was the very first airplane to land at Fiji. This was the longest leg and took 34 hours, 33 minutes. The final leg to Brisbane covered 1,795 miles (2,888 kilometers) and took 21 hours, 35 minutes. They landed at Eagle Farm Airport in Brisbane, at 10:50 a.m., 9 June 1928. 25,000 people were there to see their arrival.

Kingsford Smith’s Fokker F.VIIb/3m Southern Cross, landing at Brisbane, 10:50 a.m., 9 June 1928. (State Library of Queensland)
Kingsford Smith’s Fokker F.VIIb/3m Southern Cross, landing at Brisbane, 10:50 a.m., 9 June 1928. (State Library of Queensland)

Southern Cross had been salvaged after a crash in Alaska. It was rebuilt using the wings and fuselage of two different Fokkers—an F.VIIa and an F.VIIb—and was powered by three air-cooled, normally-aspirated 787.26-cubic-inch-displacement (12.901 liter) Wright Aeronautical Corporation Model J-5 Whirlwind 9-cylinder radial engines, rated at 220 horsepower, each, at 2,000 r.p.m.

The expense of repairing the airplane took most of Kingsford Smith’s money, so he sold the airplane to Allan Hancock, owner of Rancho La Brea Oil Company, and founder of Santa Maria Airport and Allan Hancock College. Hancock loaned Southern Cross back to Kingsford Smith for the Trans-Pacific flight.

Following its arrival in Australia, the Fokker was re-registered G-AUSU, and later changed to VH-USU. After several other historic flights, Kingsford Smith gave Southern Cross to the government of Australia to be placed in a museum. It was stored for many years but is now on display at the Kingsford Smith Memorial at Brisbane Airport.

Kingsford Smith was invested Knight Bachelor in 1932. He continued his adventurous flights. On 8 November 1935, while flying Lady Southern Cross, a Lockheed Altair, from Allahabad, India to Singapore, Sir Charles and co-pilot Tommy Pethybridge disappeared over the Andaman Sea.

Fokker F.VIIB/3m Southern Cross
Fokker F.VIIb/3m, 1985, Southern Cross at the Kingsford Smith Memorial, Brisbane Airport. (FiggyBee via Wikipedia)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather