"Memphis Belle" touches down at Felts Field

Published On: May 07 2013 12:45:08 PM PDT
Memphis Belle

During World War II the Flying Fortress played a huge role in our military's success in the skies over Europe, and now the public has a chance to take a ride into history aboard a B-17 this week at Felts Field.

John Shuttleworth of the Liberty Foundation flies the B-17 dubbed the "Memphis Belle," named after the famous bomber, the first one to finish 25 combat missions over Europe, which is now on display at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. The Liberty Foundation's B-17 was used in 1989 for filming of the movie "Memphis Belle," starring Matthew Modine, John Lithgow and Tate Donovan.

Shuttleworth said typical missions aboard the B-17 were eight hours long at 30,000 feet. Temperatures inside were around thirty five to forty below zero and airmen had to wear heated flight suits.

"The environment was terrible for them," Shuttleworth said. "If you had to take your gloves off to do something and didn't watch where you put your hands you could freeze, you could get frostbite on your hands if you touched something it would freeze to it. They were on oxygen because they were up so high."

"It was very cold for them it was also very stressful when the shooting started so they would sweat inside of their suits they were always cold," retired TWA captain Larry Tobin said.

The Liberty Foundation puts on tours of its B-17 to keep history alive and honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

"Really think back about what it was like for our air crews so its really a time machine," Shuttleworth said.

"We do it for volunteer just to keep the history alive … the World War II guys are going away fast so we don't see a lot of them anymore but we are seeing their children and their grandchildren that want to go out and take a ride and see what the old man really did in the war," Tobin added.

The Liberty Foundation will open the Memphis Belle to the public for flights and to walk around and check out this historic aircraft on May 11 and 12. For more information check out their website here.