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  • Early Operations: Ninth/Twelfth Air Force in the Mediterranean

    Until mid-1943, the USAAF’s small heavy bomber force in the Mediterranean primarily attacked enemy ports, airfields, and ships to help defeat enemy ground forces in North Africa and prepare for the invasion of Sicily.  Twelfth Air Force B-17 All-American was rammed by a German fighter while bombing enemy supply lines in North Africa.  Remarkably,
  • Early Operations: Eighth Air Force in England

    In 1942 and early 1943, while the British Royal Air Force (RAF) conducted saturation bombing at night, the USAAF was trying to prove the validity of daytime precision bombing with its small bomber force in England.  For the first year, Eighth Air Force heavy bombers attacked submarine bases and production facilities, along with industrial and
  • Bombing Campaign Leaders

    Three iconic USAAF generals—Carl Spaatz, Ira Eaker, and James “Jimmy” Doolittle—played key roles in leading the strategic bombing campaign in Europe.  Gen Spaatz decorates a wounded Eighth Air Force Airman while he recovers in a hospital in August 1944. Carl A. SpaatzAfter leading the Eighth Air Force through 1942, Carl Spaatz commanded strategic
  • Enabling Technologies

    Advanced USAAF technology made the daylight strategic bombing campaign possible.  Key technologies included four-engine bombers, turbosuperchargers, and the Norden bombsight.  Four-Engine Bombers: B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator Four-engine B-17s and B-24s provided the range, payload, defensive armament, and altitude the USAAF required for
  • Crippling the Nazi War Machine: USAAF Strategic Bombing in Europe

      At great sacrifice, the US Army Air Forces’ (USAAF) daylight strategic bombing campaign played a critical role in winning the war in Europe.   What is Strategic Bombing?          Strategic bombing is a strategy to destroy a country’s ability or will to fight by attacking its homeland from the air.  Airpower advocates believed that strategic
  • Combat Aircraft to Museum Artifact

    After the bond tour, the Memphis Belle went to MacDill Army Air Field, Florida, to be used for training.  At war’s end, it was stored at Altus Army Airfield, Oklahoma, with other surplus bombers awaiting scrapping. In 1946, the city of Memphis, Tennessee, acquired the aircraft and displayed it outdoors at a National Guard armory.  In 1977, after
  • Heavy Bomber “Firsts”

    The Memphis Belle was not the first USAAF heavy bomber to finish 25 missions—it was the first to complete 25 missions over Europe and return to the US.  A small number of heavy bombers finished their 25th missions before the Memphis Belle, including: B-17E Suzy-QThe Suzy-Q, a 19th BG B-17E, was the first USAAF heavy bomber to complete 25 missions
  • "Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress"

    The 1944 documentary movie “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress” increased the aircraft and crew’s already substantial fame.  This unique film was the brainchild of legendary film director William Wyler. In 1942, Major Wyler went to England to film heavy bomber operations in Europe.  He and his camera crew accompanied bomber crews on combat
  • "26th Mission": War Bond Tour

    “You are being sent on another mission, perhaps the most important of the many on which you have flown in this famous plane...It is to carry a message which should hearten a great people.”      —Gen Jacob Devers, Commander, US Army European Theater of Operations, Summer 1943 “26th Mission”: War Bond Tour   The USAAF selected the Memphis Belle and
  • The Memphis Belle: American Icon

    The Memphis Belle and its crew became timeless symbols of the service and sacrifice of the heavy bomber crews and support personnel who helped defeat Nazi Germany.  This famed aircraft was the first US Army Air Forces heavy bomber to return to the United States after completing 25 missions over Europe. The Memphis Belle was a B-17F heavy bomber
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