Published May 16, 2018
Margaret Polk with Robert Morgan in front of the Memphis Belle.
(Image courtesy of the Preservation and Special Collections Department, University Libraries, University of Memphis)
The “Memphis Belle”
The Memphis Belle was named to honor Morgan’s fiancée Margaret Polk, of Memphis, Tennessee, whom he met before leaving for England. Their love story was well-publicized, but their engagement ended during the war bond tour.
Morgan flew on combat missions with a picture of Margaret Polk in the cockpit.
Memphis Belle Artwork
The famous Memphis Belle nose art is a representation of the George Petty “pin-up” illustration in the April 1941 edition of Esquire magazine. Originally painted in the US, the Memphis Belle’s nose art was touched up and later repainted by Cpl Tony Starcer at Bassingbourn, England. Starcer became well-known for his artistic talent, and he painted nose art on several 91st Bomb Group aircraft and aircrew flight jackets.
Memphis Belle's nose art before numerous publicity markings were added. This is how the Memphis Belle is displayed now.
Several weeks after the 25th mission, additional markings were added to the Memphis Belle, including eight swastikas under the row of bombs on the nose.
April 1941 issue of Esquire magazine, which contained inspiration for the Memphis Belle’s nose art.
Original foldout page with George Petty’s artwork.
Tony Starcer painted these emblems of the 91st Bomb Group and its squadrons.
Note: The lettering adhered to these artifacts, which was present when they came to the Museum, is unstable--some of the letters have fallen off.
Related Fact Sheets
The Memphis Belle: American Icon and 25th Mission
Memphis Belle Crew
The “Memphis Belle” and Nose Art
26th Mission: War Bond Tour
“Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress”
Heavy Bomber “Firsts”
Combat Aircraft to Museum Artifact
Crippling the Nazi War Machine: USAAF Strategic Bombing in Europe
Early Operations (1942 to mid-1943) - Eighth Air Force in England
Ninth/Twelfth Air Forces in the Mediterranean
Combat Box/Communication and Life at 25K
Keeping them Flying: Mechanics and Armorers
Combined Bomber Offensive: Summer 1943 to Victory
Bigger Raids, Bigger Losses, and Crisis
Deadly Skies over Europe (Luftwaffe defense)
Bomber Crew Protection
Operation Tidalwave (Ploesti, 1 Aug 43)
Regensburg/Schweinfurt (17 Aug 43)
Black Thursday/Schweinfurt (14 Oct 43)
Fifteenth Air Force (created Sep 43)
Women’s Army Corps
Fighter Escort: Little Friends
Big Week (20-25 Feb 44)
Operation Frantic: Shuttle Raids to the Soviet Union
Strategic Bombing Victorious
Return the B-17F Memphis Belle Fact Sheet
Return to the WWII Gallery List
Please note Springfield Street, the road that leads to the museum’s entrance, is undergoing construction through the beginning of September. Expect lane reductions and some delays. Please follow the signs and instructions provided by the road crews.
Additional information about our COVID precautions available here
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is located at:
1100 Spaatz Street
Wright-Patterson AFB OH 45433
(near Dayton, Ohio)