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The "Memphis Belle" and Nose Art

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)

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

Enabling Technologies

Key Leaders

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)

Target Berlin

Operation Frantic: Shuttle Raids to the Soviet Union

Blind Bombing

D-Day Support

Strategic Bombing Victorious



Return the B-17F Memphis Belle Fact Sheet

Return to the WWII Gallery List


Mask Policy:
In accordance with the updated guidance released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Defense (DoD) and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force will require all visitors to wear face masks indoors effective July 30, 2021 until further notice.

Visitors ages three and up will be required to wear masks while indoors at the museum. This policy applies to all visitors, staff and volunteers regardless of vaccination status. Visitors may wear their own masks or a free paper mask will be provided. Cloth masks will also be available for purchase in the Museum Store.
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