Published May 17, 2018
A 1990 fictionalized Hollywood movie produced by Wyler’s daughter Catherine added to their fame. Here Memphis Belle crewmen are pictured with the actors who portrayed them, in front of a B-17 painted to resemble the Memphis Belle. (Courtesy of the Memphis Belle Memorial Association)
Maj William Wyler (center) with two of his cameramen—William Clothier (right) and William
Skall (in window)—and British war correspondent Cavo Chin (left).
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 missions, sharing the same dangers—in April 1943, one of his cameramen, 46-year-old Lt Harold Tannenbaum, was killed on a mission over St. Nazaire, France. The incredible footage Wyler and his men recorded appeared in the 1944 motion picture.
Maj Wyler (second from right) with some of the Memphis Belle crew. Wyler flew two of his five combat missions on the Memphis Belle, including the crew’s 25th mission. This photograph was taken after that mission—crew chief MSgt Joseph Giambrone is painting on the 25th bomb.
Lt Col William Wyler
Wyler, promoted to lieutenant colonel in late 1943, wore this uniform while in Italy working on his next documentary, “Thunderbolt!” This color film chronicled fighter-bomber operations in the closing months of the war.
Wyler left active military service when the war ended in 1945. He continued to direct Hollywood movies—including “The Best Years of Our Lives,” “Roman Holiday,” and “Ben-Hur”—and earned numerous accolades, including 12 nominations and three Oscars for Best Director.
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 to B-17F Memphis Belle Fact Sheet
Return to WWII Gallery List
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The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is located at:
1100 Spaatz Street
Wright-Patterson AFB OH 45433
(near Dayton, Ohio)