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"Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress"

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)

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).

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

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)

Gunners

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

Epilogue

Return to B-17F Memphis Belle Fact Sheet

Return to WWII Gallery List

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