On the same day as the Ruhr dams raid ended, the captain of B-17F Flying Fortress Memphis Belle completed his 25th mission. The famous bomber itself did so two days later. How did the two reach those milestones — and did any other 8th Air Force ‘heavies’ get there first?
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Memphis Belle is among the most famous aeroplanes of the Second World War. Ask people on the street to name an individual aircraft, and chances are that ‘the Belle’ would feature very highly. It helps, of course, that Memphis Belle was the subject of — and, indeed, gave its name to — both a 1944 documentary by famed Hollywood director William Wyler, and the 1990 feature film directed by Michael Caton-Jones centred on a dramatisation of its final mission over Europe. Nevertheless, the fame of the aircraft is in no small part down to its wartime exploits and those of its crew members.