Behind the Scenes: Look as WWII's Memphis Belle Gets Wings

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE -- One of the most iconic planes in American history has earned its wings for the first time in 14 years.

Restorers have reattached the wings to the B-17F Memphis Belle, under restoration at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Wednesday, the museum provided a peek as aircraft workers reattached more pieces of the bomber.

"It's amazing," said Casey Simmons, a restorer who has labored on the project since 2008 . "I don't know if there's words that really say it because you're little and you build this kit as a little model (airplane) and now you're actually doing the real thing. It's pretty neat."

The Army Air Forces plane is set to make its debut among fabled aircraft inside the World War II gallery at the museum on May 18, 1943, the 75th anniversary of the 25th and final wartime mission of the storied bomber that battled Nazi Germany. The final crew and the plane gained fame on a nationwide wartime bond tour, which stopped in Dayton, and for a movie that documented its combat exploits over Europe.

The Memphis Belle will sit as the centerpiece of a large-scale exhibit on strategic bombing in the World War II gallery. Archival footage of the iconic plane's missions retrieved from the National Archives, crew artifacts flown in combat and interactive screens will tell the tale of thousands of bombers and their crews in the bloody aerial battles.

Workers have labored to meticulously restore the Memphis Belle, scraping paint, bending metal and fabricating parts, since the Boeing built-bomber arrived in 2005 from Tennessee. The last time the wings were attached was 2003, officials said. ___

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