Memphis Belle

The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress is a 1944 documentary film which documents the last (25th) bombing run of the B-17 bomber Memphis Belle. The shots of the actual battle, as they happened, were done by cinematographer First Lieutenant Harold J. Tannenbaum, under the direction of William Wyler.

Although the movie was made under the auspices of the First Motion Picture Unit, a branch of the United States Army Air Corps, this is not a rah-rah paean to patriotism. It just shows the everyday courage of the men who manned these planes in wartime. The crew included:

  • Captain Robert Morgan (pilot)
  • Captain James A. Verinis (co-pilot)
  • Captain Vincent B. Evans (bombadier and chin turret operator)
  • Captain Charles B. Leighton (navigator)
  • Technical Sergeant Robert J. Hanson (radio operator)
  • Technical Sergeant Harold P. Loch (engineer and top turret gunner)
  • Staff Sergeant Casimer A. Nastal (waist gunner)
  • Staff Sergeant Cecil H. Scott (ball turret gunner)
  • Arthur Kennedy (crewman) (probably the other waist or the tail gunner, as these 2 positions are unfilled)

A fictionalized version of the story was made as Memphis Belle in 1990. It stars Matthew Modine, Eric Stoltz, Tate Donovan, D.B. Sweeney, Billy Zane, Sean Astin, Harry Connick Jr and Reed Diamond. It was written by Monte Merrick and directed by Michael Caton-Jones.

In 2001 the United States Library of Congress deemed the original version "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.


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