Only a dozen World War II B-17s have survived the hands of time. One of them and the most famous is the Memphis Belle, which has been fully restored and is being unveiled.
After more than a dozen years of planning and 55,000 hours by 100 volunteers and curators, the final result is a beautifully restored B-17 named the Memphis Belle.
Museum Curator Jeff Duford said the last original Belle crew member died in 2005, but more than 300 of their family members attended the unveiling.
Duford said crew members on heavy bombers like the Belle were 22-years-old on average, and one in four of them died in combat. He said 30,000 heavy bomber crew members died during WW II.
The Belle was on display outside in the City of Memphis for decades and received a lot of wear and tear from the weather and people removing parts. It was partially restored in the 80s by local curators and was finally transferred to the Museum of the US Air Force in 2005.
The fact that the Memphis Belle and her 10-man crew made 25 missions is miraculous. It was the first to do so and was celebrated throughout the US in the 40s.
The US Air Force Museum gates open at 8 a.m. on Thursday, doors at 9 and the ribbon cutting for the Memphis Belle is at 9:30.