Holiday viewing: ‘The Memphis Belle’ follows the famous U.S. bomber
Even for a film designed to be a morale-booster, William Wyler’s 1944 documentary The Memphis Belle won unusually high praise after its’ release; the New York Times published a glowing review of the film, calling it “a story that every American should know.”
The documentary follows the crew — officially part of the U.S. Air Force’s 324th Squadron, 91st Heavy Bomber Unit — through not only its preparations, but actual bombing missions, thanks to Wyler installing cameras at various points on the aircraft. The Belle‘s pilot, Col. Robert Morgan, wrote in his memoirs that it was also at least a year in the making, since Wyler had first proposed the idea of filming his crew’s missions in 1943, after it completed its eighth bombing run.
Morgan and his crew would go on to complete 25 missions in Europe, a first for American heavy bombers. And the Times got its wish: Not only was the Memphis Belle the subject of a 1990 feature film, but Wyler’s effort was deemed “historically significant” by the Library of Congress in 2001, and placed in the National Film Registry.
Watch the documentary, as posted at the Internet Archive, below.