The Memphis Belle – The Documentary, and the Hollywood fiction
On May 17th, 1943, the crew of the Memphis Belle, one of a group of American bombers based in Britain, becomes the first B-17 crew to complete 25 missions over Europe.
The Memphis Belle performed its 25th and last mission, in a bombing raid against Lorient, a German submarine base. But before returning back home to the United States, film footage was shot of Belle‘s crew receiving combat medals. This was but one part of a longer documentary on a day in the life of an American bomber, which included dramatic footage of a bomber being shot out of the sky, with most of its crew parachuting out, one by one. Another film sequence showed a bomber returning to base with its tail fin missing. What looked like damage inflicted by the enemy was, in fact, the result of a collision with another American bomber.
The Memphis Belle documentary would not be released for another 11 months, as more footage was compiled to demonstrate the risks these pilots ran as they bombed “the enemy again and again and again—until he has had enough.” The film’s producer, Lieutenant Colonel William Wyler, was known for such non-military fare as The Letter,Wuthering Heights, and Jezebel.
In 1990, the Memphis Belle’s last mission was re-enacted. it was an entirely fictional account, from the young men who flew her, to the mission they were assigned, and the way they made it back. I will say this much; while fictional, the fierce opposition, flack, and battle damage on those missions were -even for Hollywood- accurate examples of what the crews and their planes endured. (see https://profilesincourage.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/miracles-b17-all-american-b-17-snake-hips/ )