B-17 Bomber the Memphis Belle takes off in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A definition of living history, the Memphis Belle took off in Kansas City Monday.

It’s a Boeing B-17 Bomber made for WWII and it’s just one a half dozen still in operation. The "flying fortress" rolled out of a United States factory in 1945 but never saw combat. 

It, and the just over 12,000 like it that were made, were manned by 10 soldiers at the time. Monday, the Memphis Belle was flown by Liberty Foundation volunteer Pilot John Furgeson.

After liftoff, we unbuckled and were allowed to roam freely aboard the plane.

|GALLERY: A RIDE ABOARD THE MEMPHIS BELLE|

The first stop was to the nose of the plane made from plexiglass. During the war, it would have been manned by a gunner engineer who would have defended the aircraft from enemy fire. 

It wasn't easy to navigate through. Photojournalist Rex Harris had to crawl through a corridor to get out of the nose. Passengers would then squeeze through two thin walls and walk a plank over the bomb bay doors to reach the top turret. It was a hair-raising experience.

But 95-year-old Jake Simonitsch is the only one who got a standing ovation after finishing the flight. He was in a B-17 during the war and was gunned down.

"The truth of the matter was, nine of us did make it but the flight engineer ended up, we don't know where," Simonitsch said.

The landing was smoother than most commercial flights; it was truly an experience for the history books of a new generation.

Did you know:

  • The plane has the names of the crew’s girlfriends list on its sides
  • It is the same plane used in the movie “Memphis Belle”
  • There are bombs drawn on the side of the plane that represent the missions it flew
  • It was the first plane of its kind to complete 25 missions 
  • The Swastikas also drawn on the side represent the enemy planes gunned down 
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