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Memphis Belle’s restoration continues to move closer to finish line

Published: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 9:26 AM


            Museum of the U.S. Air Force restoration crews continue the painting process on the Boeing B-17F Memphis Belle. Plans call for the aircraft to be placed on permanent public display in the WWII Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on May 17. (U.S. Air Force photos/Ken LaRock)
Museum of the U.S. Air Force restoration crews continue the painting process on the Boeing B-17F Memphis Belle. Plans call for the aircraft to be placed on permanent public display in the WWII Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on May 17. (U.S. Air Force photos/Ken LaRock)

Restoration on the B-17F Memphis Belle – the first U.S. Army Air Forces heavy bomber to return to the United States after completing 25 missions over Europe – continues to move forward at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Since the aircraft first arrived at the museum in 2005, museum staff and volunteers have worked meticulously for countless hours to preserve the iconic bomber, which was in great need of corrosion treatment, the full outfitting of an extensive list of missing equipment, and having the proper paints and techniques applied.

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One of the first challenges for restoring the aircraft was to obtain a list of missing parts, determine what could be obtained from a similar aircraft, and then try to fabricate the rest.

According to Casey Simmons, a Restoration Specialist at the museum, obtaining parts for a 1940s-era aircraft was not an easy task.

“For any of the parts that we needed on the airplane, if you can’t get another one from another aircraft you have to completely fabricate the part,” said Simmons. “So that means going to the blueprints, figuring out what goes into that, how they did it and trying to re-create that process.”

Some of the parts that had to be fabricated by the Restoration Division included the gun mounts; all of the flooring; new sheet metal on the right vertical stabilizer and left bomb-bay door; the wind screen and eyebrow glass in the cockpit; a fuselage longeron and rear vertical stabilizer spar.

One of the parts that Simmons helped to fabricate was the glycol heater, which went inside the left wing of the aircraft and provided heat for the cabin.

“No one will ever see it but we had to completely fabricate that from scratch and it is fully functional,” said Simmons. “But I know the work that went into it and I know where it’s at so it’s pretty neat.”

Among the most challenging aspects of the restoration of the Memphis Belle was painting the aircraft. The painting process lasted several months with plans calling for the aircraft to look as it did after completing its 25th mission, but before it went on the war bond tour. Authentic paint for the time period was used so that the aircraft would look as close as possible to that period in time.

“We were looking at pictures down to the single rivets on the aircraft to try to get markings where they belong,” said Simmons. “You have a lot of different images from different sources, and you’re trying to match colors but the color in every photograph is just a little different depending on how the film was developed. So the hardest part is getting it exactly the way it needs to be.”

Even in going to those lengths, the color on the vertical tail and control surfaces are slightly different shades of green than the rest of the aircraft and Simmons has an explanation for that too.

“When the aircraft first came out of the factory, it would have been pretty much one color of green,” said Simmons. “However, as you can see in the photographs from that time period after it completed its 25th mission, the paint began to fade and so we had to replicate that as well.”

Museum Curator Jeff Duford, who led efforts to research the colors and markings on the Memphis Belle, discovered that although the paint on the tail faded over time, the paint that’s on the fabric-covered control surfaces faded faster and to a greater degree than the rest of the aircraft. So the museum team worked until they got those colors right as well.

“We actually mixed 25 different samples to get to the right shade of green to ensure that the color is accurate,” said Duford.

To a large extent, Duford credits the 1944 William Wyler film, “The Memphis Belle,” as the reason why so much information about the aircraft was available. Wyler volunteered to serve the country and the Army Air Forces gave him a commission as a major and sent him over to England to film heavy bomber operations. He brought a camera crew with him and they shot hours and hours of color footage of heavy bomber operations, including some scenes in combat.

“In the film, you see aircraft dropping bombs, aircraft getting shot down, German fighters attacking them and real flak” said Duford. “So Wyler and his cameramen were taking the very same risks that the bombing crewmen were, and in fact one of them was killed in a combat mission.”

Wyler’s team shot more than 11 hours of color footage, which is now preserved in the national archives and the museum obtained a copy of it.

“Because of this color footage, we’re able to correctly mark and configure the aircraft today,” said Duford. “It is truly astounding because we’ve worked on many restorations here and by far there is more evidence about the Memphis Belle because of these out-takes than any other restoration that we’ve done.”

In addition, the museum also obtained copies of more than 5,000 original documents related to the combat history of the Memphis Belle and heavy bomber operations, which provided a wealth of information including details on each crewmember and mission.

According to Duford, all of the time and effort spent on all of the details to accurately restore the aircraft - from its structural parts to the paint that’s used to color its appearance – is what this national treasure deserves.

“We have symbols in the history of our country – things like the flag that flew at Iwo Jima; the battleship Arizona – these recognizable symbols of the American experience, and the Memphis Belle is truly one of those icons in our history,” said Duford. “And now fittingly so, the aircraft will be preserved at the Air Force’s national museum for generations to come.”

Although restoring the Memphis Belle has been a long and strenuous process – which will continue in the interior of the aircraft even after it has been placed on display – it’s also been very rewarding as well, said Simmons.

“When I first got here in 2007, the aircraft was in multiple pieces – just individual bare metal sections of the aircraft,” said Simmons. “Now it is a complete aircraft that actually looks like something, and it’s just the biggest transformation that you could ever imagine.”

Plans call for the B-17F Memphis Belle exhibit to open to the public on May 17 with celebratory events May 17-19. This three-day event will include a WWII-era aircraft static displays, flyovers, WWII reenactors and vehicles, memorabilia and artifact displays, music from the era, related guest speakers for lectures, book signings and films, including both Memphis Belle films in the Air Force Museum Theatre.

For more information, photos and videos of the Memphis Belle, visit www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/MuseumExhibits/FactSheets/Display/tabid/509/Article/195966/boeing-b-17f-memphis-belle.aspx.

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is the world’s largest military aviation museum. With free admission and parking, the museum features more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts amid more than 19 acres of indoor exhibit space. Each year about one million visitors from around the world come to the museum. For more information, visit www.nationalmuseum.af.mil.

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Trump calls canceled summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un 'a setback for the world'

Published: Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 12:14 PM
Updated: Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 12:14 PM

President Trump Cancels Meeting With Kim Jong-un

President Donald Trump said Thursday that he remains open to meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, hours after he canceled their planned summit in Singapore in a letter released by White House officials. 

>> Read more trending news

“I believe that this is a tremendous setback for North Korea and, indeed, a setback for the world,” Trump said Thursday at a news conference. “I hope that Kim Jong Un will ultimately do what is right not only for himself, but perhaps most importantly what is right for his people, who are suffering greatly and needlessly.”

He added that “our military ... is ready,” should North Korean officials respond to Thursday’s cancellation with a show of force. Japanese and South Korean officials have also vowed to respond if “foolish or reckless acts be taken by North Korea,” Trump said.

 

Still, the president didn’t rule out the possibility of meeting with Kim.

“A lot of things can happen, including the fact that, perhaps, it’s possible the existing summit could take place or a summit at some later date,” Trump said. “Nobody should be anxious. We have to get it right.”

The president wrote in his letter to Kim that his decision to cancel the planned June 12 meeting came “based on the tremendous anger and open hostility” displayed in a recent statement from North Korea.

>> From Jamie Dupree: President Trump scraps summit meeting with Kim Jong Un

In the statement, the North Korean government referred to Vice President Mike Pence as a "political dummy" and said it is just as ready to meet in a nuclear confrontation as at the negotiating table.

“I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting,” Trump wrote. “Please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.”

Senior North Korean diplomat Choe Son Hui told North Korea’s state-run news agency on Thursday that, “Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States,” The Associated Press reported.

>> Reports: North Korea demolishes nuclear test site

Trump responded to the comment in his letter Thursday, telling Kim that, “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”

The letter was released just hours after reports surfaced that North Korea had demolished a nuclear test site in the country's northeast region. The closing of the testing site had been announced as a step leading up to the summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, the Associated Press reported.

Trump earlier this month announced that a historic meeting between him and Kim would take place in Singapore in June.

 

Read the full letter released Thursday by White House officials:

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Letter to Chairman Kim Jong Un by National Content Desk on Scribd

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Check back for updates to this developing story.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Springfield family wants justice for Huber Heights man found dead at park

Published: Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 12:35 PM

Cedric Holt Jr. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY FAMILY
Cedric Holt Jr. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY FAMILY

A family member will remember the man found dead at a Springfield park as a good person and hopes those responsible for his death will be brought to justice.

Cedric Holt Jr., 34, was killed and his body found in a vehicle at Virgil Mabra Park in the city Tuesday morning. Police are investigating his death as a homicide, Springfield Police Chief Lee Graf said. There are no suspects in the case right now, he said.

MORE: Death of Huber Heights man found in Springfield park ruled a homicide

Holt’s cousin, Gene Cameron, said he was a caring person.

“He was a kind-hearted, very loving man,” Cameron said in a Facebook message to the Springfield News-Sun. “He was all about taking care of his family by any means.”

Holt didn’t deserve what happened to him, Cameron said.

“I love my cousin very much and I’m heartbroken over what happened to him,” he said. “All I can think about is what he went through that night. I know he was terrified.”

READ: Springfield man found dead in Mabra park

The family hopes justice is served, Cameron said.

“He will definitely be missed and forever loved,” he said. “I really hope they get to the bottom of it and find whose responsible.”

Just before Holt’s body was found Tuesday, authorities in Huber Heights responded to a home on Shull Road where two boys, one being Holt’s 14-year-old son, had been tied up in a home invasion. The home had been ransacked, according to 9-1-1 calls.

Springfield and Huber police are investigating both cases, but say they are unsure if they are connected.

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1 YEAR LATER: Rebuilding continues after 5 tornadoes hit Miami Valley

Published: Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 9:14 AM
Updated: Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 11:22 AM

Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell warns of the dangerous tornado over the Park Layne community, May 24, 2017
Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell warns of the dangerous tornado over the Park Layne community, May 24, 2017

One year after five tornadoes hit in three counties across the Miami Valley, businesses are recovering and the Sunoco station in Park Layne is remembering the tornado outbreak by selling gas at the same price it was being sold for when a tornado hit the gas station.

MORE: Six tornadoes ripped through Ohio last year on this date

PHOTOS: 1 YEAR LATER: The Miami Valley rebuilds after tornadoes touch down

WATCH: Park Layne tornado caught on traffic camera

RELATED: Businesses damaged in Park Layne

The Sunoco is selling gas for $2.39 a gallon Thursday.

Five tornadoes hit the Miami Valley one year ago, including two in Clark County, one in Greene County, one in Miami County and one in Warren County.  A sixth tornado hit just outside the Miami Valley in Fayette County.

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President Donald Trump grants pardon to late boxer Jack Johnson

Published: Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 1:25 PM
Updated: Thursday, May 24, 2018 @ 1:25 PM

This undated photo shows boxer Jack Johnson.
AP Photo/File
This undated photo shows boxer Jack Johnson.(AP Photo/File)

President Donald Trump on Thursday granted late boxer Jack Johnson with a pardon more than 100 years after he was convicted by an all-white jury of taking a white woman across state lines.

>> Read more trending news

Several heavyweight boxing champions, both current and former, gathered at the White House on Thursday morning ahead of the expected announcement, The New York Times reported.

Trump noted Thursday that Johnson was convicted “during a period of tremendous racial tension in the United States,” and served 10 months in prison in what many considered to be a “racially motivated injustice.”

"I am taking this very righteous step, I believe, to correct a wrong that occurred in our history," Trump said.

Johnson was convicted in 1913 of violating the Mann Act, a law passed in 1910 that barred people from transporting women across state lines for “immoral” purposes. The woman, Belle Schreiber, worked as a prostitute and had been in a relationship with Johnson, according to the Times.

He was sentenced to serve a year in prison, the Times reported, but he fled the country. He served his sentence after he returned to the U.S. in 1920.

Original report: Prodded by actor Sylvester Stallone, President Donald Trump said he’s considering a posthumous pardon for boxing's first black heavyweight champion, more than 100 years after he was convicted by an all-white jury of accompanying a white woman across state lines.

Jack Johnson, who died in 1946, was convicted in 1913 for violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for "immoral" purposes.

"His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial," Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon from Mar-a-Lago. "Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!"

Johnson's family has tried to get a posthumous pardon for years. The tweet comes a week after Trump pardoned I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a top aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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