Thursday, 1 June 2017

Memphis Belle - the story of the 1989 movie

The 1989 Catherine Wyler/David Puttnam Movie
The cliches dropped like bombs...’

Why do a good thing once, when you can have several bites of the same cherry? Hollywood has a penchant for ‘remaking’ movies, but very rarely is a so-called ‘documentary’ refurbished as a work of fiction!
    The Memphis Belle remake - released in 1990 - came about when in 1986, English film-maker David Puttnam, the new head of Columbia Pictures recruited William Wyler’s daughter Catherine as his new Senior Vice-President of Production, responsible for developing non-fiction properties for feature films. Catherine had previously had experience in television administration and production, first with Warner Brothers and then with the US Public Broadcasting Service.
    In her new job, one of the development projects was a movie about Eighth Air Force bomber crews, similar to the 1943 film her father made. After a screening of the 1943 original, Puttnam asked Catherine to proceed further. As Catherine Wyler said in an interview after the film came out; ‘I’ve known about the Memphis Belle all my life because my father made the documentary during the war. It’s about the crew of a B-17 - the first crew to make twenty-five missions. And basically it’s the story of that twenty-fifth mission.
    Puttnam’s career with Columbia was short-lived and in 1987 he returned to Great Britain. The Eighth Air Force project was not abandoned however, and he proposed that his own company, Enigma Films, take it on, and that Catherine Wyler join him as co-producer.
    It might be worthwhile to explain here that ‘Producers’ have the final responsibility for all aspects of a film's production. They are frequently the first to become involved in a project; they participate directly in all the main producing phases; and see the project through production, to post-production, marketing and distribution. The Producer's role is to turn story ideas into profitable cinematic entertainment, and to persuade others to share in their commercial and creative vision. Producers usually report to the production company, or to the Executive Producers appointed to supervise the production on behalf of the financiers and Distributors. The ‘Director’ on the other hand, is the person who sets the tone of the movie and interprets the script as he sees it. They typically see the story as a whole and gives it their own stamp. They instruct the actors on how to say their lines, their facial expressions and tone. Virtually anything that happens on a movie set is subject to the approval of the Director. The final product is the direct result of decisions made by the director - therefore if it turns out wrong - blame the Director!

Locations and machines
To make a movie, you need many things, one of the most obvious being a script, so young US playwright Monte Merrick was hired. As for the filming locations, they were dictated by the availability of aircraft and Catherine had located at least eight airworthy B-17s in the USA, including one owned by her uncle, restaurant chain owner David Tallichet and wartime B-17 pilot with the 100th Bomb Group at Thorpe Abbotts in Norfolk. It was initially proposed to film all airfield and aerial sequences in the USA, with studio work shot in England.
    The Director was to be Michael Caton-Jones, who would be making his second movie after attending the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield, England. Michael Jones had married Beverly Caton and they both changed their surnames to Caton-Jones. Puttnam’s instructions to Caton-Jones was simple: ‘Please - amaze me’!
    Production Designer Stuart Craig and Associate Producer Eric Rattray scoured the USA to find suitable locations for filming - and even visited Memphis to see and measure up the real aircraft - but found nothing that satisfactorily represented either East Anglia and Bassingbourn. There were also problems with a number of the US-based B-17 operators refusing to accept the fees offered. Negotiations were then conducted with the operators of the three European-based B-17s with much more favourable results so, it was decided that if they could get two of the US B-17s flown over, then all the filming could be done in the UK.
    Stuart Craig’s first task then was to find a main location site that could be used as a replacement for Bassingbourn, for that airfield had already been ruled out. By 1989 Station 121 was now an British Army Camp with associated access problems created by levels of security. It had lost at least 50% of its runways and what remained of the airfield site was being used as a training range and leisure area for the Army with an artificial ski-slope by the old 324th dispersals and a huge lake by the old bomb dumps! The remainder had either been returned to nature or used for agriculture. Predannack and St Eval airfields in Cornwall were considered but rejected as the surrounding landscape was not correct. Then Craig heard of the recently-vacated airfield at Binbrook in Lincolnshire. It had a similar layout to Bassingbourn, the same C-type hangars and was remote enough not to have modern developments close by. Permission was then sought and gained to use the Cambridgeshire County Council and Imperial War Museum airfield of Duxford as a base for all the main flying sequences, for it had all the engineering and technical facilities present that were essential to keep the aircraft flying.
    Space inside a B-17 fuselage is somewhat at a premium - there is certainly not enough room for the actors and a film crew, so a complete mock-up interior that could be split into six sections was built by Bill Welch and his team at Pinewood. This mock-up was to incorporate as many pieces of authentic equipment as possible.
    In addition to the B-17s, the script called for a number of enemy and Allied fighter types. The Luftwaffe could only be represented by a number of Hispano Buchons, Spanish-built versions of the Messerschmitt Bf-109s but fitted with Rolls-Royce Merlin engines which gave a different nose profile. Enigma decided to use P-51 Mustangs as fighter escorts.

What's in a name?
The movie may have started out under the title of ‘Memphis Belle’, but it then went through a name-change to ‘Southern Belle’, for a whole set of complicated reasons. As with the original 1943 film, the movie storyline follows the supposed 25th and final mission of the ten-man crew of a B-17 who are scheduled to be returned to the US. The rest of the plot of the Wyler/Puttnam movie is a pure flight of fantasy, with fictitious crewmembers and engineered drama. As the script created only tenuous links at best with real people and events, it was decided to separate things even further, for the lawyers were concerned about using the name ‘Memphis Belle’ and 91st Bomb Group markings it might become possible for an unknown veteran to claim that he had been portrayed in a defamatory way. Thus the title was changed to ‘Southern Belle’ and the unit represented was no longer the 91st Bomb Group.
    This situation was, however, to change again after Warner Brothers signed up to back the production, for when their legal team took a closer look at the ‘Southern Belle’ concept they decided that in using that name, the matter was even worse! They thought there were at least three B-17s wearing that nickname and that there may well have been well over one hundred veterans with association to these aircraft - all of whom could sue if they did not like the way ‘their’ aircraft was portrayed! Our own research indicates that it could have been even worse, for there was the likelihood of five B-17s by the ‘Southern Belle’ name in England: ‘283’ and 41-24445 from the 92nd BG, 42-30376 from the 94th BG, 42-29694 from the 95th BG and ‘17’ from the 285th BG. As all the surviving members of the original Memphis Belle’s crew had read and more importantly already approved the script - despite apparent misgivings when the film eventually premiered - and there was only one Memphis Belle, the name was changed back.

Historical accuracy vs dramatic license.
Film-makers dismissively and somewhat scornfully refer to people who have objections as to the historical accuracy of their products as being ‘purists’ - and use the word in a derogatory manner. Well, these purists had a number of things to object to in the Wyler/Puttnam movie. All of the ‘objections’ come about as a result of using the name ‘Memphis Belle’, for it is the very use of that name which firmly locks into place the timescale, organisation and detail. Use of any other name would have made the movie complete fiction and remove all possible reasons for complaint.  However, Enigma - and Warner Brothers - insisted on using the name.
    On some levels Enigma went to incredible lengths and spent a very great amount of money to ensure historical accuracy. Vincent  Hemmings, who at the time was Curator of the East Anglian Aviation Society’s Tower Museum at Bassingbourn, remembers the company borrowing, amongst other things, an authentic beer bottle and wooden beer-crate so as to be able to reproduce the label on all the beer bottles that would sit in replica crates which appear in an early sequence at the hangar dance - as if anyone would be able to read them! They made a large photo-print of a flak-area map that was on display in the Tower Museum. Enigma also spent £32,000 building a complete new control tower at Binbrook on the edge of the apron, as Binbrook’s tower was of the wrong design. They then screwed that idea up by building a balcony on the replica, something the building at Bassingbourn never had at that time!
    All the B-17s were re-configured where required to visually match the external B-17F appearance, replacing the tail gunner’s position with the correct model, and fitting ball and upper turrets where required, at the same time removing and blanking off the chin turret position. When the modification programme was finished and the aircraft painted, they were almost indistinguishable from true B-17s of spring 1943 vintage. The five B-17s were each to represent an individually named aircraft in the storyline, but they were also to represent the thirty or so aircraft that made up a Bomb Group. The Art Department applied one set of identity markings to one side, and a different set on the other. Only one aircraft - David Tallichet’s  N3703G - appeared in genuine B-17 markings Memphis Belle, 41-24485 and DF:A. All the others wore tail numbers a few removed from genuine F-model serials of the correct period. In addition to the authentic 324th BS code letters of DF, the aircraft wore spurious code letters DP, MJ and ZQ.
    So, as can be seen, the Wyler/Puttnam movie was to become a montage of high accuracy, spurious detail and fantasy drama before even a single frame had been shot. From all of that comes one main area of highly contentious historical deviancy. This was the choice of using P-51 Mustang fighters as escorts. Historically, to pursue the Memphis Belle storyline, the spring of 1943 would have seen RAF Supermarine Spitfires and USAAF Republic P-47 Thunderbolts used as escort fighters. Use of Thunderbolts was not possible for there was only one airworthy aircraft in the UK at the time. Spitfires were available - and in copious numbers - but it seems that the type was not acceptable to the production committee because ‘...the viewing public associates Spitfires with the Battle of Britain’. This may well have been the official line, but one suspects that the real reason was that the financial backers wanted to pander to the American film-going public and make the USAAF look totally self-sufficient and capable of defeating the Nazi’s by itself! Interestingly though, as late as July 1989 the screenplay and shooting script was still using the word ‘Thunderbolts’ as escort fighters!
    Nevertheless, Enigma contracted five airworthy P-51Ds to appear, even though the use of this type was totally alien to the story timeframe. To put this into accurate historical context, the P-51 Mustang as a type did not appear in USAAF operational service in the United Kingdom until late 1943 and the actual model P-51Ds used in the Wyler/Puttnam movie were not available to the USAAF until early 1945! It seems that despite Enigma having numerous ‘historical advisers’ on board, their opinions and advice was overruled by the Directors decisions.
    Air Vice Marshal Ronald Dick, CB, RAF (Retd) was hired by Enigma as one of the Air Advisors and wrote to Harry Friedman on December 6th 1989: ‘It was good to get my hands on a B-17 again and I found the process of making a movie absolutely fascinating, even through the film people could be infuriating over innacuracies in the script.  They were scrupulous about getting our five B-17s to look exactly right, but they insisted in using P-51Ds as friendly fighters - Mustangs they said would be better box office than Spitfires! I despair of the crass commercialism which drives such decisions - however, the flying sequences should be worth seeing’.
    Then there is the matter of the Memphis Belle’s nose-art. Since the movie came out, many people wondered why, since the original aircraft must have been the most photographed B-17 of World War Two, was the name written in script writing, not block capital letters? One popular reason oft-quoted, was that it allegedly originated from the merchandising department, who thought that ‘script letters look better on the jackets, hats and posters we are going to sell!’ Although that as a potential reason it is perfectly feasible - in fact, highly believable - the real reason is much more mundane.
    Enigma sought and gained permission from the Memphis Belle Memorial Association, custodians of the original aircraft to use the name and artwork, and it was agreed that in order to differentiate between the movie and the original, the style of script would be changed.

Assembling the Stars

With the aircraft in place, it was time to consider the human stars. None of the crew featured aboard the Memphis Belle were ‘real’. This was another strange quirk of Enigma - why go to such great lengths to use the real aircraft name, then populate it with fictitious characters - especially when all surviving crew members had approved the script?  The matter was confused even further when  as a ‘meet the press’ and publicity exercise, Enigma flew over to England the six surviving crewmembers of the real Memphis Belle, along with crew Chief Joe Giambrone.
    For the record, the movie crew of the aircraft were as follows. Pilot, ‘Dennis’ played by Mathew Modine - he had already appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. Co-pilot ‘Luke’, was played by Tate Donovan. Navigator, ‘Phil’ was played by Daniel Sweeney. Bombardier ‘Val’ was played by Billy Zane. Radio Operator ‘Danny’ was played by Eric Stoltz who had previously appeared in Mask, with the singer Cher. Engineer ‘Virge’ was played by Reed Diamond. Ball Turret Gunner ‘Rascal’ was played by Sean Astin. Waist Gunners ‘Jack’ was by played Neil Giuntoli and ‘Eugene’ was played by Courtney Gains.  Tail Gunner ‘Clay’ was played by Harry Connick Jnr. There was no place in the script for anyone to play Margaret Polk.
    At the time, Bob Morgan was not sure who Mathew Modine was. “’s kind of hard to tell about somebody playing your part. But having read the script I think he’ll probably fit into it real well. I rented Full Metal Jacket. He was one of the soldiers who lived through the movie”. Morgan’s wife Elizabeth was not so sure about the dark-haired actor. “Bob’s never had dark hair. It’s kind of sandy. But who are we to say who they should pick?’
    Bob Morgan and the rest of the crew were interviewed extensively by the media. Morgan on meeting with Mathew Modine, his counterpart in the movie: ‘After meeting him last night, if I can teach him to be a little more egotistical, I think he will make it! Bob also gave other insights into the film. “...they are taking a lot of liberties. They have researched a lot of crew stories and things about other B-17 bombers and other incidents and more or less put them together and made one exciting mission out of it”.
    The rest of the crew were less frivolous. Jim Verinis: In walked this group of ten handsome guys. I could’ve almost cried! That was the most memorable thing so far. It brought it all back - they were all like we were. Eugine Atkins: I was 21 years old, 125 pounds, just doing my duty. I was no hero, just an ordinary old gunner. Tony Nastal: ...anyone who said they were not scared - there HAD to be something wrong with them!
    Catherine Wyler: The day I invited the Memphis Belle veterans to the location I really felt I had done something special that day.  There was so much real feeling between each actor and his respective veteran. It was a special moment.
    While over in the UK Bob Morgan and some of the other veterans went up with David Tallichet aboard N7303G, Morgan even getting to handle the controls for a while. He was later heard to comment “... it was like five Christmases all on the same day.” Radio Operator Bob Hanson revealed that he thought that his former crew-mates viewed the script and the movie with a mixture of incredulity and amusement. “... they seem to have taken all the rough times we had in 25 missions and put them into one.”

Let Aerial Filming Commence...

Filming started with the aerial sequences - making use of Duxford as their base - on June 26th 1989. The first Press Day occurred on July 2nd which saw all five B-17s lined up on the grass alongside the taxiway against a typical English backdrop of low grey-black clouds which threatened impending rain. David Tallichet had arrived in N3070G three days before filming commenced, the two French B-17s, F-AZDX and F-BEFA arriving on the 26th. Bob Richardson with N17W had been delayed at Gander, and so did not arrive until Thursday 29th June. Ellinor ‘Elly’ Sallingboe’s G-BEDF was, of course already present at Duxford. It is not surprising therefore that the first few days concentrated on the Mustangs and ‘Bf109s’.
    To avoid conflict with military and civil air traffic over East Anglia, the Memphis Belle aircraft were directed to the skies of the marginally quieter east Norfolk and Suffolk by the RAF Air Traffic Controllers at Honington.  Flights were of around two hours duration with action photography taking place between 5,000 and 10,000 feet, below the level for which aircrew and film-makers alike needed oxygen.
    Use was made of cloud cover - not from above, but from below for, as pretty as the bright yellow fields of oilseed rape looked and as arrow-straight as the tractor tire marks may have looked symmetrical in the growing crops, both were out of context in the 1943 timeframe.
    G-BEDF was slated to become the workhorse of the gathered B-17s, for it was fitted with chemical smoke generators  on #1 and #2 engines to simulate an aircraft in distress.  It also had the greatest number of working .50 machine guns to fire blank ammunition from the cheek, waist, ball and tail positions. Tallichet’s aircraft also had operative .50s in the cheek and waist positions.
    The smoke and fumes from the blank cartridges when fired in the guns caused many problems for the B-17 crews - there were also problems with the rounds jamming in the ammunition feeds and the links flying out of the aircraft windows - hasty modifications had to be made to keep all on board so that no-one far below received a nasty injury from on high!
    Things at times got somewhat ‘interesting’. On June 30th F-AZDX lost the #1 engine cowling over Diss in Norfolk after the engine blew an entire cylinder.  The cowling flew back in the slipstream and scraped the tailplane. It was recovered by the Police near Stowmarket and returned to Duxford, in somewhat ‘battered’ condition. Of course, every flight was proceeded by a full briefing between aircrew and Enigma Productions. As agreed, all would use the internationally recognised ‘clock’ system to indicate relative position. This was fine until after the fleet got airborne, when it was discovered that the Assistant Director was using it in the VERTICAL, not horizontal plane. After that there was always someone on board to ‘translate’ the film-crew’s requirements into pilot’s language!
    Such was the intensity of flying from Duxford, mechanical problems started. The B-25 camera-ship suffered engine problems, so the Old Flying Machine Company’s Grumman Avenger was rapidly pressed into service. The open rear gun position was used by the cameramen, but was not a popular perch!
    The filming from Duxford finished on July 16th when all aircraft were due to transit to Binbrook, but not before the the B-17 fleet fulfilled two ‘civic duty’ flights.  The first was when three Flying Fortresses overflew 91st BG veterans visiting the Tower Museum at Bassingbourn. The next day all five B-17s overflew the re-dedication ceremony of the memorial in Royston.

Binbrook Bound!
The B-17 fleet left for Binbrook on the afternoon of Sunday July 16th - but Enigma - in the shape of Art Director Alan Tompkins, his construction manager Bill Welch and his crew -  had already been busy on the Lincolnshire airfield for around a month. Some sixty-five genuine wartime vehicles had been located by John Sargeant of ‘Motors for Movies’ and hired from enthusiasts. Two Nissen Huts had been transformed into a Communal Mess and Briefing Rooms and a bomb dump, complete with fibreglass bombs, had been constructed and offending post war structures either removed or disguised. There was also a number of B-17 mock-ups constructed out of timber and canvas. From close-up these looked very crude, but from the right angle and distance they looked very effective!
    Kevin Westley was another early arrival at Binbrook - his task was to find some eight hundred ‘extras’  required for some scenes, in particular the Hangar Dance. The extras were also needed to faithfully replicate the hive of activity on a wartime bomber airfield, some dressed as aircrew, some as ground personnel. There were even a few girls dressed in WAC uniforms!
    The Hangar Dance sequence was to be truly spectacular, causing massive demands on Wardrobe Master David Murphy and his team in the Wardrobe Department. Some five hundred extras had to be clothed and shod in authentic uniforms and dresses. The Makeup Department also had their hands full for not only did every girl have to have the correct style of summer dress and shoes, they had to have the correct 1940s hairstyle! Bob Richardson’s B-17F N17W had undergone a name-change from C-Cup to Buckaroo and was installed in the hangar as a background item. We should be thankful that Enigma and Caton-Jones resisted the temptation to have Glenn Miller and his Orchestra performing in the hangar, but it was rumoured at the time that they actually thought about doing it!
    Michael Catton-Jones spoke with the Press while at Binbrook: be here, with people running about in uniform and Jeeps and trucks and all the hardware is like a big ‘Airfix kit’. It’s all highly enjoyable and gives me a chance to play with some American actors and what have you.
    The weather during filming was good - so good in fact that it played havoc with the script. For instance, in the scene where the crew boarded a Jeep outside the briefing room, the script called for it to be muddy - the only way that could be done was to call upon the local Fire Service to hose down a patch of turf! The warm spell of weather and the early ripening of the harvest eventually forced Enigma to give up an pretence that it was the spring of 1943. The air-to-air filming from Duxford had been problematic with difficulties in obtaining a good ‘cloud match’ when filming of scenes had to be done over two days, but the fine weather at Binbrook meant that filming was ‘on schedule’ - until the afternoon of July 25th.

‘Lights, Camera, Action - CRASH!’

Filming had been going well. Early on in the movie there was to be a highly spectacular crash sequence cumulating in a massive explosion after a crippled a B-17 comes in to land. This was to be shot by the special effects team, using a combination of techniques, initially with a radio-controlled model for the ‘approach’ part of the sequence, followed by a specially-prepared 16-foot wingspan model used for the ‘landing’ and subsequent ‘crash’. The set-up called for the model to be towed behind an out-of-shot ground vehicle on a pre-planned line, partially sliding the model over the grass. Unfortunately the guide-wire failed and the model veered off-course directly into a cameraman, hitting him and putting him in hospital. For the actual explosion, an ex-Royal Air Force Percival Pembroke was bought from a scrapyard down the road in Horncastle then suitably painted and ‘distressed’ to look like the wreck before it was ‘exploded’ and set on fire by the pyrotechnic team.
    In a strange echo of life imitating art, during the afternoon of July 25th, the Institut Geographique National  B-17 F-BEFA Chateau de Vernieuil - aka Baby Ruth - started its take-off run along runway 21 in the hands of pilot Jean Gattegno when, as the speed began to build up, the aircraft suddenly began to pull to the right. By the time it reached the perimeter track, it was travelling at about forty-five degrees to its original course and just became airborne. Unfortunately the #4 propeller impacted with a large pile of stone chippings that had been deposited on a disused aircraft parking stand. This had the effect of slewing the aircraft around to the left, causing the port wing to strike the branches of a tree. The aircraft then crossed the airfield boundary fence, over a depression and came to a stop in a field of ripe wheat. There were ten people on board.
    Luckily nine people managed to evacuate with the wreck with some speed and only a few cuts and bruises, One of the IGN crewmembers suffered a broken leg and one of the passengers a broken collarbone. One of the girl passengers remained on board strapped into her seat - Mike Woodley of classic aircraft operators Aces High Ltd was one of the first on the scene, having driven straight through the perimeter fence. Mike, along with a IGN crewmember and a another passenger re-entered the wreck and brought the girl out before a fire, which had started in one of the engine nacelles, took a firm hold and totally destroyed all but the engine blocks and tail. It was thought that the accident was initially caused by a binding brake or failed wheel bearing
    With one machine destroyed, one suffering engine problems and another ‘grounded’ and trapped inside one of the hangars for filming the dance sequence, the remaining two aircraft were worked even harder. The filming of the take-off sequence was particularly hard work, for each aircraft took off, made a circuit and landed, to be set upon by the Art Department who rapidly changed the nose art and aircraft codes before repeating the whole process again!
    Towards the end of the filming at Binbrook B17 Preservations G-BEDF had its vertical tail removed and fitted with a fake unit in order to simulate severe battle damage for the climax of the film. Additional ‘battle-damage’ was attached to the airframe, silver foil making an excellent simulation for bullet holes!
    August 4th 1989 and the contract for the B-17s ran out, so the main filming switched to Pinewood Studios for a further two months filming with the actors and the fuselage mock-up. The Second Unit remained at Binbrook for a time, filming some of the ‘miniature’ B-17 models. We use the term ‘miniature’ loosely for in reality each of the five models had a sixteen foot wingspan, electric motors driving the props and radio-controlled crewmen inside to move about!
    The film was declared ‘in the can’ on October 6th and then it was off to the editing suite to bring the whole thing together!

The clichés dropped like Bombs...

The film was released in the United Kingdom on September 7th 1990 - in the USA on October 12th. It opened to mixed reviews.
    Sitting in the darkened movie theatre watching the picture, there were parts that looked incredible, others, well let’s be kind and say not so good! The general consensus of opinion was that the movie was an anthology of just about every aviation movie cliché ever filmed. Not a trick is missed - as Jack Garner of the Green Bay Press-Gazette said in his review; ‘Memphis Belle even has a crew-members dog, wagging his tail in anticipation of his master’s return, and you cannot get more old fashioned in the movie buisiness to drag out the dog’.
    Everyone agreed that the flying sequences were superb, but that the script was, at best, turgid. Apart from the usual continuity errors, a number of mistakes were spotted; for example, on the return flight, Val clearly administers closed chest compressions with his hands. This type of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation was not advanced until the 1960s and would not have been used in 1943. But was it a mistake? The July 1989 version of the script - as shown above - shows Val pounding Danny’s chest in frustration - obviously the Director decided to take artistic license here!
    Disaster after disaster struck - one wheel would not lower, a crewmember slipped, forcing open the bomb-bay doors and he nearly fell out while hand cranking the recalcitrant wheel into position, they were down to one working motor... Would they make it? Of course they would!
    The B-17 slews off the runway and comes to a halt, at least one engine smoking. The crew leap out and an ambulance pulls up, the medics diving to assist Danny. In the cockpit co-pilot Luke and pilot Dennis complete the shut-down checks - then Luke gets out of his seat, leaving Dennis alone with his thoughts.
    The camera goes close up to the pilot’s side of the instrument panel. There, tucked under the coaming is a small oil and tomato soup splattered picture of a girl. Dennis gently pulls it out, and the camera closes in and pauses on it. The sequence lasts less than five seconds - and certainly does not appear in our copy of the script, so it clearly must have been an ‘afterthought’.
    We guess that out of the millions of people who saw the movie, less than ten realised or even cared that it was the only tangible link between the Catherine’s 1990 movie, her father’s 1944 picture and the real, historical happenings of 1942 and 1943. Someone, somewhere decided to add it as a tribute - for they realised the importance of this person to the story. The instant we saw it, we knew that the picture was not of an actress dressed up and photographed for the movie - without doubt it was the real Memphis belle, the real Margaret Polk.

Taken from mine and Dr Harry Friedman MD's book 'Memphis Belle - Dispelling The Myths'