Air Force Museum opens writing contest


DAYTON — Teenagers will have a unique opportunity to earn scholarship funds while learning about military aviation history through the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force’s eighth annual Air Force Heritage and History Writing Competition.

This year’s theme focuses on World War II bomber aircraft and crews, such as the B-17F Memphis Belle — one of the most recognizable symbols of World War II and the first U.S. Army Air Forces heavy bomber to return to the United States after completing 25 missions over Europe.

The research questions for the competition are as follows: What challenges did World War II bomber crew members face? How were those challenges and obstacles overcome? This research paper must also include information gathered from at least one primary source, such as a journal or diary, and it is highly recommended that students begin their research by watching the 1944 version of the movie, “The Memphis Belle.”

The competition is open to the first 250 public, private school or homeschooled students between the ages of 13 and 18, giving them a chance to showcase their writing talents while vying for scholarship funds. Entries must be submitted via U.S. mail or email by March 2, 2018. Local educators will determine the finalists, and those submissions will be sent on to national-level judges to decide the three winners. The requirements for this writing competition meet Common Core curriculum English language arts writing standards for grades six through 12.

Scholarship award money is provided through the generosity of the Air Force Museum Foundation Inc. A $1,500 scholarship will be awarded to the first-place winner, $1,000 to the second-place winner and $500 to the third-place winner.

The B-17F Memphis Belle will once again report for duty exactly 75 years after its crew finished their last mission against Nazi Germany on May 17, 1943, when it is placed on public display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on May 17, 2018.

Pilot Robert Morgan named the aircraft after his wartime girlfriend, Margaret Polk, of Memphis, Tennessee. Morgan chose the now famous artwork from a 1941 George Petty illustration in Esquire magazine.

After returning to the United States in June 1943, its crew flew the aircraft across the country on a three-month war bond and morale boosting tour. With the bond tour and the 1944 William Wyler documentary film, which contained actual combat footage, the aircraft and its crew became widely celebrated. In 1990, a major motion picture of the same name added to their fame.

Following decades of display in Memphis, the historic aircraft came to the museum in October 2005, when work began on a careful, multi-year conservation and restoration effort including corrosion treatment and the full outfitting of missing equipment, which continues today.

According to National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Curator Jeff Duford, the Memphis Belle is a national treasure, and will soon be the centerpiece of a new major exhibit in the museum’s WWII Gallery.

“The B-17F Memphis Belle is an icon that represents the thousands of bomber crews, maintainers, and others supporting the bomber mission, whose service and sacrifice helped win WWII.” said Duford. “Work is underway to showcase the aircraft in the WWII Gallery, and the surrounding exhibit will include interactive displays, rare archival film footage and many personal artifacts which have never been seen before by our visitors.”

A complete list of competition guidelines is available at

Staff report

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