Behind-the-scenes museum tour in Ohio allows public to see restoration of famed Memphis Belle

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DAYTON, Ohio - The buffed silver fuselage of the Memphis Belle now belies the famed B-17 bomber's six punishing months of World War II air combat and the subsequent decades of neglect that left the plane battered by the elements and stripped by souvenir hunters while on public display in its namesake city.

The most celebrated American aircraft to emerge from the great war rests these days in a cavernous hangar at a southern Ohio Air Force base undergoing a loving and fastidious restoration — from its clear plastic nose cone down to the twin .50-calibremachine-guns bristling in the tail.

About the only section left untouched so far is the signature "nose art" on the pilot's side: the leggy Esquire pinup girl in a blue bathing suit seductively perched above the Memphis Belle nickname, as much a part of the plane's legend as its odds-defying 25 bombing missions over occupied Europe in 1942-43....

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