The silent wing warriors.". Alan Magee decided to join the US Army after Japanese attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. Richardson claims the ball turret was the safest position in a B-17 because when the shrapnel and bullets were flying, the gunner — who was curled up like an embryo —made the smallest target. Poker games. After testing in mid-1943, the ERCO ball turret became the preferred bow installation in the Navy's Consolidated PB4Y-1 Liberator and PB4Y-2 Privateer patrol bombers although other types continued to be installed. Ball turret gunner was killed due to belly landing. In many cases, when a stoppage occurred, it was necessary for the gunner to "reload" the gun, which required access to the firing chamber of the guns. 66 years after the crash he still remembers his part of World War II. Airman in the bubble were hunched over almost in a fetal position, knees up to chin, machine gun controls inches away. Earlier designs appeared in other patrol seaplanes. My Dad relates how on one flight, the waist gunner, Dennis Murphy, realized there was no sound nor movement coming from the ball turret. When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose. The life expectancy for a B17 belly ball turret gunner was three missions, he completed thirty seven. ... As a ball turret gunner aboard the "Duchess," a B-17 bomber in the 8th Air Force's 457th Bombardment Group, death was something Buczak faced constantly. Ball turret gunner. The B-24 Liberator was a powerful symbol of US industrial might, with more than 18,000 produced by the war’s end. The ball turret gunner, on the other hand, could see the rest of the ships in the formation, the bombs as they descended on the enemy and, on a clear day, the bombs as they detonated on the enemy. The ball turret gunner was usually the shortest crewmember. The space inside the turret was very small and cramped. Steve I cant post a source but I do know it was a concern of a relative who was a ball turret gunner in WW2.He flew out of Italy and in B17s.What he stated to me once was he saw a B17 land once with the turret down.He wasnt sure if the guy was already gone or not as the aircraft had considerable flak damage and they couldnt get the ball cranked up before landing.He also said he was … The Death of the Ball Turret gunner In the poem, The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner, Jerrell uses time, irony and symbolism to depict the life and death of the ball turret gunner. "I was feeling pretty good by this time - like "three-martinis good" -- from lack of oxygen," my Dad reminisces. Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. German fighters preferred to attack head-on and aim for the cockpit, and the ball turret gunner could not escape from his position unaided. " Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. Thirty-five hundred were shot down over Europe. "We had a 10-man crew and we were all terrified.". Part of MultiCultural/HPMG News. By that time, thousands of airmen had perished over the skies of Europe. The US 8th Air Force, which flew daylight missions over Europe, had a 19% death rate, if you survived being shot down, you had a 17% chance of become a POW. He felt a need to enlist in the Army and defend his country. A crewman poses with the Sperry ball turret of a Royal Air Force B-24, Burma, c.1943-1945, Learn how and when to remove this template message, Development of Aircraft Gun Turrets in the AAF, 1917-1944, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ball_turret&oldid=965294547, Articles lacking sources from September 2019, Short description is different from Wikidata, Articles that may contain original research from July 2016, All articles that may contain original research, Wikipedia articles needing clarification from July 2016, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, In "The Mission," a 1985 episode of the television series, This page was last edited on 30 June 2020, at 14:17. Another factor was that not all stoppages could be corrected by charging (cocking) the guns. Life expectancy was always dependant on position in the formation. Kuhl was a ball turret gunner. This comparison is very ironic. The Sperry nose turret was tested and preferred, but its use was limited due to poor availability of suitable aircraft designs. The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner. I grew up believing the tale my father told me -- that I had spent World War II being toted around on his back. Gunners protected, constantly twisting and turning -- checking for enemy fighter aircraft. Deviating from the course and getting out of formation was sure suicide because German fighter planes were always lurking in the clouds, ready to pick off a random plane. But he was one of the lucky ones: he came home. This was only possible to accomplish in daylight. Another time, we glean a little more. A ball turret was a spherical-shaped, altazimuth mount gun turret, fitted to some American-built aircraft during World War II. Size mattered when it came to selecting ball turret gunners. Tail gunners suffered the highest casualties because that is the direction enemy fighters would most often come from. "I flew my first mission on a B-17 as a ball turret gunner with the 8th Air Force at the age of 21," he tells me while driving me to school one morning. Flight suits were heated and insulated but the crew often reported icicles on their eyebrows and frostbite around their mouths. The Brits however weren't totally enamored with the boys from the U.S.A. As they said, "The Yanks were overpaid, oversexed and over here. There was no room inside for a parachute, which was left in the cabin above the turret. Being a ball turret gunner was definitely one of the most dangerous assignments during WW2. A shadow box belonging to Luis Perrone, a B-17 ball turret gunner with the 533rd Bomb Squadron during World War II, at his home in Edgewater, Maryland. After that: three hours of circling the airfield to get in formation -- an absolute necessity to protect themselves against German counter attack. . In the tulips were spelled out the words, "Thank you Yanks. It wasn't until I was about 9-years-old that I realized the impossibility. My Dad relates, "I saw one of our planes -- right next to me -- shot down. The Emotional Impact Of Combat Is Honestly Portrayed In A Diary My Father, John J. Briol (Pictured With My Mother, Marcella) Wrote While Flying On B-17s During WWII. The Sperry ball turret, meant for ventral defense needs on aircraft, was used on both the B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-24 Liberator as well as the United States Navy's Liberator, the PB4Y. He Was A Ball Turret Gunner Of The 457th Bomb Group, 748th Squadron At Glatton Air Field, England. Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. Wilbur Richardson gives a short interview at Plane of Fame Air Museum in Chino, Califronia. Camps. The name arose from the turret's spherical housing. The most exposed/The least protected All rights reserved. To enter the turret, the turret was moved until the guns were pointed straight down. I found this: black 'B' in a white triangle underneath 'Yellow 231613' under that Yellow 'N'. ©2021 Verizon Media. For the life expectancy of a rear gunner was desperately short; estimates vary but suggest that they could expect to be shot down, or killed, within two weeks, or up to five operations. The gunner was forced to assume a fetal position within the turret with his back and head against the rear wall, his hips at the bottom, and his legs held in mid-air by two footrests on the front wall. Veering off course, heading for Sweden, I watched as it was blown up. He completed 32 bombing missions over western Europe, represented by the five bronze oak leaf clusters on the blue and orange Air Medal for meritorious achievement in aerial flight. I wasn't the brightest kid. The ball turret gunner was one of the most dangerous assignments in World War II. This is a real treasure for anyone interested in the Army air war in Europe told first hand. It wasn’t easy what they had to go through. All but a handful have been consigned to the wrecking yard. The turret held the gunner, two heavy machine guns, ammunition, and sights. Fun Fact: American poet Randall Jarrell wrote a five-line poem called “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” which was published in 1945. Since this turret is of the ball type, the gunner moves with his guns and sight in elevation and azimuth by means of control handles. The life expectancy of the servicemen depended on the job position the service person had. The legendary stamina of this incredible aircraft became a well documented fact. On days that missions were flown, the crew was up at 2 a.m. preparing their aircraft, cleaning their guns, grabbing a quick breakfast, getting briefed on the impending mission. Hot meals. And often did. About lunchtime, the B-17s hit their targets. Development of the spherical Emerson was halted. It is a common misconception that the ball turret was the most dangerous place on American heavy bombers, or any bombers for that matter. Ball turrets appeared in the nose and tail as well as the nose of the final series B-24. Permanently fixed and unable to be retracted, there was no hiding from enemy attack. A few are still flying today. After dropping their bombs, the B-17s headed back to England. Now he is 87! Ball Turret Gunners on B-17 bombers were protected only by a glass bubble jutting out from the bowels of the plane. He says “in its belly” talking about the ball turret. The formation would be maintained on the way over, during the raid, and on the entire way home. Randall Jarrell - 1914-1965. A reflector sight was hung from the top of the turret, positioned roughly between the gunner's feet. ", But if the Brits were ambivalent, the Dutch more than made up for it. Flown in all theaters and entering the fray before America did through Lend-Lease with Great Britain, Liberators flew faster, higher and farther than the older B-17, thanks to greater fuel capacity and an innovative low-drag wing design. From my mother's sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. He was considered a perfect fit for the B-17’s ball turret. On the return leg, the ball turret gunner left his turret once the aircraft had cleared the area in which fighter resistance was a factor. When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose. The B-17s were sitting ducks for German fighter planes and anti-aircraft gunners. Over twelve thousand B-17s were built by Boeing. He saved my life and up until his death, I kept in regular contact with him." For instance if you were a ball turret gunner your life expectancy was three hours. Ball Turret Gunner. This left him positioned with his eyes roughly level with the pair of light-barrel Browning AN/M2 .50 caliber machine guns which extended through the entire turret, located to either side of the gunner. The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner . The gunner placed his feet in the heel rests and occupied his cramped station. In the case of the B-24, the Liberator's tricycle landing gear design mandated that its A-13 model Sperry ball turret have a fully retractable mount, so that the ball turret would always be retracted upwards into the lower fuselage while the aircraft was on the ground, providing ground clearance with it in the stowed position. The Ball Turret Gunner from B17 42-31377 Pot O´Gold crashed on 22 FEB 1944, tells in BALL TURRET about his job. It was an enclosure that at any time could become an airman's coffin. To enter the turret, the turret was moved until the guns were pointed straight down. He completed 32 bombing missions over western Europe, represented by the five bronze oak leaf clusters on the blue and orange Air Medal for meritorious achievement in aerial flight. Crews on a B-17, fondly referred to as "The Flying Fortress," flew enemy raids against Nazi Germany from 1942 to 1945. It was a sickening site." Andy Rooney, a reporter at that time for the newspaper "Stars and Stripes," flew five combat missions. The B-17s brought the men home when they didn't think they had a prayer. To remedy that, the front end of the cover was "slotted". Airmen badly wounded from flak would die without immediate medical attention at that altitude due to shock. And my father wasn't traipsing around Europe on foot in the Infantry, anyway -- he was a ball turret gunner in The 8th Army Air Corp, operating in a confined space. Pilots navigated. My grandad flew and survived 30 operations, which was classed as a … So, many were tossed out in parachutes, in the hopes that German troops would give them emergency care before shipping them off to P.O.W. Access was severely restricted by the guns' location in the small turret. Slice-of-life columnist, motivational speaker and pod caster, advocating "Preserving One's Bloom" by striving to be the best one can be. Among the earlier designs was the Martin 250SH bow turret of the PBM-3 twin-engined patrol flying boat which had many points of similarity in design and action. On the B17 the turret retracted to allow the gunner to get in or out and was lowered into position when the mission was about to get hot. By the first sign of daylight, the flying fortresses were on their way. A few gunners wore a chest parachute. ", My Dad says "I saw the tulips spelling out 'Thank You, Yanks.' 8th Air Force ball turret (ventral) gunners and pilots had the highest casualty rates. Life expectancy of something like 4 missions and a good number of those were because they couldn't get out of the ball and were crushed when the rest of their crew made an emergency landing. Wilbur Richardson, B-17 ball turret gunner and CAF Southern California Wing member, said only a few gunners were trapped like in Rooney’s story. Sperry and Emerson Electric each developed a ball turret, and the designs were similar in the nose turret version. The B-24 had three-upper, ball and tail. Later models had four turrets-one was added to the nose. We made it easy for you to exercise your right to vote! Jarrell compares his place in the Ball Turret to the womb of a mother. Twenty-six thousand never returned. And once very 30 days, a three or four day pass to London (and the British pubs). In his 90's he still has a twinkle in his eye when telling his life's adventures. Only three ball turret gunners received the Medal of Honor. In conjunction, enemy shells would be exploding at predetermined altitudes -- blasts of flying flak raining down upon the ship. Originating from air bases in England, the B-17s left to attack enemy targets in broad daylight because The Air Force believed in precision bombing -- bombing to hit a specific target. Nothing my father had related to us over the years prepared us for the terrifying reality of his position. The conventional landing gear of the B-17 meant that the ball turret did not need to be retracted for clearance on the ground, but if the plane was required to do a belly landing (such as in the case of landing gear system failure), the ball turret would likely be destroyed due to the lack of clearance, meaning anyone occupying the turret would be in a precarious position if unable to escape. It served a double purpose, defense against bow attacks as well as fire suppression and offensive strafing in antisubmarine warfare. A shadow box belonging to Luis Perrone, a B-17 ball turret gunner with the 533rd Bomb Squadron during World War II, at his home in Edgewater, Maryland. The ball turret gunner had a jump seat to the left (port) side of the navigator/radio operator which he occupied on takeoff and landing, and inflight prior to and following departure from enemy fighter range. CALL OF DUTY: WWIIhttps://store.playstation.com/#!/en-us/tid=CUSA05969_00 From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. (The tail gunners combat life expectancy was 4 missions. Injuries from flak accounted for more loss of life among the B-17 crews than any other factor. Ball Turret Gunners on B-17 bombers were protected only by a glass bubble jutting out from the bowels of the plane. Jarrell, who served in the Army Air Forces, provided the following explanatory note: . In 1945, towards the end of the war, a newspaper article told of planes flying over a tulip field in Holland on their way back from a mission. A merica joined Britain's strategic air campaign designed to destroy Nazi Germany's industrial capacity soon after her entrance into World War Two. Today is National Voter Registration Day! Normally, the gunner accessed the firing chamber by releasing a latch and raising the cover to a position perpendicular to the gun but this was not possible in the ball turret. He would put on a safety strap and close and lock the turret door. The Sperry ball turret was very small in order to reduce drag, and was typically operated by the shortest man of the crew. Launching Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortresses" and Consolidated B-24 "Liberators" from bases in England's eastern countryside, the Americans bombed their targets during the day while the British attacked at night. The gunner placed his feet in the heel rests and th… The cocking handles were located too close to the gunner to be operated easily, so a cable was attached to the handle through pulleys to a handle near the front of the turret. It is ironic because a mother’s womb is very protecting and comforting and sheltering of life. The ball turret gunner was one of the most dangerous assignments in World War II. Milton Miller, 87, of Amherst, recalls a soldier’s life expectancy being “probably 3 minutes” while on patrol after invasion of Anzio. Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost's next chapter. The first gunner in any position to spot an enemy plane alerted the rest of the crew via the plane's intercom system. And it often went to the shortest man among the crew. A ball turret was a Plexiglas sphere set into the belly of a B-17 or B-24 bomber. "The first in/The last out The design was mainly deployed on the B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-24 Liberator, as well as the United States Navy's Liberator, the PB4Y-1. Permanently fixed and unable to be retracted, there was no hiding from enemy attack. Two hundred, ten thousand airmen flew over Europe. Concerned, he investigates and finds my father's oxygen tank has plugged up. The Sperry ball turret was very small[clarification needed] in order to reduce drag, and was typically operated by the smallest man of the crew. I was 5' 8" -- a little tall for the turret, but I accepted the assignment, which some deemed as a suicide position," my dad points out. It was the best sight in the world -- second only to spotting the famous White Cliffs of Dover late in the afternoon after completing yet another harrowing mission.". "A ball turret was a Plexiglas sphere set into the belly of a B-17 or B-24, and inhabited by two .50 caliber machine-guns and one man, a short small man. The Sperry-designed ventral system saw widespread use and production, including much sub-contracting. "So far gone was I that Murph had to instruct me on how to get out of the turret -- I was not capable of remembering. To warm beds. It lost two engines and couldn't keep up. It was a manned turret, as distinct from remote-controlled turrets also in use. A ball turret was a spherical-shaped, altazimuth mount gun turret, fitted to some American-built aircraft during World War II. See much more from Sgt Lester Schrenk! Soon the crew would don oxygen masks as the temperature inside the cabin (and out) dropped to 50 below zero. if you either buy the DVD or wait for a repeat of the show. Big Deal -- My Dad Was A Ball Turret Gunner In World War II. the youtube link just shows which episode the B-17 was in. The B-17 had two turret gunners-upper and ball. The life of a ball turret gunner. It wasn't until 1944 that fighter escorts were deployed to accompany them on their missions. )The ball was the only position where many died without a shrapnel or gunshot wound. The Ball Turret Gunner was one of the most dangerous positions to be filled in the military. The gunner released the latch and removed the cover which allowed space to clear the action. Small ammunition boxes rested on the top of the turret and additional ammunition belts fed the turret by means of a chute system. I had been born in August of 1947, years after the war was over. The Sperry Corporation designed ventral versions that became the most common version; thus, the term "ball turret" generally indicates these versions. ", Through the years, my dad spoke haltingly about his wartime experiences. Bailing out of a 17 however the lower turret gunner had the greatest chance of dying. The Sperry Ball Turret was under the plane as seen in the photo. 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