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A major player in one of my nonfiction WW2 books was a ball turret gunner who was stuck there when the pilot called to abandon ship because the bomber was going down. Crushed ball turret gunner. The bomber was so badly damaged that, on landing, the airplane’s structure failed from battle damage and it broke in half. This thread is archived. When his bomber came under fire from German anti-aircraft guns, he ran out of options. He was released in May 1945. Who was this gunner? 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. This was difficult and excruciatingly slow when you’re the last person left on the plane and it’s losing altitude quickly. The gunner could enter the turret from inside the plane by having the turret rotated until the door opening faced the interior of the plane. To enter the turret, the turret was moved until the guns were pointed straight down. He felt a need to enlist in the Army and defend his country. The name Ronnie Kramer in some book is a fictitious name for a turrent gunner lost on landing, fictitious as the info is censored and it gives the story an appearance of fiction if he says “unknown gunner”. This was mainly because German fighters would target the gunners first. As the photo shows it in a field with tress, its possible the ball turrent smashed into something but the rest of the plane didn’t suffer much . The American writer Randall Jarrell published "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" in 1945, the final year of World War II. When he regained consciousness, as the Germans were taking him to hospital, he exclaimed, ‘Thank God I am alive.” Magee once told his friend that the Germans had great respect for those who survived miraculously. Censored info. 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. How did the optics work on remote turrets? However, since it would have been a pretty natural fear of the bomber crews, in general, he may be recalling an actual event or his memory might have converted legends into a “memory.”. no one knows… He, as well as other bomber veterans, told me stories of incidents in which the ball turret gunner died because he couldn’t get out in time. Directed by Steven Spielberg. This is clearly something that wartime censors would have edited out. Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. People die. HERE is the Andy Rooney interview, the relevant bit starts around the six minute mark. The ball-turrer gunner was one of the most dangerous positions to have on a B-17. Magee had no idea how to control the plane and saw a small opening,  which he quickly jumped through. . On the day Magee went on the mission of his lifetime, he left his parachute on the bomber’s deck because there was not much space inside the turret. It was an enclosure that at any time could become an airman’s coffin. They were useful. I can’t imagine that the Air Force would subject the family with the knowledge that their loved one died such a gruesome death. I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. The ball turret gunner was usually the shortest crewmember. This thread brings remote turrets to mind. I have no doubt that it happened more than once. ), This guy made it out just in time for his chute to open effectively. A ball-turret gunner, sits in his position on a B-17 "Flying Fortress" shortly before take off for a mission into Germany, 1943. level 1. His face was about 30 inches from this panel, and suspended in between was the optical display of the computing gunsight. The ball turret was a feature of the bomber aircraft, a B-17 or B-24, made of plexiglass and set into the belly of the plane. Crushed ball turret gunner. If this was an actual issue, I wonder why the design of the turret was not revised to either permit opening or even to fall free and allow the gunner a chance to parachute? The fighters never had the range of the bombers. The bomber was salvaged 3 May 1943. One fellow gunner had his turret cut off by the wing of another plane during a mission. It looks like the gunners didn’t sit that far from their weapons, basically they had a small plexiglass bubble to look out of with the (complicated looking) gunsight mechanism to aim with. How many Ball Turret Gunners died in World War II? Actual Nose Art panel from crashed B-17 at St. Nazaire, France – 03 January 1943 [Via]. The ball turret mechanism was prone to jamming and if the plane had to land…. 86% Upvoted. He was considered a perfect fit for the B-17’s ball turret. Contrary to an answer appearing below, there are no substantiated incidents of ball turret gunners being crushed on landing. Still, it looks plausible to me as a way of death that the Air Force would prefer to list as “combat death”. It wasn’t just early on. According to an article in Snopes regarded a Reagan anecdote, there is a story by Andy Rooney(in his book “My War”) about a stuck ball-turret gunner who was crushed when his B-17 had to belly land. When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose. [Via]. If the mechanism was damaged that prevented that position, it would have had the same effect as not being able to retract. (The ball turret is too cramped to wear a chute. He is buried in San Angelo, Texas. On the 23rd of September 1995 Alan E. Magee, accompanied by his wife Helen, returned to St Nazaire to take part in a ceremony sponsored by French citizens, dedicating a memorial to his seven fellow crewmen killed in the crash of Snap! I suspect it was the placebo effect - it looks good and it is reassuring to think that Rob will shoot down any nasty fighter that comes along. See ... the person inside the turret would be crushed to death. And when you get up and out of the thing, you still have to find your parachute which may have been tossed all over the inside of the plane. The poem, written in first person, gives the deceased turret gunner a … One would think that the crew could break the plexiglass and get the guy out. Magee was 5-foot-7 and could barely fit into the small space inside the turret. save. The space inside the turret was very small and cramped. *The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, Need facts about a B-17 ball turret gunner who died in a belly landing. Crushed ball turret gunner Sign in to follow this . hide. To start with it would have been a B-24 ball turret which retracted for landing. "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" is one of the earliest of post-modern elegies of a type that might well be termed "peculiar monodies." His frame of 5-foot-1 was perfect for the assignment which is considered as one of the most dangerous during World War II. But he was not aware that he had jumped in a 4-mile drop without his parachute. The ball-turret gunner was trapped in the plastic bubble hanging beneath the B-17. … It also kept the gunners inside the pressurized cabin, which the earlier bombers did not have. 3. And yes, the designers probably figured out that there was the distinct possibilty that some gunners would get squished. From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State, [Via]. Also to escape from the turret there were any amount of things necessary before one could leave. Sort by. The reason: First, the ball turret gunner did NOT enter the turret until the aircraft was approaching the point where fighter resistance was expected. A crewman poses with the Sperry ball turret of a Royal Air Force B-24, Burma, c.1943-1945. • A ball turret features in the poem "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner", by Randall Jarrell. He felt a need to enlist in the Army and defend his country. 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Based on a little quick reading the gunsight was adjusted by turning a control so that an aiming circle matched the wingspan of the incoming fighter. I have a question for the forum members to ponder. Another vote here for Miller’s book, which despite its title is not the usual hero-worship or dry recitation of mission details but a realistic-seeming discussion of all aspects of what the war was like for those men. Ball Turret Gunners on B-17 bombers were protected only by a glass bubble jutting out from the bowels of the plane. No room for parachute, another hatch added weight and would increase survival by .001% Dec 27, 2015 - B-17 Ball Turret Gunner Crushed | Dow Field, Bangor, Maine 1942 - Turret gunner aboard B-17 He was considered a perfect fit for the B-17’s ball turret. Fun Fact: American poet Randall Jarrell wrote a five-line poem called “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” which was published in 1945. Turret Gunner on B-17 – Royalty Free World War 2 Images - WW2inColor.com. A few thousand planes are not going to be recalled for safety issues. The ball turret gunner was on the underside of the plane and the gunner had to wait until the aircraft was airborne before opening the hatch to get into it. It operates from jackscrews, and even if only … 5 years ago. Magee’s friend, Don Jenkins, also a veteran of WWII, said that being a B-17 gunner was not an easy job during WWII. The ball turret gunner would be hunched, legs bent, with his feet in stirrups on each side of the 13 inch diameter armored glass panel. http://www.americanairmuseum.com/aircraft/12001. Made of Plexiglas and about four feet in diameter, the ball turret was a sphere attached to the bottom of B-17s. Battle damage to the radio operator’s compartment of Boeing B-17F-65-BO 42-29649. Being a ball turret gunner was definitely one of the most dangerous assignments during WW2. Donald L. Miller’s 2006 book Masters of the Air, NY Time review here and goodreads reviews here, repeats the Rooney story and also includes a photo (#29, credited to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum, Savannah, Georgia) with this caption –. 11 comments. The poem's speaker suggests that he slips from the protection of his mother's womb into "the State," where he finds himself in a ball turret (the round compartment on a bomber plane from which a gunner shoots). Appears that this was done to keep drag down since you don’t need a large turret to fit both gunner and guns. There isn’t a lot of time when the pilot orders abandon ship. My first thought is unbolting a radio-they were huge, my Father had one for his ham radio hobby-and two or three guys smashing the plexiglass with it. A made-for-TV drama from the 1980's was built around that scenario, but it was by and large fictional. By renfield, September 26, 2012 in MILITARY AIRCRAFT & AVIATION. Recommended Posts. Alan E. Magee poses for the camera, halfway into the tight confines of the ball turret of a B-17 Flying Fortress. On the show World War 2 in HD The Air War... Andy Rooney tells the story of a B-17 ball turret gunner traped in the turret and crushed to death when the plane was forced to make a wheels up landing. Ball Turret Gunner. Sperry ball turret on a B-17 Flying Fortress - 1942. show full show summary. He was 24, and was one of the ten-man crew of the B-17 bomber. That’s why they had to take Iwo Jima so the fighters had a place to take off from that would let them escort the bombers all the way into Japan. Cascabel Cascabel New Members; 13 posts; Posted September 29, 2012. The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner . The ball turret gunner was crushed to death when a mechanical malfunction trapped him inside his plastic cage and a damaged electrical system made it impossible to lower the plane’s wheels. The gunner entered the ball turret via a door at its rear, which also served as an emergency exit in case of trouble. Alan Magee received the Air Medal for meritorious service and the Purple Heart for his achievements in the war. Followers 1. I believe it happened a number of times. report. The gun turrets themselves were relatively nearby and they were also fairly low profile. Armed with two 50-caliber machine guns and capable of rotating 360 degrees, the ball turret gunner was responsible for protecting the otherwise-exposed underbelly of the flying fortress. I’m sure there were bomber veterans who were haunted by leaving a ball turret gunner behind. Saved by Julie Gault. The gunner placed his feet in the heel rests and th… The Ball Turret Gunner from B17 42-31377 Pot O´Gold crashed on 22 FEB 1944, tells in BALL TURRET about his job. The ball turret on a B-17 didn’t retract. From this sphere a gunner, upside down, could track the enemy, revolving as he let fly with his machine guns. The Sperry ball turret was very small in order to reduce drag, and was typically operated by the shortest man of the crew. The mission Magee was a part of turned out to be a failure for the Allied forces. New comments cannot be posted and votes cannot be cast. There has to be more details out there other than Andy Rooney’s accounts and anecdotal information. We have so much respect for these outstanding men! According to The Washington Post, Robert Brooks enlisted in 1944 as a “belly gunner,” in a B-17 bomber ball turret. S/Sgt. In total, there were 85 B-17s involved in the raid, along with some fighter planes escorting them. Remembering his friend and comrade, he said that Magee was a great friend and a kind human being. Military | Technical Sergeant | Top Turret Gunner - engineer | 389th Bomb Group On a mission to Erkner Berlin on 8 Mar 1944, B-24J #42-99975 'The Latrine Rumor' made a forced landing near Wartena, Holland hitting a windmill that crushed the nose section. (I personally interviewed him many times and corroborated his story with other sources.) Early on, the bombers had greater range than their escorting fighters and, on deep missions, they had no cover - those guns were all that there was for defense. Saved from ww2incolor.com. The gears that rotated the ball to put the gunner in position to … The US Army lost 75 airmen, along with 7 planes, while 47 planes were badly damaged. Magee stayed in various German camps as a Prisoner of War. While it may seem cold that a crew would leave the ball turret gunner trapped, they had no choice. best . Magee plunged almost 22,000 feet, falling unconscious before crashing into the roof of the St Nazaire railway station. Sergeant Smith was a ball turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress on his first combat mission. related question, did they have higher casualities than the rest of the crew on the plane? The B-17 was a taildragger, and if any of the three wheels wasn’t down and the ball turret was, then the plane would land on the ball turret. The gunner never entered the turret before take off. Three months before being shot down, the original crew assigned to the B-17F Snap! Crackle! Magee lived another 61 years after his fall during WWII and died of kidney failure and complications from a stroke. share. There were over 3,500 bullet and shrapnel holes. No surprise, it is selling Miller’s book here. This was war. Magee had to jump out of it to escape certain death. #41-24620 (PU-O), under Jacob W. Fredericks, from October 14, 1942. Alan Magee decided to join the US Army after Japanese attacked the American fleet at  Pearl Harbor. Powered by Discourse, best viewed with JavaScript enabled. "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" is a five-line poem by Randall Jarrell published in 1945. With Kevin Costner, Casey Siemaszko, Kiefer Sutherland, J.J. Cohen. So this undated photo shows what looks like a disintegrating turret, and the purported victim is still anonymous. Source: 303rd BG  [Via]. When Magee’s bomber reached the French town of St Nazaire, it came under heavy fire from German anti-aircraft guns. When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose. His bomber was spinning mid-air and spiralling towards the ground. On August 4, 1944, Douglas A-20G-30-DO Havoc (SN 43-9502) of the 644th Bomb Squadron, 410th Bomb Group, 9th Air Force, receives a direct flak hit in the tail section, completely severing it whilst on a mission to Rouen, France. The ball turret gunner has not had a living instant to achieve the self-recognition celebrated by Aries or Yeats's Major Gregory. Missing Air Crew Reports filed after a plane went down, written by the surviving pilot or other crew, sometimes stated something like “ball turret gunner last seen trapped and unable to extricate himself, presumed to have gone down with the aircraft.”. The gunner was in the fetal position with his feet above his head (yes, there was one short guy on the crew). in the forest at La Baule Escoublac on Jan. 3, 1943. It was cramped and very loud when the guns began to fire. A pedal under his left foot adjusted the red sight on this display and when a target framed within, the range was correct. The date was April 20, 1944. From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. It is about the death of a gunner in a Sperry ball turret on a World War II American bomber aircraft. Ranked among the luckiest people in the world, Alan E. Magee survived a free fall of almost four miles from a B-17 bomber during a bombing raid in WWII. Air gunners could and did shoot down fighter planes. They took off from Molesworth, England, and their target was a German submarine port in France. Rooney describes it as something he witnessed. According to one of the participants, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force called it an “urban myth.”. http://www.lonesentry.com/blog/b-29-remote-control-turret-system.html. Alan Magee decided to join the US Army after Japanese attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. Then too, if it was an issue, or even widely believed contemporary myth, I wonder why nobody mentions gunners or crews having field expedient escape tools to hand? According to an article in Snopes regarded a Reagan anecdote, there is a story by Andy Rooney(in his book “My War”) about a stuck ball-turret gunner who was crushed when his B-17 had to belly land. I don’t know if the tales of a ball turret gunner being trapped while the plane actually landed on a runway are true or apocryphal, but the gunners definitely got trapped in those things and sometimes went down with the plane. You’ll never have a definitive answer. The ball turret job can be exciting. Who was this gunner? The bomber took a couple of nasty blows on its wing and engine; it started spiralling towards the ground, and was spinning at a very high speed. It wasn’t easy what they had to go through. Once the aircraft was in enemy territory the ball was rotated so that the door was in the floor of the plane. The Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum, website here, could have more of the story behind its photo. Magee’s survival story has featured in many magazines and is considered one of the most miraculous survivals of WWII. It was the job of the ball turret gunner, armed with a pair of .50-caliber machine guns, to defend the aircraft from attacks below. Did you look up how a ball turret worked? My question is: Were the gunners on bombers actually useful, or did they serve the purpose of providing the crews with the belief that they were protected from high-speed interceptors? This happened while Andy Rooney was in England reporting a news story. Crackle! It was common knowledge among soldiers that the B-17 ball turret gunners had a very high casualty rate. 43-37995 crash landed with one fatality. Jul 19, 2014 - B-17 Ball Turret Gunner Crushed | Turret Gunner on B-17. The ball turret on the B-17 had to rotate to the vertical position to allow the hatch to be opened into the plane for exit during flight. With no USAAF documentation of such an event, we are left with having to choose between an uncorroborated memory and a lack of documentation. Permanently fixed and unable to be retracted, there was no hiding from enemy attack. eg a rock outcrop could be hidden in the grass … It landed in a haystack and he only scored some broken ribs. Ww2 Air Force Aircraft Aviation Plane Airplanes Airplane. This is why ball-turret gunners were shorter in height compaired to other memebers of the crew. The space inside the turret was very small and cramped. How did the gunner see the bad guy? He also said that during almost 40 years of their friendship, Magee only spoke about the incident three times. The landing gear on a B-17 is indeed electrically powered. A glimmering of conscious awareness comes to him, if at all, only after the moment of death. Prev; 1; 2; Next; Page 2 of 2 . A courageous young World War II gunner and aspiring cartoonist, trapped in the belly gun of a B-17 aircraft with the landing gear destroyed, has only his imagination as … And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. Here’s one potential remedy…[link to video on Vimeo]. On 3rd January 1943, Magee got into a Flying Fortress bomber on his seventh bombing mission. Randall Jarrell, 1914 - 1965. Ball turret gunner’s tale It was their second mission in “Berlin Special,” a B-17 “Flying Fortress.” Their four-engine bomber was part of the 92nd Bomb Group, 407th Squadron of the 8th Air Force flying out of an airbase near Podington, a tiny farm village some 40-miles northwest of London during World War II. Armed with two 50-caliber machine guns and capable of rotating 360 degrees, the ball turret gunner was responsible for protecting the otherwise-exposed underbelly of the flying fortress. Pop! Here’s an old discussion on a veteran’s forum. Pop! Google “air gunner victory” for some cites. You keep the gunsight on the target and the computer (mechanical, I think) did the rest, automatically adjusting the guns to point at whatever the gunner was sighted on. And it often went to the shortest man among the crew. The ball turret gunner was crushed to death when a mechanical malfunction trapped him inside his plastic cage and a damaged electrical system made it impossible to lower the plane’s wheels. After the war, Magee did not discuss his ordeal or his survival story with anyone. And even if it didn’t, as long as the (tricycle) gear extended and the pilot didn’t flare too much, he’d be fine.

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