Crackle! 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. Here’s an old discussion on a veteran’s forum. 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. By renfield, September 26, 2012 in MILITARY AIRCRAFT & AVIATION. 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. Alan Magee decided to join the US Army after Japanese attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. When Magee’s bomber reached the French town of St Nazaire, it came under heavy fire from German anti-aircraft guns. From this sphere a gunner, upside down, could track the enemy, revolving as he let fly with his machine guns. eg a rock outcrop could be hidden in the grass … Google “air gunner victory” for some cites. Sort by. From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State, The gunner never entered the turret before take off. 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. ), This guy made it out just in time for his chute to open effectively. It is about the death of a gunner in a Sperry ball turret on a World War II American bomber aircraft. hide. This is why ball-turret gunners were shorter in height compaired to other memebers of the crew. 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. It landed in a haystack and he only scored some broken ribs. The poem, written in first person, gives the deceased turret gunner a … 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. 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. Permanently fixed and unable to be retracted, there was no hiding from enemy attack. Crushed ball turret gunner. I have no doubt that it happened more than once. Magee was 5-foot-7 and could barely fit into the small space inside the turret. A pedal under his left foot adjusted the red sight on this display and when a target framed within, the range was correct. Magee lived another 61 years after his fall during WWII and died of kidney failure and complications from a stroke. No surprise, it is selling Miller’s book here. The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner . Magee had no idea how to control the plane and saw a small opening,  which he quickly jumped through. In total, there were 85 B-17s involved in the raid, along with some fighter planes escorting them. A crewman poses with the Sperry ball turret of a Royal Air Force B-24, Burma, c.1943-1945. Did you look up how a ball turret worked? Magee’s friend, Don Jenkins, also a veteran of WWII, said that being a B-17 gunner was not an easy job during WWII. A few thousand planes are not going to be recalled for safety issues. The ball-turrer gunner was one of the most dangerous positions to have on a B-17. There were over 3,500 bullet and shrapnel holes. 86% Upvoted. 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. This was war. Saved by Julie Gault. Battle damage to the radio operator’s compartment of Boeing B-17F-65-BO 42-29649. Alan Magee received the Air Medal for meritorious service and the Purple Heart for his achievements in the war. 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? Who was this gunner? Being a ball turret gunner was definitely one of the most dangerous assignments during WW2. According to one of the participants, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force called it an “urban myth.”. level 1. Here’s one potential remedy…[link to video on Vimeo]. The ball turret had lost all power, so to get out he had to manually retract the ball using a hand crank. To enter the turret, the turret was moved until the guns were pointed straight down. 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. And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. I’m sure there were bomber veterans who were haunted by leaving a ball turret gunner behind. It was an enclosure that at any time could become an airman’s coffin. 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”. Pop! New comments cannot be posted and votes cannot be cast. With no USAAF documentation of such an event, we are left with having to choose between an uncorroborated memory and a lack of documentation. One fellow gunner had his turret cut off by the wing of another plane during a mission. (I personally interviewed him many times and corroborated his story with other sources.) A glimmering of conscious awareness comes to him, if at all, only after the moment of death. This was difficult and excruciatingly slow when you’re the last person left on the plane and it’s losing altitude quickly. The Sperry ball turret was very small in order to reduce drag, and was typically operated by the shortest man of the crew. 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. • A ball turret features in the poem "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner", by Randall Jarrell. This was mainly because German fighters would target the gunners first. The mission Magee was a part of turned out to be a failure for the Allied forces. The date was April 20, 1944. Magee stayed in various German camps as a Prisoner of War. With Kevin Costner, Casey Siemaszko, Kiefer Sutherland, J.J. Cohen. While it may seem cold that a crew would leave the ball turret gunner trapped, they had no choice. 43-37995 crash landed with one fatality. 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. Ball Turret Gunner. best . S/Sgt. Also to escape from the turret there were any amount of things necessary before one could leave. Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. Contrary to an answer appearing below, there are no substantiated incidents of ball turret gunners being crushed on landing. He felt a need to enlist in the Army and defend his country. #41-24620 (PU-O), under Jacob W. Fredericks, from October 14, 1942. Still, it looks plausible to me as a way of death that the Air Force would prefer to list as “combat death”. 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. Rooney describes it as something he witnessed. He was released in May 1945. 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. I can’t imagine that the Air Force would subject the family with the knowledge that their loved one died such a gruesome death. Crushed ball turret gunner. Once the aircraft was in enemy territory the ball was rotated so that the door was in the floor of the plane. Pop! The gears that rotated the ball to put the gunner in position to … Magee was 5-foot-7 and could barely fit into the small space inside the turret. *The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner Followers 1. Three months before being shot down, the original crew assigned to the B-17F Snap! 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. 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. The Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum, website here, could have more of the story behind its photo. . He felt a need to enlist in the Army and defend his country. There isn’t a lot of time when the pilot orders abandon ship. The ball turret job can be exciting. Crushed ball turret gunner Sign in to follow this . When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose. 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 Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" is a five-line poem by Randall Jarrell published in 1945. related question, did they have higher casualities than the rest of the crew on the plane? This thread brings remote turrets to mind. See ... the person inside the turret would be crushed to death. "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." Here’s an article on the B-29 superfortress’s remote gun turrets. 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. It wasn’t easy what they had to go through. The landing gear on a B-17 is indeed electrically powered. Need facts about a B-17 ball turret gunner who died in a belly landing. The Ball Turret Gunner from B17 42-31377 Pot O´Gold crashed on 22 FEB 1944, tells in BALL TURRET about his job. 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? 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 … Cascabel Cascabel New Members; 13 posts; Posted September 29, 2012. 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. Recommended Posts. 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. Prev; 1; 2; Next; Page 2 of 2 . The gunner placed his feet in the heel rests and th… 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. Jul 19, 2014 - B-17 Ball Turret Gunner Crushed | Turret Gunner on B-17. To start with it would have been a B-24 ball turret which retracted for landing. 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? How did the gunner see the bad guy? It was common knowledge among soldiers that the B-17 ball turret gunners had a very high casualty rate. This is clearly something that wartime censors would have edited out. A ball-turret gunner, sits in his position on a B-17 "Flying Fortress" shortly before take off for a mission into Germany, 1943. 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. But he was not aware that he had jumped in a 4-mile drop without his parachute. share. Saved from ww2incolor.com. They took off from Molesworth, England, and their target was a German submarine port in France. I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. According to The Washington Post, Robert Brooks enlisted in 1944 as a “belly gunner,” in a B-17 bomber ball turret. Made of Plexiglas and about four feet in diameter, the ball turret was a sphere attached to the bottom of B-17s. The fighters never had the range of the bombers. save. HERE is the Andy Rooney interview, the relevant bit starts around the six minute mark. 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. There has to be more details out there other than Andy Rooney’s accounts and anecdotal information. From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. It operates from jackscrews, and even if only … Appears that this was done to keep drag down since you don’t need a large turret to fit both gunner and guns. The space inside the turret was very small and cramped. 11 comments. no one knows… http://www.americanairmuseum.com/aircraft/12001. 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. 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. After the war, Magee did not discuss his ordeal or his survival story with anyone. 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. It was cramped and very loud when the guns began to fire. If the mechanism was damaged that prevented that position, it would have had the same effect as not being able to retract. Fun Fact: American poet Randall Jarrell wrote a five-line poem called “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” which was published in 1945. One would think that the crew could break the plexiglass and get the guy out. The gun turrets themselves were relatively nearby and they were also fairly low profile. Actual Nose Art panel from crashed B-17 at St. Nazaire, France – 03 January 1943 [Via]. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Alan Magee decided to join the US Army after Japanese attacked the American fleet at  Pearl Harbor. Who was this gunner? Remembering his friend and comrade, he said that Magee was a great friend and a kind human being. http://www.lonesentry.com/blog/b-29-remote-control-turret-system.html. He was considered a perfect fit for the B-17’s ball turret. 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We have so much respect for these outstanding men! in the forest at La Baule Escoublac on Jan. 3, 1943. … It also kept the gunners inside the pressurized cabin, which the earlier bombers did not have. Magee had to jump out of it to escape certain death. 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. 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! They were useful. Turret Gunner on B-17 – Royalty Free World War 2 Images - WW2inColor.com. Magee plunged almost 22,000 feet, falling unconscious before crashing into the roof of the St Nazaire railway station. Source: 303rd BG  [Via]. 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. It wasn’t just early on. Censored info. His frame of 5-foot-1 was perfect for the assignment which is considered as one of the most dangerous during World War II. 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. The bomber was so badly damaged that, on landing, the airplane’s structure failed from battle damage and it broke in half. 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). The ball turret gunner was usually the shortest crewmember. 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