I was trained as a waist gunner so how did I end up in the most hated position on the B-17 as the lower ball turret gunner? He felt a need to enlist in the Army and defend his country. 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. He is buried in San Angelo, Texas. He was considered a perfect fit for the B-17’s ball turret. [POEM] The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell. He would put on a safety strap and close and lock the turret door. Source: 303rd BG  [Via]. in the forest at La Baule Escoublac on Jan. 3, 1943. The ball turret was a hellish place to be. On 3rd January 1943, Magee got into a Flying Fortress bomber on his seventh bombing mission. A few gunners wore a chest parachute. Ball Turret Gunner. 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. Published in 1945 it drew directly from his own involvement with military aircraft and airmen during WW2. To get in the turret the gunner would manually crank the guns straight down after take off. 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. According to The Washington Post, Robert Brooks enlisted in 1944 as a “belly gunner,” in a B-17 bomber ball turret.His frame of 5-foot-1 was perfect for the assignment which is considered as one of the most dangerous during World War II. The gunner placed his feet in the heel rests and th… The gunner released the latch and removed the cover which allowed space to clear the action. Randall Jarrell - 1914-1965. Our colour pasty. Alan Magee received the Air Medal for meritorious service and the Purple Heart for his achievements in the war. Our accents thick. He'd be crushed." 3: The turret … #41-24620 (PU-O), under Jacob W. Fredericks, from October 14, 1942. Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. I know it was a concern to him, but fortunately, he made it through the war without an issue with the ball. [Via]. Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. The ball turret, like this one on a B-17 in England in 1943, was designed small to reduce drag, so its gunner usually was the shortest man in the crew. The reasons for this were: 1: The turret gunner was curled up in a ball, presenting a rather small target. Barney bailed out and was rescued two days later. Image credit: Wikipedia. In November 1944, his B-17 fell out of control over the Adriatic Sea after being attacked by Bf 109s. Now he is 87! The Ball Turret Gunner tells us how he basically got to be in the army, “From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State” to me this seems like his mother is unaware of her son being in the army. Not according to this study http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/wwii/woundblstcs/chapter9.htm It found waist gunners had the most but there were 2. Contrary to an answer appearing below, there are no substantiated incidents of ball turret gunners being crushed on … Magee plunged almost 22,000 feet, falling unconscious before crashing into the roof of the St Nazaire railway station. 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. The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner Randall Jarrell - 1914-1965 From my mother's sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. The ball turret ended up proving to be the safest position in a B17. 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. Britannic: A Century After Being Lost to the Waves, Opened to Divers, The 10,000 room German WW2 resort complex never had a single guest, now luxury beachfront Condos, The “Red Zone” In France Is So Dangerous that 100 Years After WWI It Is Still A No-Go Area. The Ball Turret Gunner from B17 42-31377 Pot O´Gold crashed on 22 FEB 1944, tells in BALL TURRET about his job. His bomber was spinning mid-air and spiralling towards the ground. Access was severely restricted by the guns' location in the small turret. The Sperry Corporation designed ventral versions that became the most common version; thus, the term "ball turret" generally indicates these versions. The Sperry ball turret was cleary in need of replacement. Being a ball turret gunner was definitely one of the most dangerous assignments during WW2. Ball Turret Gunners on B-17 bombers were protected only by a glass bubble jutting out from the bowels of the plane. From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. Like a noose of the free. The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell From my mother's sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. 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. Due to scheduling and additional training received by some members of Frank’s crew, he flew his first combat mission as a ball turret gunner with the Lt Dow C. Pruitt crew on April 18, 1944. Two of the engines of the B-17 were stopped, about 3,000 pounds of dead weight hanging from the wings. Small ammunition boxes rested on the top of the turret and additional ammunition belts fed the turret by means of a chute system. The gunner never entered the turret before take off. From my mother's sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. Or maybe he knew the dangers of singing up for the army but had no … 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 ball-turret gunner was caught in a plastic cage. Magee had no idea how to control the plane and saw a small opening,  which he quickly jumped through. The Sperry Lower Retractable Ball mounted in the belly of the PB4Y-1, is the deadly and efficient defender of the bomber's once soft underside. The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner By Randall Jarrell About this Poet Poet and critic Randall Jarrell was born in Nashville, Tennessee. Statistically, the ball turret was one of the safest crew positions during WWII as ball turret gunners had the lowest loss rate. Ray H. Peterson, T/Sgt, B-17G Flight Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, United States Army Air Forces, Eighth Air Force, 305 th Bomb Group, 366 th Bomb Squadron, Airbase: Chelveston, England. From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. With the E model, the top twin guns were moved directly behind the cockpit with the Bendix powered turret, which was manned by the Flt Eng. The four officers had managed to clamber aboard the other raft; three had been injured in the ditching. The Sperry ball turret was very small in order to reduce drag, and was typically operated by the shortest man of the crew. To enter the turret, the turret was moved until the guns were pointed straight down. Once the aircraft was in enemy territory the ball was rotated so that the door was in the floor of the plane. A-2 jacket worn by Fifteenth Air Force ball turret gunner SSgt Emil Barney. 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! from mortar and bricklaying. | In the TV series Season 1, Episode 6 there is a very similar story of the Ball Turret gunner being trapped in his turret after FLAK damage with the real possibility of being crushed upon landing due to landing gear damage as well. 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. The ball turret, like this one on a B-17 in England in 1943, was designed small to reduce drag, so its gunner usually was the shortest man in the crew. Ball Turret Gunners on B-17 bombers were protected only by a glass bubble jutting out from the bowels of the plane. 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. Sperry and Emerson Electric each developed a ball turret, and the designs were similar in the nose turret version. Bodies crushed and swollen. 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. To get in the turret the gunner would manually crank the guns straight down after take off. He felt a need to enlist in the Army and defend his country. The belly gunners were protected only by a glass bubble which made them an easy target for the enemy. 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. Randall Jarrell's poem The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner can be found in many anthologies and is his most well known work. Bodies crushed and swollen. The father of T.S. 66 years after the crash he still remembers his part of World War II. The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner. Statistically, the ball turret was one of the safest crew positions during WWII as ball turret gunners had the lowest loss rate. Crackle! True? The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner . Our colour pasty. Then the crank to put him back up didn't work," Charlotte said. The Sperry ball turret was very small in order to reduce drag, and was typically operated by the shortest man of the crew. When his bomber came under fire from German anti-aircraft guns, he ran out of options. He also said that during almost 40 years of their friendship, Magee only spoke about the incident three times. "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" is a five-line poem by Randall Jarrell published in 1945. A glimmering of conscious awareness comes to him, if at all, only after the moment of death. 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. He felt a need to enlist in the Army and defend his country. Actual Nose Art panel from crashed B-17 at St. Nazaire, France – 03 January 1943 [Via]. In almost every case, there was not enough room for the ball turret gunner to wear a parachute. Earlier designs appeared in other patrol seaplanes. In Band of Brothers, Malarkey Asks a German POW Where he Was From, He Answered Eugene, Oregon. A glimmering of conscious awareness comes to him, if at all, only after the moment of death. It is about the death of a gunner in a Sperry ball turret on a World War II American bomber aircraft. (NASM (SI-80-20353)) Aerial gunnery training had a make-do, try-anything quality, resulting in the design of 16 types of outdoor ranges. Once the aircraft was in enemy territory the ball was rotated so that the door was in the floor of the plane. In total, there were 85 B-17s involved in the raid, along with some fighter planes escorting them. Who was this gunner? 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. 26 missions. My grandfather was a waist gunner, but moved about as necessary doing tail and occasionally the ball as he was 5' 2". The city was the site of a Nazi nuclear energy project. Magee lived another 61 years after his fall during WWII and died of kidney failure and complications from a stroke. Everybody else in the plane understood that the [ball turret gunner] was a dead man. Due to scheduling and additional training received by some members of Frank’s crew, he flew his first combat mission as a ball turret gunner with the Lt Dow C. Pruitt crew on April 18, 1944. Magee had to jump out of it to escape certain death. I was trained as a waist gunner so how did I end up in the most hated position on the B-17 as the lower ball turret gunner? This was mainly because German fighters would target the gunners first. Once inside he could turn on the turrets electrical and hydraulic power. The ventral turret was used in tandem in the Convair B-32, successor to the B-24. In almost every case, there was not enough room for the ball turret gunner to wear a parachute. The name arose from the turret's spherical housing. 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. The Sperry Ball Turret was under the plane as seen in the photo. Our crew trained together in the states as a ten man crew with two waist gunners but when we got to England and were assigned to a heavy bomb group, they were flying crews with only one waist gunner instead of two. So this undated photo shows what looks like a disintegrating turret, and … Pop! Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. The primary target was Oranienburg, Germany. They took off from Molesworth, England, and their target was a German submarine port in France. The space inside the turret was very small and cramped. A ball turret was a spherical-shaped, altazimuth mount gun turret, fitted to some American-built aircraft during World War II. from mortar and bricklaying. unholy tokens of Christ, Nailed to a tree (That) You hang around your neck. Once inside he could turn on the turrets electrical and hydraulic power. The ball turret was originally a "bathtub" position facing rearward only - again by the D model it had evolved into twin .50s. A ball turret features in the poem "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner", by Randall Jarrell. Our crew trained together in the states as a ten man crew with two waist gunners but when we got to England and were assigned to a heavy bomb group, they were flying crews with only one waist gunner instead of two. Ball Turret Gunner: Staff Sergeant William H. Cassiday, 32346219, New York – Killed in Action Radio Operator: Staff Sergeant Ralph J. Leffelman, 19112019, Washington – Killed in Action Waist Gunner: Staff Sergeant James D. Houtchens, 37483248, Nebraska – Killed in Action This happened while Andy Rooney was in England reporting a news story. He could then open the hatch and would climb in. [POEM] The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell. When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose. A ball turret was a spherical-shaped, altazimuth mount gun turret, fitted to some American-built aircraft during World War II. The hardware has survived; the soft flesh has been crushed. 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. He was considered a perfect fit for the B-17’s ball turret. The ball-turret gunner was trapped in the plastic bubble hanging beneath the B-17. Magee’s friend, Don Jenkins, also a veteran of WWII, said that being a B-17 gunner was not an easy job during WWII. It was built especially for the PB4Y-1 whose ground clearance calls for a ball turret that can be kept out of the way on takeoffs and landings. It was common knowledge among soldiers that the B-17 ball turret gunners had a very high casualty rate. Fun Fact: American poet Randall Jarrell wrote a five-line poem called “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” which was published in 1945. The city was the site of a Nazi nuclear energy project. Death of the Ball Turret Gunner By Randall Jarrell. As a child, he spent time in Los Angeles, where his grandparents lived, and he would later write movingly about the city in “The Lost World,” one of his best-known poems. German fighters preferred to attack head-on and aim for the cockpit, and the ball turret gunner could not escape from his position unaided. " 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. There are cases in which the ball turret operator could not be released, and if the airplane was damaged so the landing gear could not be lowered, the person inside the turret would be crushed to death. Like a noose of the free. Hands like shovels. WWII-era ball turret gunner. $4.5 million buys you a P51 Mustang & twenty, yes TWENTY Merlin engines! The name arose from the turret's spherical housing. 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. Ball turrets appeared in the nose and tail as well as the nose of the final series B-24. S/Sgt. When Pirates Kidnapped Julius Caesar He Laughed at Their Ransom Demands & Told Them To Ask for More, Repelled 30 Taliban: 400 Rounds, Launched 17 Grenades, Detonated a Mine, and Used His Tripod as a Weapon, The WWII Ace Whose Helicopter was Attacked by the World’s Largest Snake, Pull Your Finger Out: The Royal Navy Slang You Never Knew You Were Speaking, USS Nevada Found Off Coast Of Pearl Harbour. The gunner never entered the turret before take off. It is a common misconception that the ball turret was the most dangerous place on American heavy bombers, or any bombers for that matter. Our accents thick. Remembering his friend and comrade, he said that Magee was a great friend and a kind human being. The space inside the turret was very small and cramped. Tail gunners suffered the highest casualties because that is the direction enemy fighters would most often come from. Ironically, post war analysis of B-17 crew fatality records revealed that the ball turret gunner had the safest job on the plane (with the pilot having the most dangerous). 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. Hands like shovels. The Sperry nose turret was tested and preferred, but its use was limited due to poor availability of suitable aircraft designs. Crackle! Magee’s survival story has featured in many magazines and is considered one of the most miraculous survivals of WWII. Development of the spherical Emerson was halted. Three months before being shot down, the original crew assigned to the B-17F Snap! Ball Turret Gunner. To enter the turret, the turret was moved until the guns were pointed straight down. 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. 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. It was a manned turret, as distinct from remote-controlled turrets also in use. After the war, Magee did not discuss his ordeal or his survival story with anyone. 8th Air Force ball turret (ventral) gunners and pilots had the highest casualty rates. 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. Alan Magee decided to join the US Army after Japanese attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. 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. The ball turret gunner has not had a living instant to achieve the self-recognition celebrated by Aries or Yeats's Major Gregory. The hardware has survived; the soft flesh has been crushed. Ironically, post war analysis of B-17 crew fatality records revealed that the ball turret gunner had the safest job on the plane (with the pilot having the most dangerous). There was no room inside for a parachute, which was left in the cabin above the turret. Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. See much more from Sgt Lester Schrenk! The gunner placed his feet in the heel rests and occupied his cramped station. He was released in May 1945. But he was not aware that he had jumped in a 4-mile drop without his parachute. 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. The US Army lost 75 airmen, along with 7 planes, while 47 planes were badly damaged. The ball turret gunner has not had a living instant to achieve the self-recognition celebrated by Aries or Yeats's Major Gregory. 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