Size of a ball turret gunner?

The talk about the Memphis Belle movie on AMC last night got me thinking.
Does anybody know anybody who flew in that position by chance? What was
their overall size and weight? I was at the San Diego Aerospace museum a
while back and met an ex Luftwaffe 109 pilot who told me that it was the
hardest position for them to knock off which I suppose was a bit lucky for
the gunner..................jim
Reply to
jimbol51
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on 12/14/2007 2:53 PM jimbol51 said the following:
It was the hardest to hit as long as the tail gunner was still shooting, otherwise, he'd be the second to go.
Reply to
willshak
I was at the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover AFB recently,and wound up in a discussion about their B-17 with a guy that said his uncle was the belly gunner,and how the uncle was a "little guy".This fellow was 5'6-5'8,slender and said the uncle had a similar build.I'm 6' 240+ so no way would I even try it for size...
Reply to
eyeball
My Grandfather was trained as a ball turret gunner but got selected for flight training two weeks before he was scheduled to go to Europe in 43. He was about 5'8" and rail thin.
He spent the rest of the war either in flight training or as an instructor in T-6's
Reply to
Allen
It was generally given the smallest members of the guys trained as aerial gunners, because they were the only ones who could fit in it with any comfort or utility. IIRC, the tail gun position was pretty cramped also in the original form.
Pat
Reply to
Pat Flannery
This gun camera footage from a German Bf-110 shows direct hits on the ball turret with cannon fire:
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(starting at the 3 minute mark) The gunner isn't traversing the turret or firing back, so I assume he's already dead, or has evacuated the turret.
Pat
Reply to
Pat Flannery
I keep thinking of the little guy from Fantasy Island and the line he always said..
"the plane!, the plane! "
Craig
Reply to
crw59
I've heard military regulations for WWII cited that a draftee/recruit had to be at least 5 feet tall, 105lbs, possess half there teeth and answer yes to the question "Do you like girls". Dunno if it is true or not - sounds a bit apocryphal.
I looked inside a Sperry turret once inside a B-17, and it seemed like my head barely fit - no chance my 6ft 225 lbs making it in. I made no attempt to climb into the tail gun position either - seemed like a shame to have those nice folks cut that plane off of me.
For my money on the Sperry ball, that was a missed opportunity to put Jerry Maren and the rest of the Singer Midgets from Oz into action. Though I'm sure there were production jobs where the wee folk proved equally invaluable.
WmB
Reply to
WmB
The museum at Lackland AFB museum had a really strange turret turret in it back in 1975. It was for a B-24 and had a domed radar antenna mounted between the guns that allowed it to lock on the target without optical aiming. Between the guns, ammo belts, and radar equipment, I didn't see how a person could even fit in it.
Pat
Reply to
Pat Flannery
Also, even only around 60 years ago, people in general were a lot smaller. I think the average height during WWII years was around 5'7", and now it is up to something like 5'9"
Reply to
Viperdoc
******* According to an article in the November issue of Aeroplane Monthly ball gunners with heights between 5ft 4in and 5ft 6in were usually chosen for that job. It also notes that the lighter the gunner, which I guess means smaller, the more kit they could take into the turret with them such as additional clothing or maybe even a parachute. Sounds like a fun ride - but not for me. Cheers all. Jim.
Reply to
Jim
I do docent work with the Collings Foundation when they are in the area. My usual assignment is their B-17 "Nine-O-Nine", pumping people through the nose hatch. I've met a lot of ball turret gunners over the years and all but one were on the small side. The one guy was just shy of six feet and he said that he transfered to waist gunner as soon as he could.
Maintenance continues on their aircraft at every stop. Several years back we needed to lower the belly turret (I don't remember why) for a couple of hours. Teh fed in charge of safety broke the wire sealing the hatch to the turret. He was one of a dozen people who got to climb into the turret. I'm 6', 210 lbs. and I gave up after a few minutes . My knees are just too affected by minor arthritis to fold my way in. One guy about 5'10" 125 lbs. had no trouble getting in, but anybody larger than that just gave up. We cleaned the turret insides and sealed it up again.
The tail position is also cramped, but not comparable to the belly. My oldest son flew back there on "Alluminum Overcast" many years ago at Reno. He was only twelve at the time, so size didn't enter into it.
Tom
Reply to
maiesm72
Somehow I don't think that would have been a nice place to be when the landing gear wouldn't drop down during a landing. I read about some belly gunners being 'sacrificed' because of that and they had no escape. Don't remember what specific aircraft it was though. Hell of a way to go... John D.
Reply to
John DeBoo
Yeah, we've already discussed this, and the "Amazing Stories" episode with the ball gunner drawing landing gear when they couldn't get the real ones down.
Reply to
willshak
The actuarial info is that it was the safest position in a B-17: surrounded by metal and curled up into a smaller target.
Reply to
tomcervo
Pat,
I met a guy who had been a waist gunner on a B-17 who told me the same exact story. Apparently the bottom turret gunner was already dead victim of a 30 mm cannon round. They had to belly land the plane which as a result the belly turret was flattened like a pancake. The guy told me stories however of fellow crews having to land their planes with the bottom turret guy NOT dead but very much alive at that moment.................how God awful it must have been................jim
Reply to
jimbol51
eh? im well over 6 foot, i was taller until i crushed my back, my grandfather too was well over 6 foot
Reply to
Jules
If they landed on grass or soft ground, it might have stayed in one piece, but putting it down of a concrete or asphalt runway would be like holding the ball turret against a huge grindstone. A ditching would probably be worse. If the gunner couldn't free the hatch quickly after hitting the water, he'd have drowned in the turret.
Pat
Reply to
Pat Flannery

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