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. 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This happened while Andy Rooney was in England reporting a news story. HERE is the Andy Rooney interview, the relevant bit starts around the six minute mark. 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. 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. Magee lived another 61 years after his fall during WWII and died of kidney failure and complications from a stroke. According to one of the participants, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force called it an “urban myth.”. The space inside the turret was very small and cramped. 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. He was considered a perfect fit for the B-17’s ball turret. The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner . The gunner never entered the turret before take off. This is why ball-turret gunners were shorter in height compaired to other memebers of the crew. His bomber was spinning mid-air and spiralling towards the ground. Ball Turret Gunners on B-17 bombers were protected only by a glass bubble jutting out from the bowels of the plane. [Via]. Crushed ball turret gunner Sign in to follow this . How many Ball Turret Gunners died in World War II? http://www.lonesentry.com/blog/b-29-remote-control-turret-system.html. 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. No room for parachute, another hatch added weight and would increase survival by .001% 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. Remembering his friend and comrade, he said that Magee was a great friend and a kind human being. Prev; 1; 2; Next; Page 2 of 2 . It operates from jackscrews, and even if only … And yes, the designers probably figured out that there was the distinct possibilty that some gunners would get squished. When Magee’s bomber reached the French town of St Nazaire, it came under heavy fire from German anti-aircraft guns. Who was this gunner? Dec 27, 2015 - B-17 Ball Turret Gunner Crushed | Dow Field, Bangor, Maine 1942 - Turret gunner aboard B-17 Air gunners could and did shoot down fighter planes. People die. He was 24, and was one of the ten-man crew of the B-17 bomber. 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.”. 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. It was an enclosure that at any time could become an airman’s coffin. Powered by Discourse, best viewed with JavaScript enabled. He also said that during almost 40 years of their friendship, Magee only spoke about the incident three times. [Via]. 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. It landed in a haystack and he only scored some broken ribs. Did you look up how a ball turret worked? 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. 43-37995 crash landed with one fatality. Ball Turret Gunner. Followers 1. The American writer Randall Jarrell published "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" in 1945, the final year of World War II. Crackle! Sperry ball turret on a B-17 Flying Fortress - 1942. show full show summary. When his bomber came under fire from German anti-aircraft guns, he ran out of options. In total, there were 85 B-17s involved in the raid, along with some fighter planes escorting them. 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. Crackle! Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, 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. The ball turret gunner has not had a living instant to achieve the self-recognition celebrated by Aries or Yeats's Major Gregory. If the mechanism was damaged that prevented that position, it would have had the same effect as not being able to retract. 86% Upvoted. I’m sure there were bomber veterans who were haunted by leaving a ball turret gunner behind. One fellow gunner had his turret cut off by the wing of another plane during a mission. While it may seem cold that a crew would leave the ball turret gunner trapped, they had no choice. eg a rock outcrop could be hidden in the grass … The reason: First, the ball turret gunner did NOT enter the turret until the aircraft was approaching the point where fighter resistance was expected. 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. I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. So this undated photo shows what looks like a disintegrating turret, and the purported victim is still anonymous. Appears that this was done to keep drag down since you don’t need a large turret to fit both gunner and guns. And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. The gunner entered the ball turret via a door at its rear, which also served as an emergency exit in case of trouble. When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose. 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. Rooney describes it as something he witnessed. Saved by Julie Gault. This was difficult and excruciatingly slow when you’re the last person left on the plane and it’s losing altitude quickly. But he was not aware that he had jumped in a 4-mile drop without his parachute. Pop! Being a ball turret gunner was definitely one of the most dangerous assignments during WW2. Alan Magee received the Air Medal for meritorious service and the Purple Heart for his achievements in the war. share. Permanently fixed and unable to be retracted, there was no hiding from enemy attack. 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. 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! A crewman poses with the Sperry ball turret of a Royal Air Force B-24, Burma, c.1943-1945. hide. You’ll never have a definitive answer. 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. 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. 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. 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. Alan Magee decided to join the US Army after Japanese attacked the American fleet at  Pearl Harbor. The bomber was salvaged 3 May 1943. After the war, Magee did not discuss his ordeal or his survival story with anyone. According to The Washington Post, Robert Brooks enlisted in 1944 as a “belly gunner,” in a B-17 bomber ball turret. 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. A glimmering of conscious awareness comes to him, if at all, only after the moment of death. related question, did they have higher casualities than the rest of the crew on the plane? 5 years ago. *The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner Battle damage to the radio operator’s compartment of Boeing B-17F-65-BO 42-29649. Cascabel Cascabel New Members; 13 posts; Posted September 29, 2012. I believe it happened a number of times. Magee plunged almost 22,000 feet, falling unconscious before crashing into the roof of the St Nazaire railway station. 11 comments. From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State, And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. Google “air gunner victory” for some cites. Alan E. Magee poses for the camera, halfway into the tight confines of the ball turret of a B-17 Flying Fortress. The ball-turrer gunner was one of the most dangerous positions to have on a B-17. no one knows… The ball turret on a B-17 didn’t retract. 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. Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. The ball-turret gunner was trapped in the plastic bubble hanging beneath the B-17. The gunner was in the fetal position with his feet above his head (yes, there was one short guy on the crew). ), This guy made it out just in time for his chute to open effectively. Actual Nose Art panel from crashed B-17 at St. Nazaire, France – 03 January 1943 [Via]. The landing gear on a B-17 is indeed electrically powered. S/Sgt. (The ball turret is too cramped to wear a chute. Here’s an old discussion on a veteran’s forum. This was mainly because German fighters would target the gunners first. Three months before being shot down, the original crew assigned to the B-17F Snap! 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 –. report. His frame of 5-foot-1 was perfect for the assignment which is considered as one of the most dangerous during World War II. 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.”. How did the optics work on remote turrets? • A ball turret features in the poem "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner", by Randall Jarrell. They were useful. See ... the person inside the turret would be crushed to death. It was common knowledge among soldiers that the B-17 ball turret gunners had a very high casualty rate. The gunner placed his feet in the heel rests and th… 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 is clearly something that wartime censors would have edited out. It wasn’t easy what they had to go through. 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. The date was April 20, 1944. Randall Jarrell, 1914 - 1965. They took off from Molesworth, England, and their target was a German submarine port in France. 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. Alan Magee decided to join the US Army after Japanese attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. #41-24620 (PU-O), under Jacob W. Fredericks, from October 14, 1942. 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. 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. When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose. The ball turret gunner was usually the shortest crewmember. There isn’t a lot of time when the pilot orders abandon ship. 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. Magee stayed in various German camps as a Prisoner of War. Also to escape from the turret there were any amount of things necessary before one could leave. 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. Pop! One would think that the crew could break the plexiglass and get the guy out. Magee’s survival story has featured in many magazines and is considered one of the most miraculous survivals of WWII. Who was this gunner? I have a question for the forum members to ponder. Magee was 5-foot-7 and could barely fit into the small space inside the turret. How did the gunner see the bad guy? Here’s an article on the B-29 superfortress’s remote gun turrets. … It also kept the gunners inside the pressurized cabin, which the earlier bombers did not have. The Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum, website here, could have more of the story behind its photo. It is about the death of a gunner in a Sperry ball turret on a World War II American bomber aircraft. 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