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B-24 Ball Turret Deployment

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WillowRun
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2007/07/08 07:49:49 (permalink)
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B-24 Ball Turret Deployment

Jason, Bill, Bob, John and those of you who have either been a B-24 "ball turret gunner" or read and/or researched the subject, I have a question about the deployment of the turret in the Lib.  Was there a specific time, altitude or position at which it was deployed or was it specifically spelled out in the flight manual?  I have seen various photos where they had not yet been deployed as they queued up in formation.  Also, 2nd question:  did it make any difference whether the Operation originated from England (8th) or Italy (15th)?  From the documentaries I've viewed, it was difficult to determine often times due to the film editor's splicing.  Also, just another question I failed to ask when I had the opportunity to interview a "ball turret gunner" a couple of years ago.    Thanks!   Steven

 
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Steven P. Puhl
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12 Replies Related Threads

    Ken a B24 Fan
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    RE: B-24 Ball Turret Deployment 2007/07/08 12:03:43 (permalink)
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    Steven:

    I know that on one particular mission, my father's group was told to not lower their ball turrets until they reached a certain point, I believe it was the IP, because of the extreme distance to the target. As a result, the German fighters quickly spotted that the planes didn't have their turrets down and attacked en mass from below. By the time the formation was able to get their turrets deployed, they lost a number of planes. I think it was the second largest loss for the group in the war.

    As a side note, other groups did not keep their turrets up and were ignored by the Germans.

    I'll try to find my notes on where and when if you are interested.

    I know they flew quite a ways with the ball turret retracted to reduce drag and conserve fuel. Dad's ball gunner mentioned that they usually kept it up until they were approaching enemy territory. But he also test fired the guns on the early legs to keep the barrels free of ice. So when exactly he let it down and if it stayed down, I don't know. He did state the the turret was easy to deploy. You just opened a valve and the turret dropped. Getting it up was a different matter. You ratcheted it up using a small metal handle like the old car jacks. He said it was a lot of work.

    Photo: Sorry for the crappy quality. It's a scan of a Xerox. Don Askerman, ball gunner, cleaning his guns after a mission. They didn't have an assigned plane, so they must have gone back out to the revetment and done the maintenance on the last Lib they flew.

    Ken

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    Ken Alexander
    Proud son of 1st Lt. Clair B. Alexander Jr.
    Pilot, B-24s: 10/12/1944 - 04/24/1945
    15th AF, 49th Wing, 461st BG, 764th BS
    Torretta Airfield, Cerignola, Italy
    Bob Gilbert
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    RE: B-24 Ball Turret Deployment 2007/07/08 12:49:48 (permalink)
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    Photo: Sorry for the crappy quality. It's a scan of a Xerox. Don Askerman, ball gunner, cleaning his guns after a mission. They didn't have an assigned plane, so they must have gone back out to the revetment and done the maintenance on the last Lib they flew.

    Ken


    Ken,
    A minor point off the thread a little, but he is probably just removing (or installing) his guns in the turret.  We did not keep the guns in the ship on the ground.  All guns were removed, disassembled, cleaned and oiled after each mission.  Guns were stored protected from the weather and then disassembled, cleaned of oil reassembled and then taken to the ship for installation.

    Bob Gilbert
    S/Sgt, 35 missions 
    Ball Turret Gunner, Goldin crew
    381st Bomb Gp., 533rd Bomb Sq.
    US 8th Air Force
    Author: "The View From The Bottom Up" memoir
    WillowRun
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    RE: B-24 Ball Turret Deployment 2007/07/08 13:03:41 (permalink)
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    Ken,  Good morning!  As usual, excellent information!  It really makes sense, both from the aspect of "drag,"  and also "what made sense depending upon operating conditions."  What is interesting and begs the question is the Lib w/o the ball turret early on, albeit the ineffectual "tunnel gun."  I've scanned through my early FO WR manufacturing photos and have included this one which shows a very early Lib.  Note the ladder propped against the tunnel opening.  Thought you'd find it interesting.  (Obviously, this photo was well before the WR Plant was "cranking them out.")  Did "field modifications" ever affect the tunnel/ball turret on early variants or was this relegated to nose and tail guns in A/C's?  Just meandering, but always trying to find more about my FO Libs!  Best Regards,    Steven 

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    Steven P. Puhl
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    Ken a B24 Fan
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    RE: B-24 Ball Turret Deployment 2007/07/08 16:27:46 (permalink)
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    Bob:

    That's something I have wondered about. In more than one place in his memoirs Don talks about cleaning his guns.

    "...I returned to the tent late at night after cleaning my guns..."

    "... We drew straws to see who would clean all the guns on a ship the other day and I lost and did the job before I realized there was no ball turret on it and I needn't have drawn a straw. ..."

    So, I have wondered:
    1. Just the barrels were removed from the guns and the breaches/receivers/mechanisms were left in place on the turrets.

    2. The guns were removed but just the cooling jackets were left in place and they cleaned those plus the turret interior(?).

    Most of the photos of parked B-24s show the turrets with cooling jackets but no barrels inside. The breach/receiver/mechanism seem to still be installed. (See photo. I've posted this shot before, but you can clearly see the barrels are missing from the guns in this staged shot, but the cooling jackets and it looks like the receivers are still on the guns in the nose and top turrets.)

    What was SOP for removing the guns and reinstalling them before a mission.

    Don himself captioned the photo as cleaning my guns after a mission. It shows him going through the hatch (the breach end of the gun) using a tube and what I can only surmise is a cleaning rod.

    Ken

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    Ken Alexander
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    Torretta Airfield, Cerignola, Italy
    Bob Gilbert
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    RE: B-24 Ball Turret Deployment 2007/07/08 18:07:14 (permalink)
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    Ken,
    Keep in mind all I know is what we did in the my Group in England, which seemed very logical to me.
    1.  No.  The gun was considered to be the working elements for firing the gun, not just the barrel.
    2.  Immediately after a mission the casing including the buffer plate group were left in the ship.  The rest was slid out and carried to a work station where it was field stripped and cleaned.  The parts were then oiled and reassembled.  The gun was covered in oily rags and stored out of the weather.
    3.  Prior to a mission, the gun was field stripped and wiped clean of the oil.  It was then reassembled, walked over to the ship and slid into the casing held in by the buffer plate.
    I hope this answers your questions,
     

    Bob Gilbert
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    Ball Turret Gunner, Goldin crew
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    bjsassy90
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    RE: B-24 Ball Turret Deployment 2007/07/08 20:19:17 (permalink)
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    I`m glad the ground armament guys took care of the guns in our BS. If we had a turret mal funtion of any kind on a mission,
    it wasrutten up on the AC report (whatever it`s name) & it was taken care of.
    bjsassy90 
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    RE: B-24 Ball Turret Deployment 2007/07/09 10:04:30 (permalink)
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    Steven,
     
    I pretty much echo the same things that have been said by Ken, Bob and others. I've read that on several long distance missions the turrets were left retracted to reduce drag. This led to a disasterous results on more than one occasion. I'd have to go back and double-check my sources but I believe LeMay was behind the decision to leave the turrets retracted. Later in the war there was also a push to remove the ball turret alltogether to reduce drag and save weight (due to less fighter opposition). I'm not aware of this ever happening but I do know that they did reduce the crews from 10 to 9 later in the war....usually by removing one of the waist gunners.
     
    John
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    RE: B-24 Ball Turret Deployment 2007/07/09 12:25:07 (permalink)
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    John...In my 15th AF 99 BG, the eliminated crew member was usually the bombardier, and the left waist gunner (an armorer) was used as a togglier...he flew as a waist gunner, until just before the Initial Point and then was called forward to operate the bomb doors and drop the bombs, following the lead ship bombardier's actions.
     
    Jim  :-)

    James S. Peters Sr. T/Sgt B-17 Flt Engr, 27 missions 99 BG, 348BS, 5th Wing, 15th AAF Tortorella, (Foggia#2), Italy My Tour was from 12/03/44-06/19/45 M/Sgt USAF (Retired)
    Ken a B24 Fan
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    RE: B-24 Ball Turret Deployment 2007/07/09 17:27:37 (permalink)
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    Thanks Bob, it does indeed answer my question.

    Unfortunately I can't ask Don what he was referring to in his writings.

    Must have been a different procedure for their group. I know he mentions a thin film of oil on the guns and firing them at different altitudes and times into the mission to ensure that they were clear of ice.

    Ken

    Ken Alexander
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    RE: B-24 Ball Turret Deployment 2007/07/10 08:22:56 (permalink)
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    John, my answer is much the same as Jim's.;I flew my missions in the last 6 mths of the war. The eliminated crew member was always the bombbardier, except in lead ships.
    RHD
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    Bob Gilbert
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    RE: B-24 Ball Turret Deployment 2007/07/10 12:13:30 (permalink)
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    John, Jim and RHD,
    Our experience was that the nose gun position was always manned.  When the Bombardier was removed he was replaced by a Toggelier to man the gun AND be in control of the bomb load arming and dropping.  The position where one gunner was permanently removed was the Waist gun.  In the event of an attack the Radio Operator came back to the Waist to man one of the guns there. 

    Bob Gilbert
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    381st Bomb Gp., 533rd Bomb Sq.
    US 8th Air Force
    Author: "The View From The Bottom Up" memoir
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    RE: B-24 Ball Turret Deployment 2007/07/11 08:26:27 (permalink)
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    Bob, maybe I wasn't as clear as I should have been, but the way you describe the crew changes is exactly as I remember them.
    RHD
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