It was a manned turret, as distinct from remote-controlled turrets also in use. The turret held the gunner, two heavy machine guns, ammunition, and sights. The Sperry Corporation designed ventral versions that became the most common version; thus, the term "ball turret" generally indicates these versions.
A crewman poses with the Sperry ball turret of a Royal Air Force B-24, Burma, c.1943-1945
|Used by||United States, United Kingdom, China|
|Wars||World War II|
Sperry and Emerson Electric each developed a ball turret, and the designs were similar in the nose turret version. Development of the spherical Emerson was halted. The Sperry nose turret was tested and preferred, but its use was limited due to poor availability of suitable aircraft designs. The Sperry-designed ventral system saw widespread use and production, including much sub-contracting. 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. The ventral turret was used in tandem in the Convair B-32, successor to the B-24. Ball turrets appeared in the nose and tail as well as the nose of the final series B-24.
The Sperry ball turret was very small in order to reduce drag, and was typically operated by the smallest man of the crew. To enter the turret, the turret was moved until the guns were pointed straight down. The gunner placed his feet in the heel rests and occupied his cramped station. He would put on a safety strap and close and lock the turret door. There was no room inside for a parachute, which was left in the cabin above the turret. A few gunners wore a chest parachute.
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. 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 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. Another factor was that not all stoppages could be corrected by charging (cocking) the guns. 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. Access was severely restricted by the guns' location in the small turret. 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. To remedy that, the front end of the cover was "slotted". The gunner released the latch and removed the cover which allowed space to clear the action. Small ammunition boxes rested on the top of the turret and additional ammunition belts fed the turret by means of a chute system. A reflector sight was hung from the top of the turret, positioned roughly between the gunner's feet.
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.
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. Earlier designs appeared in other patrol seaplanes. It served a double purpose, defense against bow attacks as well as fire suppression and offensive strafing in antisubmarine warfare. Since this turret is of the ball type, the gunner moves with his guns and sight in elevation and azimuth by means of control handles. Among the earlier designs was the Martin 250SH bow turret of the PBM-3 twin-engined patrol flying boat which had many points of similarity in design and action.
Alan Eugene Magee (January 13, 1919 – December 20, 2003) was an American airman during World War II who survived a 22,000-foot (6,700 m) fall from his damaged B-17 Flying Fortress. He was featured in Smithsonian Magazine as one of the 10 most amazing survival stories of World War II.Bally B-17
The Bally B-17 is a one third scale, single seat, homebuilt aircraft, intended as a replica of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.Bell 207 Sioux Scout
The Bell 207 Sioux Scout was a modified Bell 47 helicopter, developed by Bell Helicopter under contract from the United States Army, as a proof-of-concept demonstrator for the Bell D-255 helicopter gunship design, featuring a tandem cockpit, stub wings, and a chin-mounted gun turret.Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engined heavy bomber developed in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC). Competing against Douglas and Martin for a contract to build 200 bombers, the Boeing entry (prototype Model 299/XB-17) outperformed both competitors and exceeded the air corps' performance specifications. Although Boeing lost the contract (to the Douglas B-18 Bolo) because the prototype crashed, the air corps ordered 13 more B-17s for further evaluation. From its introduction in 1938, the B-17 Flying Fortress evolved through numerous design advances, becoming the third-most produced bomber of all time, behind the four-engined B-24 and the multirole, twin-engined Ju 88.
The B-17 was primarily employed by the USAAF in the daylight strategic bombing campaign of World War II against German industrial and military targets. The United States Eighth Air Force, based at many airfields in central, eastern and southern England, and the Fifteenth Air Force, based in Italy, complemented the RAF Bomber Command's nighttime area bombing in the Combined Bomber Offensive to help secure air superiority over the cities, factories and battlefields of Western Europe in preparation for the invasion of France in 1944. The B-17 also participated to a lesser extent in the War in the Pacific, early in World War II, where it conducted raids against Japanese shipping and airfields.From its prewar inception, the USAAC (by June 1941, the USAAF) promoted the aircraft as a strategic weapon; it was a relatively fast, high-flying, long-range bomber with heavy defensive armament at the expense of bombload. It developed a reputation for toughness based upon stories and photos of badly damaged B-17s safely returning to base. The B-17 dropped more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft in World War II. Of approximately 1.5 million tons of bombs dropped on Nazi Germany and its occupied territories by U.S. aircraft, over 640,000 tons were dropped from B-17s. In addition to its role as a bomber, the B-17 was also employed as a transport, antisubmarine aircraft, drone controller, and search-and-rescue aircraft.
As of October 2019, 9 aircraft remain airworthy, though none of them were ever flown in combat. Dozens more are in storage or on static display. The oldest of these is a D-series flown in combat in the Pacific and the Caribbean.Consolidated B-24 Liberator
The Consolidated B-24 Liberator is an American heavy bomber, designed by Consolidated Aircraft of San Diego, California. It was known within the company as the Model 32, and some initial production aircraft were laid down as export models designated as various LB-30s, in the Land Bomber design category.
At its inception, the B-24 was a modern design featuring a highly efficient shoulder-mounted, high aspect ratio Davis wing. The wing gave the Liberator a high cruise speed, long range and the ability to carry a heavy bomb load. Early RAF Liberators were the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic Ocean as a matter of routine. In comparison with its contemporaries, the B-24 was relatively difficult to fly and had poor low-speed performance; it also had a lower ceiling and was less robust than the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. While aircrews tended to prefer the B-17, General Staff favored the B-24 and procured it in huge numbers for a wide variety of roles. At approximately 18,500 units – including over 4,600 manufactured by Ford Motor Company – it holds records as the world's most produced bomber, heavy bomber, multi-engine aircraft, and American military aircraft in history.
The B-24 was used extensively in World War II. It served in every branch of the American armed forces as well as several Allied air forces and navies. It saw use in every theater of operations. Along with the B-17, the B-24 was the mainstay of the US strategic bombing campaign in the Western European theater. Due to its range, it proved useful in bombing operations in the Pacific, including the bombing of Japan. Long-range anti-submarine Liberators played an instrumental role in closing the Mid-Atlantic gap in the Battle of the Atlantic. The C-87 transport derivative served as a longer range, higher capacity counterpart to the Douglas C-47 Skytrain.
By the end of World War II, the technological breakthroughs of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and other modern types had surpassed the bombers that served from the start of the war. The B-24 was rapidly phased out of U.S. service, although the PB4Y-2 Privateer maritime patrol derivative carried on in service with the U.S. Navy in the Korean War.Consolidated XB-41 Liberator
The Consolidated XB-41 Liberator was a single Consolidated B-24D Liberator bomber, serial 41-11822, which was modified for the long-range escort role for U.S. Eighth Air Force bombing missions over Europe during World War II.Edward S. Michael
Edward Stanley Michael (May 2, 1918 – May 10, 1994) was a United States Army Air Forces officer and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in World War II.
Michael joined the Army Air Corps from his birth city of Chicago, Illinois in November 1940 and by April 11, 1944 was a first lieutenant piloting B-17 Flying Fortresses with the 364th Bomb Squadron, 305th Bombardment Group. On that day, while flying a mission over Germany, his aircraft was singled out by enemy fighters and severely damaged by their cannon fire. As flames burned in the plane's bomb bay, Michael, who had been seriously wounded, ordered his crew to bail out. Finding that one crewman's parachute was unusable, he returned to the controls and managed to evade the enemy fighters and heavy anti-aircraft fire to fly his bomber into Allied territory. He lost consciousness due to blood loss from his wounds, but awoke in time to make a successful crash landing on English soil. For his actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor nine months later, on January 15, 1945.
Michael was transferred to the Air Force after the war, and retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1971.Michael joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1978. He died at age 76 and was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Springville, Utah.
Michael's official Medal of Honor citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving as pilot of a B17 aircraft on a heavy-bombardment mission to Germany, April 11, 1944. The group in which 1st Lt. Michael was flying was attacked by a swarm of fighters. His plane was singled out and the fighters pressed their attacks home recklessly, completely disregarding the Allied fighter escort and their own intense flak. His plane was riddled from nose to tail with exploding cannon shells and knocked out of formation, with a large number of fighters following it down, blasting it with cannon fire as it descended. A cannon shell exploded in the cockpit, wounded the copilot, wrecked the instruments, and blew out the side window. 1st Lt. Michael was seriously and painfully wounded in the right thigh. Hydraulic fluid filmed over the windshield making visibility impossible, and smoke filled the cockpit. The controls failed to respond and 3,000 feet were lost before he succeeded in leveling off. The radio operator informed him that the whole bomb bay was in flames as a result of the explosion of 3 cannon shells, which had ignited the incendiaries. With a full load of incendiaries in the bomb bay and a considerable gas load in the tanks, the danger of fire enveloping the plane and the tanks exploding seemed imminent. When the emergency release lever failed to function, 1st Lt. Michael at once gave the order to bail out and 7 of the crew left the plane. Seeing the bombardier firing the navigator's gun at the enemy planes, 1st Lt. Michael ordered him to bail out as the plane was liable to explode any minute. When the bombardier looked for his parachute he found that it had been riddled with 20mm. fragments and was useless. 1st Lt. Michael, seeing the ruined parachute, realized that if the plane was abandoned the bombardier would perish and decided that the only chance would be a crash landing. Completely disregarding his own painful and profusely bleeding wounds, but thinking only of the safety of the remaining crewmembers, he gallantly evaded the enemy, using violent evasive action despite the battered condition of his plane. After the plane had been under sustained enemy attack for fully 45 minutes, 1st Lt. Michael finally lost the persistent fighters in a cloud bank. Upon emerging, an accurate barrage of flak caused him to come down to treetop level where flak towers poured a continuous rain of fire on the plane. He continued into France, realizing that at any moment a crash landing might have to be attempted, but trying to get as far as possible to increase the escape possibilities if a safe landing could be achieved. 1st Lt. Michael flew the plane until he became exhausted from the loss of blood, which had formed on the floor in pools, and he lost consciousness. The copilot succeeded in reaching England and sighted an RAF field near the coast. 1st Lt. Michael finally regained consciousness and insisted upon taking over the controls to land the plane. The undercarriage was useless; the bomb bay doors were jammed open; the hydraulic system and altimeter were shot out. In addition, there was no airspeed indicator, the ball turret was jammed with the guns pointing downward, and the flaps would not respond. Despite these apparently insurmountable obstacles, he landed the plane without mishap.H2X
H2X, officially known as the AN/APS-15, was an American ground scanning radar system used for blind bombing during World War II. It was a development of the British H2S radar, the first ground mapping radar to be used in combat. It was also known as the "Mickey set" and "BTO" for "Bomb Through Overcast" radar.H2X differed from the original H2S primarily in its X band 10 GHz operating frequency rather than H2S' S band 3 GHz emissions. This gave H2X higher resolution than H2S, allowing it to provide usable images over large cities which appeared as a single blob on the H2S display. The RAF initially considered using H2X as well, but would instead develop their own X band system, the H2S Mk. III. The RAF system entered service in late 1943, before the first use of H2X in early 1944.
The desire for even higher resolution, enough to image individual docks and bridges, led to a number of variations on the H2X system, as well as the more advanced AN/APQ-7 "Eagle" system. All of these were replaced in the post-war era with systems customized for the jet powered strategic bombers that entered service.Half a Wing, Three Engines and a Prayer
Half a Wing, Three Engines and a Prayer, is a book about B-17 crews and missions in World War II, written by Brian D. O'Neill. He is also the author of 303rd Bombardment Group, on the same subject.
During Vietnam, O'Neill served with the U.S. Navy as a destroyer gunner officer and shipyard repair officer. Since then he became an attorney and the General Counsel of Curtiss-Wright Corporation, the aviation company that had manufactured the P-40 Warhawk fighter and the Cyclone B-17 engines during World War II.The narrative relies heavily on crew diaries and Eighth Air Force registry. The author usually gives a brief description of the upcoming events and the event itself is shown through the tales of various crew members. Each downed Fortress or enemy fighter shot down was usually witnessed by various people, since each B-17 carried ten crew members, including four officers (pilot, co-pilot, navigator and bombardier) and six enlisted men (engineer, ball turret gunner, radioman, tail gunner and two waist gunners).
The story centers around the crew of pilot Lt. Robert J. Hullar, from the 303d Bombardment Group. Each crew was put together and trained since before going to the European Theater of Operations, and sometimes concluding the 25-mission tour at the same time.Howard DeVore
Howard DeVore (May 26, 1925 - December 31, 2005) was an American archivist, science fiction collector, dealer, expert on pulp magazines, APA and fanzine writer, con-runner and active volunteer in science fiction fandom.
As a nonfiction author, he was a Hugo Award nominee for Best Related Book in 1999 for his directory, Hugo, Nebula & World Fantasy Awards.
Starting in about 1938, DeVore accumulated an extensive collection of fannish culture and science fiction-related artifacts and publications. In his later years, as his health was in decline, he donated original and electronic copies of much of his collection to various science fiction-themed archives.
Young "Howie", as his flight jacket proclaims, was a ball turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress, flying wartime bomb runs over France with the 8th Air Force.Memphis Belle (film)
Memphis Belle is a 1990 British-American war drama film directed by Michael Caton-Jones and written by Monte Merrick. The film features an all-star cast with Matthew Modine, Eric Stoltz, and Harry Connick Jr. (in his film debut) in leading roles. Memphis Belle is a fictionalization of the 1943 documentary Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress by director William Wyler, about the 25th and last mission of an American Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, the Memphis Belle, based in England during World War II. The 1990 version was co-produced by David Puttnam and Wyler's daughter Catherine and dedicated to her father. The film closes with a dedication to all airmen, friend or foe, who fought in the skies above Europe during World War II.Nose gunner
A nose gunner or front gunner is a crewman on a military aircraft who operates a machine gun or autocannon turret in the front, or "nose", of the airplane. This position could be manned by someone who was a dedicated gunner, however, it was more common for him to have a dual role, the gunnery being a secondary position (i.e. his primary task is navigator, bombardier, most commonly). This is different from fixed guns mounted in the nose and fired by the pilot or co-pilot, since those do not require a nose gunner. Manned nose guns were most common during WWI and World War II, employed by both Allied and Axis forces. Early in WWI, nose-gunners enjoyed a period of popularity on pusher-engined fighters; a gunner would be stationed in the nose, covering the arc ahead of the aircraft. Once the synchronizer was invented, allowing a fixed machine gun to fire through the propellor, the pusher-engined fighter fell into disuse, although nose guns were still commonly seen on multi-engine bomber aircraft.Piccadilly Lilly II
Piccadilly Lilly II (s/n 44-83684) was the last active B-17 Flying Fortress bomber in the United States Air Force, and retired in 1959 after nine years as a DB-17P drone director. She is currently part of Edward T. Maloney's aviation collection and is being restored to flying condition at the Planes of Fame air museum, Chino, California.This aircraft was possibly the last aircraft assigned to the 8th AF / 447th Bomb Group but perhaps not delivered (Freeman).This aircraft was used in the Dick Powell Theatre episode "Squadron," and The Quinn Martin production of Twelve O'Clock High starring Robert Lansing and Paul Burke. She was redressed to represent the numerous aircraft which comprised the mythical 918th Bomb Group. She also appeared in The Thousand Plane Raid as well as Black Sheep Squadron.RAF Glatton
Royal Air Force Glatton or more simply RAF Glatton is a former Royal Air Force station located 10 miles (16 km) north of Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, England.Randall Jarrell
Randall Jarrell (May 6, 1914 – October 14, 1965) was an American poet, literary critic, children's author, essayist, and novelist. He was the 11th Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress—a position that now bears the title Poet Laureate of the United States.
Among other honors, Jarrell was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for the years 1947–48; a grant from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, in 1951; and the National Book Award for Poetry, in 1961.Rocco Morabito (photographer)
Rocco Morabito (November 2, 1920 – April 5, 2009) was an American photographer who spent the majority of his career at the Jacksonville Journal.
Morabito won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography for "The Kiss of Life", a Jacksonville Journal photo that showed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation between two workers on a utility pole. Randall G. Champion was unconscious and hanging upside down after contacting a low voltage line; fellow lineman J.D. Thompson revived him while strapped to the pole by the waist. Thanks to Thompson's intervention, Champion survived and lived until 2002, when he died of heart failure at the age of 64; Thompson was still living, As of 2005. The photograph was published in newspapers around the world.Morabito, born in Port Chester, New York, moved to Florida when he was 5, and by age 10 was working as a newsboy, selling papers for the Jacksonville Journal. He served in World War II in the Army Air Forces as a ball-turret gunner on a B-17. After the war, he returned to the Jacksonville Journal and started his photography career shooting sporting events for the paper. He worked for the Journal for 42 years, 33 of them as a photographer, until retiring in 1982.Morabito died on April 5, 2009 while in hospice care.Sir Baboon McGoon
Sir Baboon McGoon was an American Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, a Douglas-Long Beach built B-17F-75-DL, ASN 42-3506, last assigned to the 324th Bombardment Squadron, 91st Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, operating out of RAF Bassingbourn (AAF Station 121), Cambridgeshire, England. Its nose art and name were based on the male character Baboon McGoon from Al Capp's comic strip, Li'l Abner.
On Sunday, October 10, 1943, in the afternoon, the aircraft ran out of fuel while returning to Bassingbourn, and made a belly landing in a wet and muddy sugar beet field near the village of Tannington, Suffolk, England. Its recovery was described in an article in the June 1944 issue of Popular Science magazine, as well as a 1945 article in Flying magazine. The article describes how the aircraft was jacked up in the sugar beet field. Once on its own gear, it was determined that it could be flown out of the field and several weeks of mobile repairs resulted in the engines and propellers being replaced and temporary patches being applied. An 1,800 ft long steel mesh temporary runway allowed the aircraft to depart the sugar beet field in November 1943 and fly to a maintenance depot for more extensive repairs. Squadron records of the 324th BS indicate that Sir Baboon McGoon returned to Bassingbourn on 19 February 1944. It flew seven additional missions between 24 February 1944 and its final mission on 29 March 1944.
The 10 man crew for that final mission on March 29, 1944 was headed by 2Lt Edgar C Downing. Most of his crew had flown other missions, and they had flown this particular aircraft on one previous mission since its return to service. The crew members described it as "a real crate" of an airplane – with many patches and quirks. The assigned mission for that day was a bombing run to Brunswick, Germany. As their portion of the formation arrived over the primary target, (also known as Braunschweig), they reported that the target area was obscured by clouds or smoke, so they proceeded to their secondary target.
Bombs released from a bomber above them struck one of their engines. (Believed by the crew to be the #4, or right outboard engine.) This shut down one engine, but the propeller couldn't be properly feathered and there was damage to the electrical and/or hydraulic systems. Their troubles mounted when they attempted to drop their bombs and the bomb bay doors had to be manually opened and the bomb's released manually. Once the bombs were gone, they were unable to close the bomb bay doors. The increased drag of a non-feathered propeller and the open bomb bay doors, combined with the lost power from one inoperative engine, caused them to slow down and forced them to fall out of formation. The crew recalls that they were then attacked by German fighter aircraft and they lost one or two more engines and had to drop down to the cloud deck (tops around 5,000') to attempt to continue flying. The aircraft was headed west towards England, but was lower than their formations and unable to keep up. Witness crew members from a 323rd Bomb Squadron aircraft reported losing sight of the missing aircraft about 30 minutes (east of) the Zuider Zee, but that the aircraft was continuing on course, just lower & slower. The witnesses reported that the engines were feathered, but crew statements suggest that the engines were not turning, however the propellers were not feathered either.
As the accident aircraft continued westward, the crew was ordered to lighten the load by jettisoning all the extra weight that they could. The ball turret gunner was able to get back into the plane and so they jettisoned the ball turret. One crew member stated that they probably jettisoned any emergency radio they may have had, because they didn't have one in the life rafts. Approximately 4pm and 20 nm west of the coast, they were firmly over the North Sea as darkness approached. They were flying on one sputtering engine, and they had approximately 80 to 90 nm to go to make the English coast. The pilot polled his crew and a unanimous decision was made to attempt a controlled ditching with the limited remaining power, rather than pressing on and facing a forced ditching with no power, quite likely in the dark. Based on previous boating experience, the pilot ditched, but 90 degrees different than the recommended procedure. (Following his return to service, the ditching procedures were changed to match his success method.)
A successful ditching was made, and the entire 10 man crew evacuated through the top hatch. They deployed their two 5-man life rafts and pushed away in just in time to watch their aircraft sink in approximately 80 ft of water in the North Sea. The crew recalls that they were cold, sore, injured, and mad. They watched formations of bombers returning to England, and a lone German aircraft came and circled their position once and could have strafed them, but didn't. It appeared to return perhaps an hour later. Struggling to keep their two rafts together in heavy 5' waves, they feared they would freeze or drown in the icy water at approximately 60 degrees N latitude. After darkness fell, they began launching flares every half-hour or so until a boat arrived and rescued them.
German records include documents for each of the 10 man crew. These documents are titled "Report On Capture of Members of Enemy Air Forces" and are shown with a "PLACE: 8th E-boat Flotilla, Haarlem". Each crew member was reported as being taken POW "At sea 28 nautical miles 300 degrees IJmuiden" on March 29, 1944 at 2125 (9:25pm). IJmuiden is a coastal city where the Germans had hardened concrete E-boat pens for their Schnellboote (Fast Boats). Larger than an American PT boat, these boats probably were based from IJmuiden and the specific reference of time, distance and direction 28 nm 300 degrees (WNW) from IJmuiden at 2125 hours provides a very specific location.
There is a table that estimates the drift rate for a 5-man raft under those wind & wave conditions, which provides a reasonably accurate estimate for the location of the ditching around 4pm, followed by 5 hours and 25 minutes drifting in the rafts. The North Sea is approximately 80' deep at the estimated ditching site.
The crew were initially taken to a jail near the streetcar line. Subsequently, they were ordered onto a train and transported to the DuLag (DurchgangsLager) or transfer camp, and about April 1944 the crew had arrived in Luft Stalag 17-B in Krems Austria where they were held POW for just over a year until the end of the war.
The June 1944 issue of Popular Science featured the article of the successful restoration of Sir Baboon McGoon from its October 1943 belly landing. By the time the article appeared in print, the aircraft had been on the bottom of the North Sea for at least two months.Sperry Corporation
Sperry Corporation (1910−1986) was a major American equipment and electronics company whose existence spanned more than seven decades of the 20th century. Through a series of mergers it exists today as a part of Unisys, while some other of its former divisions became part of Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, United Technologies, and Northrop Grumman.
The company is best known as the developer of the artificial horizon and a wide variety of other gyroscope-based aviation instruments like autopilots, bombsights, analog ballistics computers and gyro gunsights. In the post-WWII era they branched out into electronics, both aviation related, and later, computers.The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
"The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" is a five-line poem by Randall Jarrell published in 1945. It is about the death of a gunner in a Sperry ball turret on a World War II American bomber aircraft.
Jarrell, who served in the Army Air Forces, provided the following explanatory note:
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. When this gunner tracked with his machine guns a fighter attacking his bomber from below, he revolved with the turret; hunched upside-down in his little sphere, he looked like the fetus in the womb. The fighters which attacked him were armed with cannon firing explosive shells. The hose was a steam hose.
Reviewer Leven M. Dawson says that "The theme of Randall Jarrell's 'The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner' is that institutionalized violence, or war, creates moral paradox, a condition in which acts repugnant to human nature become appropriate." Most commentators agree, calling the poem a condemnation of the dehumanizing powers of "the State", which are most graphically exhibited by the violence of war.Due partly to its short length, "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" poem has been widely anthologized. In fact, Jarrell came to fear that his reputation would come to rest on it alone.The poem inspired the play, "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" by Anna Moench, which premiered in New York City at the New York International Fringe Festival in August 2008 and was extended to play at The Space in Long Island City. A nod to the poem can also be found in John Irving's 1978 novel The World According to Garp, in which the protagonist's father died from a "rather careless lobotomy" by enemy gunfire while serving as a ball-turret gunner in World War II.