Don’t Whiz on My Ball Turret

b17 ball turret north africa sadies babyDuring the Second World War, the USAAF instituted its own version of a suggestion box and queried combat crews returning home as to what changes they would like to see in the aircraft they flew. Some of the answers have survived in an old and long forgotten file at the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

It includes such gems as this one:


Which begs the question: What’s all over the Memphis Belle’s ball turret here:

mephis belle series cecil scott ball turret986 8x10

Or do we not want to know.

b17 ball turret gunner in flight 1942 australia418

Being a ball turret gunner had to have been one of the worst aircrew jobs of the Second World War. They were cramped, difficult to get into and out of, and could jam and trap the gunner inside. It required an exceptional level of grit to get into one in Europe, where at 20,000 feet or higher, the gunner would be suspended in a plexiglass pod below his aircraft, surrounded by terrifying scenes of aircraft going down, flak bursts spraying the sky with shrapnel all as German interceptors made slashing attacks through their formations.

But on top of all that, this young gunner points out that a design flaw would sometimes coat his plexiglass with frozen urine–that just takes the cake. Here’s to hoping a document exists somewhere at Boeing, or in these archives, detailing the changes to the relief tube system to ensure the ball turret did not get a whiz bath on long missions.

486th bg b17 ball turret art 1945381

Categories: World War II in Europe | Leave a comment

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