Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

The forgotten aces of the war..aerial gunners

Discussion in 'Allied Aviation Of WWII' started by Class of '42, Apr 9, 2020.

  1. Class of '42

    Class of '42 Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2020
    Messages:
    492
    Likes Received:
    212
    Often wondered why gunners on bombers never really got the credit they deserved while flying dangerous missions, here is a link of the best "ace" gunners of the war. During the Eighth Air Force bombing campaign they scored more fighters shot down than pilots, which I never really knew, as fighter pilots seem to get all the attention and credit.

    The forgotten ACES: Air gunner ACES of WWII (image heavy)

     
  2. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2013
    Messages:
    4,753
    Likes Received:
    328
    Location:
    MIDWEST
    .....the fighter at least could ''get out of the way''...the gunners had to suck it up.....
     
  3. Takao

    Takao Ace

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Messages:
    10,019
    Likes Received:
    2,525
    Location:
    Reading, PA
    Fighter claims were easier to "confirm." But, that is not saying much.

    You might have 10 or 20 different gunners firing at the same target that was shot down...Who decides who gets the kill?

    It would be like trying to assign personal "kills" to an individual gunner aboard a US Navy ship. At least aboard ship, you were fairly certain that the "kill" was in fact made.
     
    Bolshevik and Kai-Petri like this.
  4. harolds

    harolds Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2011
    Messages:
    1,874
    Likes Received:
    362
    Also, to a certain extent, fighter pilots made better copy than bomber gunners. Also, I think that a lot of German fighters were damaged or crippled by bomber fire and then finished off by P-51s, often over their own fields while in the process of landing. In such cases guess who got the credit?
     
  5. Takao

    Takao Ace

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Messages:
    10,019
    Likes Received:
    2,525
    Location:
    Reading, PA
    Well, if the German was going down smoking, and a fighter nailed it later. The probably both were credited with a kill.
     
  6. Jba45ww2

    Jba45ww2 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2018
    Messages:
    381
    Likes Received:
    263
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Wanted to put up this picture even though its not B17s. Once the bomb loads were dropped or before, not sure how you could even tell if a waist, tail ect gunner even hit an enemy fighter. Obviously the heavies were flying a tight formation so that all points were covered.
    Bombs.jpg
     
  7. harolds

    harolds Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2011
    Messages:
    1,874
    Likes Received:
    362
    I doubt it! The fighter pilot would have gun camera footage. Besides, as you noted above, there would usually many gunners firing, If the enemy fighter flew off smoking, at most there could be a claim of having damaged an enemy. Without that damage the fighter pilot wouldn't have had an easy kill.
     
  8. Class of '42

    Class of '42 Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2020
    Messages:
    492
    Likes Received:
    212
    My Dad initially went into the Army Air Corp in '44, as he wanted to be a fighter pilot..but he said after some exams and testing they turned him down.. something about his peripheral vision wasn't good enough..basically they needed recruits who had eyes in the back of they're heads...so they asked him if he wanted to go to gunnery school instead...heavy bombers most likely...he thought about it..for about ten seconds...as he already knew the life expectancy was about 7-8 missions...no thanks he said and most likely I wouldn't be here if he did said yes...ended up in transportation support in the Italian Campaign.
     
  9. harolds

    harolds Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2011
    Messages:
    1,874
    Likes Received:
    362
    One of my uncles was a top turret/flt.engineer on a B 24 in the 15th AF. He told me that flak was their biggest problem and fighter opposition was very spotty. This was in late '44 and '45. According to him, what few fighters got through the escorts came down in ones and twos. None survived the defensive fire and they did little damage.
     
  10. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2008
    Messages:
    15,772
    Likes Received:
    4,901
  11. Class of '42

    Class of '42 Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2020
    Messages:
    492
    Likes Received:
    212
    I think if I had a choice of gunnery schools..I'd select a B-17 or B-24 instead of some Navy torpedo plane with a pea shooter.
     
  12. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2008
    Messages:
    15,772
    Likes Received:
    4,901
    B-29, pressurized, heated cabin. I'd just look to make sure it wasn't "Gay". :p
     
  13. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2022
    Messages:
    183
    Likes Received:
    35
    I doubt very much whether fighter attacks on even formations of bombers were ever really seriously inconvenced by defensive fire from the bombers.

    The THEORY of the formation gunnery might have been one thing, but in practice, these bombers were screaming for fighter support and the arrival of a fighter type that could escort them all the way to and from the target.

    One only has to look at the number of bombers that were going down or returning seriously damaged or with killed and wounded aboard during the pre long range escort period to see that even the tightest of formations and the liberal availability of bombers lavishly equipped with defensive guns like the B17, even these formations could not rely on their defensive fire alone to beat off most attacks.

    It didn't really matter how good a shot the gunner was.

    Without the fighter escorts it was a VERY dangerous game, solvable ONLY by the presence of the "little friends"
     
  14. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2022
    Messages:
    183
    Likes Received:
    35
    When I saw the World at War documentary series episode called "Whirlwind" about the Allied Bomber offensive, an interview with a German dayfighter pilot featured him telling the interviewer that "...I used to tell the younger pilots, who had no experience, to CLOSE THEIR EYES when attacking from the rear."

    This more than demonstrates the general ineffectiveness in deterring daylight fighters from attacking.

    And none other than Jimmy Stewart, the distinguished Hollywood actor said in his interview...in his distinctive drawl....

    "Well, the fighter was the bogeyman,....the fighter had EYES....and most of the time it had a pretty competent fella behind the controls."

    Yep.

    It was a great idea to have multiple defensive guns on a bomber, but I cannot say that in daylight it made much of a difference to the general results.
    Even the best gunners therefore, went unsung.

    You do see it happen in William Wyler's..
    documentary film "Memphis Belle"...one of the waist gunners gets a confirmed kill..(or maybe even TWO, because he holds up two fingers for the camera when they land)...

    You hear it on the commentary quite clearly..

    "He got him, chief!!! He's bailing out!!!!"

    The camera only captures one kill, but the same gunner clearly holds up TWO fingers at the end of the mission.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2022
  15. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2022
    Messages:
    183
    Likes Received:
    35
     
  16. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2022
    Messages:
    183
    Likes Received:
    35
    This is so true.

    8th Air Force gunners in particular were in a class of their own when it came to overclaiming fighter kills.

    Look at the figures for claims made during the August 1943 Schweinfurt/Regensburg mission ALONE if you don't believe me!
     
  17. harolds

    harolds Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2011
    Messages:
    1,874
    Likes Received:
    362
    Actually, from some of the German fighter-pilot accounts I have read, the defensive fire from the bombers was very daunting! So much so that the Luftwaffe high command had a problem getting their fighter pilots to close the range where they could get the multiple hits needed to down the bombers. One German ace stated that he'd rather take on a squadron of Spitfires than attack the "viermots".
    One solution to the problem was the "12-O'clock high" attack. Another was the up-gunned and up-armored FW190. Still another was attacking the bomber formation from a rear corner where there was the least combined defensive fire.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2022
  18. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    26,462
    Likes Received:
    2,200
    The bomber protective fire based on planes covering each other. That is why the Germans made the more armored and up-gunned fw-190's that attacked from the front targeting the bomber pilots. If the formation broke, suddenly, the gunnery protection was less and there were lonely bombers for the bf-109's from below attack.
     
  19. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2003
    Messages:
    1,060
    Likes Received:
    696
    Location:
    The Old Dominion
    I've a nice list of USN backseat radio-gunners credits. Tend to be pretty much one on one, though a few are multiple gunners shooting at one enemy plane and splitting the credit. Backseaters shooting and pilots confirming the deed . . . always nice to have a witness.
     
  20. Bolshevik

    Bolshevik Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2022
    Messages:
    183
    Likes Received:
    35
    Well, if formation defensive fire was so effective, why on earth was the P-51 so needed and anticipated ?

    Formation gunnery might have been "daunting", but it clearly did not do what it's theorists felt it could achieve, which was to allow the formation to fly unescorted without suffering debilitating losses.

    It was a terrible failure in this and it never lived up to what was expected of it.
     

Share This Page