B-17 underside Ball Turret Gunner

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by olbrat, Jun 3, 2008.

  1. olbrat

    olbrat Member

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    After watching a B-17 flying recently, I was curious how the underside ball turret gunner entered/exited the turret. Was it from below or from inside? I had heard a couple of horror stories of how they were trapped if they aircraft had to do a wheels-up landing, etc., but I didn't know if they were true or not. I would think it would be terribly uncomfortable to be in one of those things for hours on end, or stuck in one with the electricity out and so on.

    Thanks in advance for any answers.
     
  2. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    Inside. During start and landing, the gunner was not present in the ball, but stayed with the others in the hull. Only when entering enemy territory, he had to climb into his seat, so he wasn't there the whole flight. This was bad enough as the position is very cramped and often the gunner had to be pulled out by his mates as he wasn't able to move his legs anymore, because of bad blood circulation..
     
  3. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    Maximum height for a ball-turret gunner was 5'4". It was very cramped. There is a hatch on the ball that the gunner would climb into once airborne. I have some shots of it somewhere.
     
  4. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    If a wheels up landng was done with the ball turret down it would crack the fuselage in half or cave into the fuselage. Half the ball was a chunk of extremely thick aluminum casting, the over half was plexiglass, several inches thick.
     
  5. Micdrow

    Micdrow “Archive”
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    Here are a couple of pictures of the turrent of a B-17
     

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  6. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    I know you have seen the B-17 and B-24 Ball, but at risk of boring others..

    First the B-24 Ball was retractable and could be raised into the Fuselage.

    Both had a Frame inside the fuselage, which had the oxygen hose and electrical connection for heating inside the turret, entering near the top of the frame and dropping to the Ball (IIRC).

    You Could open the aft hatch of the ball Turret from the outside - which was opposite the circular panel the gunner used to sight through... but nearly impossible to go out that way with guns level

    The SOP was to rotate the ball so that the 50's were pointed straight down, open and enter the hatch and climb in, then close and lock the hatch from the inside.

    In an emergency you rotated the turret to face down and hoped someone was there to help open the hatch and hand you your chute if you chose 'comfort' over safety. Even a small guy was extremely cramped with a chute over the electrically heated suit.

    It almost always caused a fuselage structural failure in that location during ditching, and often with a belly landing.
     
  7. kool kitty89

    kool kitty89 Well-Known Member

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    No models of the B-17 had a retractable turret?
     
  8. Micdrow

    Micdrow “Archive”
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    None that I know of, though they did do some experiments by placing the same nose and tail turrents of a B-24 into a B-17.
     
  9. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    I agree Paul - I am aware of none - with 3 point landing gear designe rather than tricyscle there was plenty of room - so why add the weiight.

    I did love the modified B-17 "liberator" - but like the B-17G chin turret better from a weight standpoint
     
  10. V-1710

    V-1710 Member

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    I think a few of the very earliest B-17E's used a retractable Bendix ventral turret similar to what was fitted to B-25B's and C's. This turret was sighted through a periscope from a position above the turret in the fuselage.
     
  11. kool kitty89

    kool kitty89 Well-Known Member

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    I knew some early B-17E's had the Bendix turret (similar to the top turret used later on iirc) but I don't think it was retractable though. (iirc it's actually slightly smaller in height than the ball turret)

    The first B-17E's had the "bathtub" turret from the previous models.


    Here's a bendix ventral turret:
    [​IMG]

    The "Swamp Ghost's" Bendix turret: [​IMG]
     
  12. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    :lol: No sweat Bill.

    I actually was inside one that was erected on a scaffold. I'm 5'9" and "stuck out" about 6".
     
  13. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    Ugh, I have heard so many bad things about those Bendix turrets. I'd almost rather take my chances in a ball turret. I am not aware of any retractable B-17 ball turrets either. They did have tool kits that were used to jettison the turret in the event of a wheels up landing. If the turret was dropped before landing, the B-17 could be back in the air in a matter of days. If the ball stayed on, it would break the back of the Fortress.

    Below is a shot I took in Nine-Oh-Nine last year. It's kind of hard to see the support post going all the way to the top of the fuselage because of the wiring harness above the O2 bottle.

    [​IMG]
     
  14. kool kitty89

    kool kitty89 Well-Known Member

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    What was wrong with the Bendix turret?

    (and I think I was wrong about the early B-17E's using the 'bath tub' turret, the D seems to have been the last to use it with the first ~100 E's having the Bendix turret)
     
  15. V-1710

    V-1710 Member

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    If you look just aft of the ventral turret on 12443, I think you can see the sighting station for the turret. The Bendix turret on the B-25 had 2 problems: First, it was extremly difficult to use the gunsight, and many gunners got vertigo looking through it. Second, the sight would get oil residue from the engines on the lens, obscuring the view through it.
     
  16. kool kitty89

    kool kitty89 Well-Known Member

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    Ok, does not to get off topic, but how was the "bath tub" turret?
     
  17. Micdrow

    Micdrow “Archive”
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    I will have to do some looking when I get home, I beleive I have some pictures on my hard drive of the B-17 with liberator turrents floating around. Will post them when i get home if some one else does not.
     
  18. Micdrow

    Micdrow “Archive”
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    You are correct V-1710. From what Ive understood the Vertigo was just nausiating for the operator that used them for the turrent on the under side of the bomber.
     
  19. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    Yep. If you read Doolittle's biography, he mentions it, and it's lack of usability.
     
  20. olbrat

    olbrat Member

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    Great information and pix guys! I really appreciate it!
     
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