how much ammo did a b 17 carry for the 50s

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by mike siggins, Jul 3, 2013.

  1. mike siggins

    mike siggins Member

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    I was wondering how much ammo each postion carried and how long it would take to empty there supply
     
  2. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    At least 2000 rounds total. The radio hatch gun typically had 100+, the tail gunner and nose turret had 300+, top and ball turret had 250 each and the waist guns had 250 each with another several boxes stored near radio hatch as reserves for waist, radio hatch and ball turret. The Cheek guns had only 100 each IIRC
     
  3. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    I had just been reading about this the other day in another forum and the discussion is carried on by actual bomber crew members (B-17 and B-24)...

    Lots of good info there: B17 - B24 reserve of ammunition
     
  4. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    I have a AFM-20 which is a gunners information file for training bomber gunners
    It list the ammo capacity for the Sperry turret in the B-17 as 1000 rounds, 500 for each gun. But reloadable only on the ground. Some models had outside of the turret ammo cans to increase room in the turret for the gunner, inflight reloadable.
    The upper ball, also a Sperry as 750 rounds total, in 6 cans that can be reloaded in flight.
    The Bendix chin turret holds 730 rounds, also inflight reloadable.

    My manual is incomplete so i'm not sure about the tailturret and free guns, but total rounds carried IMO would go well beyond 2000 rounds.

    How long would it take to fire them all ? You can't fire any machinegun without stopping every few seconds for it to cool, and you'd probably never have a target near your sights much longer than that anyway.
     
  5. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    From what I can find ammo capacity varied, with later B-17s having better ammunition feed systems - average was 6-7,000 rounds. As it was some crews were able to sneak more ammo on board - From Combat Crew, John Comer [Comer was a flight engineer/top turret gunner on 533rd BS, 381st Bg] recounting a hairy take-off during a raid on Anklam, Germany, October 9 1943, flying in a B-17G:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  6. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    #6 drgondog, Jul 5, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2013
    Aozora - capacity and actual practice are two separate things, as you know. For every three linked rounds of 50 cal you had to leave a pound of bombs behind. One could make an argument that the capacity could be measured as all ammo/no bombs.. so a nominal 5000 pound load out plus a standard 2000+ rounds stored normally is approximately 17000 rounds - IF you could stuff it at the CG.

    In your article above - most command pilots would have kicked the idiots responsible for the incident off their crew. The B-17G already had a slightly aft CG problem under correct load out processes with all aft crew in Radio cell forward of Ball turret along with all the spare 50 cal ammo boxes. The crew knew Why, and also were indoctrinated regarding the So What relative to their already risky lease on life.

    As to the story? I have been back in the tail gun position and I can not believe that more than four to six extra boxes (600-900 rounds extra) could be stored back there with the gunner. .. and still leave space to get out over the tail wheel if the A/c crash landed on take off... just for survival on that factor it's hard to conceive of such stupidity of the tail gunner even being back there on take off?
     
  7. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    #7 Aozora, Jul 5, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2013
    I'm just quoting from someone who was participating in operations at arguably the worst time of the war for B-17 crews; what may or may not have happened to the crew members responsible is not the issue in this particular incident - maybe it was overlooked because they survived a hairy mission partly because of the extra ammo so thoughtlessly loaded - we don't know why they weren't kicked off the crew, so you'll have to take that one up with the command pilot involved.

    As it is, if you read the extract carefully, Comer did not say all the boxes were stacked near the tail position, he states that some were, while others were redistributed in and around the waist positions. If you're trying to say Comer is wrong in his details, or that he was exaggerating for effect, he was there, we were not.
     
  8. rochie

    rochie Well-Known Member

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    #8 rochie, Jul 5, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2013
    if i remember there is a bit in Comer's book where the extra ammo boxes were stored in the wrong place and nearly caused them to crash on take off !

    ignore me i should have read the whole of the excerpt posted as it is the one i was thinking of !!!!!
     
  9. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    #9 tyrodtom, Jul 5, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2013
    The pilot in command may have took the view that nobody is perfect, and they learned from that.

    They might have had other redeeming qualities, AND he didn't want to break-in new crewmembers.

    Who on the aircraft is supposed to oversee weight and balance ? The flight engineer ? The PIC or co-pilot ?
     
  10. GregP

    GregP Well-Known Member

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    Each waist gun was fed by an ammo box exactly same as in the nose of a P-38. The box contained 27 feet of 50-caliber cartridge belt. When you shot all of it at a target, you gave them the "wole nine yards" ... it introduced a new term to the language. When the box was empty, you could go get anouther box and reload, but the number of boxes were limited since bomb load was the primary reason for the mission, not 50-caliber ammo.

    The YB-40 was differnt and the primary mission was defense of the formation, so the reserve ammo boxes of nine yards each were plentiful instead of bomb load.

    Information from B-17 veterans who volunteer at the Planes of Fame and from the P-38 Association.

    We have "the whole nine yards" of ammo belt displayed up on the wall next to our P-38 Lightning.
     
  11. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    That is just one of many possible explanations for the expression. In "English" English the expression pre-dates WW2 which makes it impossible that the length of a .50 calibre Browning ammunition "belt" is the origin of the phrase in early usage unless early machine guns also had 27' long belts. How long was the standard belt (and it was a belt, not linked cartridges) on a Vickers machine gun for example?

    A quick internet search will turn up dozens of alternative explanations, everything from nine yards flying sails, bridal veils, the length of cloth needed for a good suit, to the capacity of coal or concrete trucks :)

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  12. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    He said "1300 pounds were stored at the tail". 200 (max) for tail gunner, 1100 for ammo. 50 pounds+ per box. 22 boxes at tail gun/tail wheel bulkhead.

    The rest of the aft bomb bay crew knew better so, yes, I still don't give the story 100% credence. I can't imagine any of them not understanding the inertial effects of 22+ boxes of high density 'plugs' coming their way due to the sudden deceleration of a crash landing. They couldn't all be as stupid as the tail gunner.
     
  13. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Further 13,500 rounds = 4500 pounds, or about 2000 pounds over the calculated gross weight Takeoff, including mission load of fuel and bombs. You think the engineer (Comer) didn't understand the implications? Nah - I don't believe it but certainly acknowledge that such stupidity could exist - but he sure didn't tell the pilot or co-pilot, the two most responsible for the crew's safety.

    Next - consider the sheer volume of the other 3200 pounds, 64 boxes of 50 cal stored in Radio cabin...aft of the CG by several feet, conversely shoving the 200 pounds per crew by 4 (ball, waist, waist, radio) by several more feet aft of CG, then by another 30 feet x 200 for tail gunner, then by 26 feetx1100 for stacked boxes at tail bulkhead..

    I say the B-17 doesn't have a chance to fly after getting off the ground - IF it could get off the ground with that much of an aft CG issue.
     
  14. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    I always thought The Whole Nine Yards was from tailoring. A sailor being issued by the Purser 9 yards of cloth to make his clothing when he joined a sailing ship. The expression dressed to the Nines coming from the same source.
     
  15. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    #15 Aozora, Jul 6, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2013
    Great, so you can micro-analyse and second guess a veteran's account of a particularly tough mission; perhaps you should contact JC, pointing out his errors as to how many rounds you think were loaded, show him a weight and balance diagram of an early B-17G, then explain that you think he was probably a rotten flight engineer because he didn't follow protocol. Lighten up, huh? The guy put his life on the line every time he flew on a mission - I think he has a right to be wrong in his details, and who the hell are we to judge?

    My main purpose was to show that the ammo loading of B-17s could vary, depending on the mission and, sometimes, on individual crews.
     
  16. nincomp

    nincomp Member

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    Remember that the barrels were in the slipstream of very low temperature air. That must have had some effect.

    On a different topic, it has been noted that some B17 crews did not carry the standard load of ammo. The following video is from a US History Channel's episode entitled "Long Odds." The crew of "Old 666" crammed in 6 extra .50 Brownings as well as extra ammo.

    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Im086TCu3I
     
  17. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    They used a load calculator to account for every pound aboard those ships wether it was a transport, a bomber or a dead-head...B-17, B-25, B-26, C-47...didn't matter. If you overload your machine regardless of material, you pay a penalty. If you stow it improperly, you can pay dearly. B-17s were more forgiving than B-24s, but no matter what it is, you'll lose range, speed or worse.
    Each box for the .50 provided just enough ammunition for a full 60 second burst, regarless if they "squirt" or lean on the trigger. Each station is assigned a specific reserve and those are stowed in a specific position. Anyone "sneaking" additional ammo aboard can cause a fault in the load calculator and put the ship and crew in a dangerous situation.

    If a guy was bragging about sneaking additional ammo aboard or any other unauthorized item not calculated, it put the entire crew in jeopardy.
     
  18. Aozora

    Aozora Well-Known Member

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    Like I say, lighten up...do you guys read books written by veterans just for enjoyment, or do you do it to pick holes in their accounts??
     
  19. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Do you think we sit on our asses and read books all day?

    Or do you suppose we might have an intimate knowledge of how these machines work because we have been in direct contact with the men and the machines over the years?

    How about you lighten up with your smartass comments...
     
  20. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    If you look at the dimension of the.50 cal round (rim 0.804 in) "9 yards" does not match the ammo capacity of the P-38, (they may have carried less than full ammo). But '9 yards' of .50 cal ammo is quite a oad for a crewman to try to move in a bomber without help, especially if you count the box.

    As far as giving ONE target the "whole 9 yards goes, a .50 cal firing at 850rpm ( about tops for a M2 aircraft gun) and with even 350 rounds of ammo that is going to take 24.7 seconds. A fighter doing just 300 mph will cover 2.06 miles in that amount of time.

    In reply to post #16 "Remember that the barrels were in the slipstream of very low temperature air. That must have had some effect"

    The .50 was a notorious barrel burner. You don't get high performance without burning a lot of powder per round. One recommendation was for pilots to fire only 75 rounds in the first burst (which is actually rather long) and 25 rounds per burst on subsequent bursts which is getting on the short side). This for fighters which presumably have a faster slipstream going over their barrels than a bomber.

    It is quite possible to shoot out about 12 in of rifling on an air cooled ground 7.62 machine gun with a plain steel barrel firing 500 rounds without stopping. Guns with chrome bores and/or stellite liners can do much better but a .50 uses about 4-5 times the amount of propellant per round as as a 7-8mm machine gun does.
     
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