Would like more info on Crew chiefs/repair men for bombers during WWII

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by JJ32, Mar 17, 2010.

  1. JJ32

    JJ32 New Member

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    When it comes to being a crew chief in a B-17 group/squad, what exact role does he play as far as how many B-17's are assigned to him and that he is responsible for as in repairing it after a mission, how many men work under him and whats the chain of command starting with him and going above ? Ive never really understood whenever these guys where stationed somewhere how it worked for them because of all the books ive read and movies i have watched none of them really covered that part, it was always about the pilot's and their air crew. im going to go out on a limb here and assume from all my knowledge so far that each crew chief (maybe a T.sgt ?) had 1 B-17 assigned to him and him only. as soon as it came back from mission he would discuss directly with the pilot about what damage had been done and what needs fixed and then him and 2-3 other men assigned to him (cpl's and prvt's) would get the fixing done. im also going to assume that above the crew chief was another srgt, staff or 1st or maybe even a 1st lt. that was in command over all the crew chiefs and then the group/squad commander was in charge of them. i know im wayyy off somewhere along the lines here but it sure is fun taking a guess! so hopfully someone has better knowledge about this then me and can help me out here, keep in mind im asking strictly about bomber servicemen under combat conditions as i know that things may very depending what type of aircraft and situation. thanks!
     
  2. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    The normal practice was to have one crew chief per airplane with asst crew chiefs and armorers reporting to him.

    The CC, usually a S/Sgt reported to a line chief that was responsible for a flight. All the crew chiefs in that flight reported to the line chief. At the top was a M/Sgt who had all the squadron reporting to him.

    The B-17 (or P-51, or C-47) was the crew chief's responsibility. He would pre flight the airplane personnally every morning. In the case of something like the B-17, his crew would also turn the props to ensure oil in the cylinders, check the oxygen system/bottles to make sure they were full and flowed properly, look for leaks, check the control surfaces and linkages, spin the turbocharger blades below each engine, make sure all the oil resevoirs were topped off, etc.

    When the aircraft returned the pilot and the aircraft engineer (also top turret gunner) would meet with the crew chief and discuss the airplane issues (if any) and sign off the airplane back to the crew chief. The gunners would remove the 50's and help the line crew pick up the empty cases and links - then go to the armorer shed and clean the 50 caliber guns before heading for the de-briefing.

    The radio/gunner would hook up with the communications sargent and discuss/fix any issues with the radios. They would team up for making sure that A, B and C and D channels were set to the right fequency per the frag order, for intersquadron coom, talk with fighter escort, homing/assembly beacon for each bomb group 'splasher', etc

    If there was no damage reported, the crew chief still performaed a walk around to check the flight controls, look for oil leaks, etc - and oversee the refueling operation for tomorrow's mission. If there was damage to the ship, he would write up the issues (just like your mechanic) and decide what needed to be done. If a new wing or major component required replacing it would be towed to Service Hanger for repair. An engine change and sheet metal patches would most often be done on the line. The crew stayed with the ship until all the work was done and would notify the Squadron Engineering officer if there was a question regading airworthiness for next day.. otherwise the ship was deemed ready and everything except the armament and bomb load was installed.

    Wwhen the frag order came in for the next day's mission, the bomb loadout would be specified based on the target (i.e 500 pound HE with delayed fuses, 2000 pound w/delayed) and the bomb load would be based on length of mission - (i.e for 'standard' load to Brunswick - 5x1,000 HE, but for Posnan or Brux maybe 4x1000 because max fuel would be carried)

    Longer range missions often dictated carrying more 50 caliber ammo so that was factored into the loadout also.

    The gunners would get to the line at a predetermined period before start engine and install 'his' .50's and check the ammo boxes (and number of boxes). The rest of the crew would be in briefing room after breakfast and dribble out to the flight line, usually before required to go through their own checklists and the bombadier would arrive with his norden sight and install it in the nose, Navigator would check his maps and waypoint locations and times. Co-pilot would work with CC to prefilgt the checklists and the pilot would look at that and perform one last walk around..

    At start engine times the crew chief and an asst CC would stand by each engine, starting with number three, with a fire extinguisher.. there is more but I'm tired..

    Later
     
  3. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    My sister in law's father was a top turret gunner/crew chief during WW2 on B17s. He came to that through a different way than usual. He had spent two years in England as a Mechanic and decided to become a crew chief (this is in the fall of 1944). They asked for volunteers for this sort of thing/ or the option was always there (can't remember which). The ran him through a fast flight training and had him up and running in a B17 in a couple of weeks.

    He said, by this time, there were no regular crews. You were just assigned to an airplane on any given mission and flew with whomever you were assigned. By the sound of it, it was almost factory work. Anyway, he ended up doing 22 missions before being invalided out with a broken ear drum. Went back to the states in the spring of 1945.

    Said he never saw a German fighter, though there were missions where the 262s were out and people were calling them in. Just never got to his part of the bomber stream. Also said the flak was incredible, especially over certain targets like Berlin. Said it was one of those "Lord, get me out of here and I'll never be bad again" momments.
     
  4. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    #4 FLYBOYJ, Mar 19, 2010
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2010
    Spot on Bill - I'll jump in a little.

    The form used for write ups were a USAAF form 1. Discrepancies were broken into 2 general groups - those that make the aircraft unairworthy and those that could wait till a later time or next inspection for repair. For unairworthy discrepancies there was a small box where a red "red x" was placed indicating the aircraft was grounded. A "red diagonal" would indicate the later. If an inspection was due or something needed to be noted, a "red dash" was placed in the box.

    The same system is still used today except the form is now called a "Form 781A," but the whole process goes back to WW2. You'll hear the term - "Its red X'd," another term for the aircraft being grounded.
     
  5. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Great info Bill and Joe. Sounds very simiialr to RAF WW2 procedures for 'heavies', although the 'Form 1' was know as 'Form 700', and I believe still is today.
    There's a good description of some of the types of work required, shared between the Engineer and Crew Chief and crew, in 'Combat Crewman', by John Comer, IIRC, - darn, just looked oin the shelf, and noticed I've loaned the book, so can't provide details at the moment.
     
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