Miscellaneous Rumbles

Took a ride on a B-17 Flying Fortress

26

Richard Boone (Paladin) was a tail gunner on a B-17. His stories of that experience were exhilarating, terrorizing, heroic, and terribly sad. Like most soldiers and sailors who survived WWII, he only spoke of those days rarely and briefly.

This clip shows the position he spoke of, but I had no idea until Ruger started this thread just how small and confining was the interior of the B-17.

You’re right, it brings tears to my eyes to think of those kids.

27

B17's have a special place in my heart.

My uncle was a tail gunner in a B17, and they were shot down over Germany during a bombing mission.

He was able to get out, which was a miracle in itself for a tail gunner, and thanked God for sparing him as his parachute worked as it should.

Then all hell broke loose. German fighter planes started strafing him and the others that were able to get out.

He woke up in a German hospital, with three serious wounds from those fighter planes.

Over two years as a POW, and when the camp he was in was liberated, he knew that he would see his family again.

Went back home to Colorado, to the little coal mining town that he was raised in, and happily lived there until his death a few years back.

Like all the others, he was just a kid, serving his country, and went through hell.

Uncle Joe was a rock. Nicest guy in the world, and a sense of humour that was always with him.

It took him decades to even talk about all this. He told me once, that the B17 was his favorite aircraft. He said that this Bird saved his life, as it should have completely fell apart after being hit as badly as it was.

His sense of humor kicked in and he smiled and said, "We both hit the ground in one piece."

Love the B17's.

28

Fantastic posts, Deed & Cowboy. I love what this thread has turned into.

29

Ruger- That had to be an amazing experience! Thanks for sharing your post and pictures.

Redrocker- Can't wait to see the special you are working on !

JD- Just an incredible story about your uncle. Fantastic that he had made it back home.

30

A quick share of more humor from uncle Joe.

My cousins found out about an air show that had a B17, and selling tickets for a flight. They told him that they would drive, and if he would like to go and take a flight again, that they would pay for it.

In a nano second, with his grin, he said, "Are you nuts. My last ticket was for free, and I just didn't know it wasn't a round trip one."

31

A quick share of more humor from uncle Joe.

My cousins found out about an air show that had a B17, and selling tickets for a flight. They told him that they would drive, and if he would like to go and take a flight again, that they would pay for it.

In a nano second, with his grin, he said, "Are you nuts. My last ticket was for free, and I just didn't know it wasn't a round trip one."

– J(ust an old Cowboy)D

God bless him!

32

What a cool thing to do. I always find it a bittersweet thing when I see Spitfires flying over our house, which happens daily (we have one hangared about 20 miles away that is used for pleasure trips - £2750 for half an hour...). On the one hand I'm in such awe of the aircraft and the young men who flew them, but I'm also aware that as much as I'd love to go up in one I know the pleasure I'd get from it would be a universe away from the feelings those pilots must have had doing it for real.

We are forever in their debt.

33

A Spitfire flight is on my bucket list, but it's extremely doubtful that will ever happen.

So is my dad's plane, the SBD Douglas Dauntless, but I'd had to drive down to Peachtree GA just for that... it's possible... more possible that a Spitfire would be.

The Collings Foundation also had a P-40 and a P-51 there, the P-51 is smaller than I thought... nowhere near the behemoth the Hellcat was (they have one of those on display at the museum there), nor as large as the P-47 Thunderbolt. The P-51 seems more in the Spitfire class. (as does the P-40 of course).

The fighters were $2200/30 minutes, but you got to take the stick, if you wanted to (instructor flight)

34

Very cool Bday gift and yes I would certainly feel the spirit of sacrifice there, but I would only walk inside a grounded one. I freak out on the aerial tram in Palm Springs. I cant imagine what those cats endured and even more so the african american Tuskegee Airmen 332nd Fighter Group.

35

Never took a flight,but I did take a ground tour of "Sentimental Journey".The pilot and co-pilot sat in a space about as large as the front seats of my '72 VW Beetle. Years before,on an Air Force ROTC trip to the Davis-Monthan boneyard they took us through a B-29.Iwas amazed that the side windows in the tail-gunner's station were barely larger than my head....

36

Very cool Bday gift and yes I would certainly feel the spirit of sacrifice there, but I would only walk inside a grounded one. I freak out on the aerial tram in Palm Springs. I cant imagine what those cats endured and even more so the african american Tuskegee Airmen 332nd Fighter Group.

– TheNocturneBrain

I got to meet five of these gentlemen. They did a panel discussion in our small theater---basically told war stories for two hours. Funny, articulate, and still sharp as brass tacks fifty years later. They endured a lot of nonsense in training, and deserved all of the praise they got. They never lost a bomber they were escorting. A remarkable record indeed. One of the highlights---they took out a German destroyer with only their planes' 50 cal. machine guns. Kept strafing the same spot on the ship and eventually got thru the armor and hit the ammo bunker. They were lucky to get some of the first P-51s in the European Theater.

37

My brother and I once shared an unbelievable afternoon with Air Force General Truman Landon's son. He brought several big boxes of his father's memorabilia from his long career to our country. We saw everything from a personally autographed picture of General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Field Marshall Montgomery to General Landon with JFK. He had a membership certificate from the Manfred von Richthofen Society, photos AND their negatives of his B-24 Liberator in the Pacific, even a personally drawn and autographed Walt Disney Mickey Mouse drawing. I sure hope Perry Landon donated this treasure trove of Air Force photographs, letters and photo albums to the USAF.

38

Regarding the escorts.... P-51 or P-47? Tough call. I know most people jump at the P-51 because it was "the best allied fighter in europe", BUT....

I always had a problem with the water-cooled engines. You hit that coolant line, and you're done. While it was great the P-51s could escort all the way to the target with their longer range, and were more maneuverable in a dogfight that the P-47, they weren't as durable.

the P-47, while unfortunately not having the range to go all the way to target with the bombers, were like flying tanks, almost indestructible. They were better at altitude than the Mustangs, had radial (air-cooled) engines, and could take a serious beating and still return their pilot home.

I'm sure the P-51 was more fun to fly, being smaller and faster... and it was certainly prettier than "the jug"! But tough call.... I guess if I were flying escort, I'd want the P-51.... simply because if the bomber boys are going all the way to target, then so am I. But in a dogfight mele, I might pick the P-47 to have better chance at returning home, even if the plane looks like swiss cheese!

They were both great fighters. I still have a special place in my heart for the Spitfire tho, especially after reading all about the Battle of Britain (which wasn't a battle, it lasted months).

39

Went digging, found this.... interesting!!!!

Here is a quoted text out of "WWII: Luftwaffe Combat Planes & Aces' This is how a German ace thought about the P-51 and P-47 + their pilots.

"When I was transferred to a squadron for home defense against heavy four engined bombers with their fighter escorts, I finally met the P-47 and, later, the P-51. My recollections of these two aircraft are not happy ones. There were so many of them, it was hard to get at the bombers and during the last year of the war, American fighters were all around us. The P-47 wasn't so bad because we could out turn and out climb it, initially. But that big American fighter could roll with deceiving speed and when it came down on you in along dive, there was no way you could get away from it. It must have a huge brick into i, somewhere. In addition to inflicting tremendous punishment, it could absorb an incredible amount of firepower and still fly. The P-51 was something else. It was an awful antagonist, in the truest sense of that word and we hated it. It could do everything we could do and do it much better. First off, it was hard to recognize. Unless you saw it from the side, it looked like a 109. This caused us trouble from the outset. We would see them, think they were ours and then the damned things shoot us full of hole. We didn't like them at all!" .... "During the war I had the oppertunity to fly captured P-47's and P-51's. I didn't like the Thunderbolt. It was too big. The cockpit was immense and unfamiliar. After so may hours in the snug confines of the 109, everything felt out of reach and too far away from the pilot. Although the P-51 was a fine airplane to fly, because of its reactions and capabilities, it too was disconcerting. With all those levers, controls and switches in the cockpit. I'm surprised your pilots could find the time to fight. We had nothing like this in the 109. Everything was simple and very close to the pilot. You fitted into the cockpit like a hand in a glove. Our instrumentation was complete, but simple: throttle, mixture control and prop pitch. How your pilots were able to work on all their gadgets and still function amazes me."

40

I’ve read this thread to end . Every word. I love that you all shared these stories and glad there are non-music posts in this group. Don’t know where else I would have had the chance to read all this. Thank you

41

ruger9: Thanks for starting this thread. All: Thanks for contributing your thoughts and experiences. Don’t have much to add that hasn’t already been said, but being a lifelong student of this stuff, having crawled around several B-17s over the years and having had some flight training, I really appreciate this.

42

Regarding the escorts.... P-51 or P-47? Tough call. I know most people jump at the P-51 because it was "the best allied fighter in europe", BUT....

I always had a problem with the water-cooled engines. You hit that coolant line, and you're done. While it was great the P-51s could escort all the way to the target with their longer range, and were more maneuverable in a dogfight that the P-47, they weren't as durable.

the P-47, while unfortunately not having the range to go all the way to target with the bombers, were like flying tanks, almost indestructible. They were better at altitude than the Mustangs, had radial (air-cooled) engines, and could take a serious beating and still return their pilot home.

I'm sure the P-51 was more fun to fly, being smaller and faster... and it was certainly prettier than "the jug"! But tough call.... I guess if I were flying escort, I'd want the P-51.... simply because if the bomber boys are going all the way to target, then so am I. But in a dogfight mele, I might pick the P-47 to have better chance at returning home, even if the plane looks like swiss cheese!

They were both great fighters. I still have a special place in my heart for the Spitfire tho, especially after reading all about the Battle of Britain (which wasn't a battle, it lasted months).

– ruger9

They could shoot holes in a radial engine and even with a couple of cylinders out of commission, the engine would still work. Radials were lighter as well. P-47s also had 8 X 50 cal. machineguns to the Mustang's 6. Originally, the Mustang had an Allison V-12, and couldn't keep up with the MEA109s or FW190s. The Brits stuck the mighty Merlin (same engine in the Spitfire and Mosquito) in and it totally changed the plane. It's one main advantage was it's range. Goring said that once he saw Mustangs over Berlin, he knew the war was lost.

43

I got to meet five of these gentlemen. They did a panel discussion in our small theater---basically told war stories for two hours. Funny, articulate, and still sharp as brass tacks fifty years later. They endured a lot of nonsense in training, and deserved all of the praise they got. They never lost a bomber they were escorting. A remarkable record indeed. One of the highlights---they took out a German destroyer with only their planes' 50 cal. machine guns. Kept strafing the same spot on the ship and eventually got thru the armor and hit the ammo bunker. They were lucky to get some of the first P-51s in the European Theater.

– wabash slim

I'd love to see a docu. on this bit here "One of the highlights---they took out a German destroyer with only their planes' 50 cal. machine guns. Kept strafing the same spot on the ship and eventually got thru the armor and hit the ammo bunker. They were lucky to get some of the first P-51s in the European Theater."

44

The mechanization of warfare in WWII was an exponential amplification of the trend inaugurated by the Gatling guns and primitive submarines of the Civil War, and gathered in much fuller force during WWI. The capacity for industrial-scale assembly-line carnage demonstrated in WWI shocked the consciousness and the conscience of anyone thoughtful enough give it mindshare, and particularly a generation of writers, artists, and musicians then coming of age - who did their best to assimilate and process mankind's new capacity for impersonal mayhem. It seemed to them a difference not just in the quantity of violence war could inflict, but its quality. It was now the spirit of destruction unleashed, impersonal. Machine guns, howitzers, tanks, chemicals, the war in the air all had a far different character from swords and load-once/shoot once weapons. You no longer looked your adversary in the eye.

But during WWI, arguably, the automobile and the airplane - and definitely the tank - were still new enough to seem foreign and even sci-fi exotic to the rank and file who were starting to use them. By WWII, though, another generation had grown up with cars and planes, and had a familial and collaborative relationship with The Machine. Along with the patriotism, defiance, fear, and anxiety which drove "the boys," they had to have taken some comfort from the machines themselves, machines built by the same companies which had produced the vehicles with which they were familar. The sounds of the engines, the mechanical interfaces, their sense of trust in (or skepticism of) the reliability and durability of their equipment was familiar, and must have seemed a connection to their lives back home, a reminder of the life they were fighting for.

At the same time, strapped into tight confines (whether in tanks, subs, or aircraft), wearing body suits and connected to umbilicals piping in oxygen, heat, the voices of their crews, surrounded by a range of controls which may seem quaint and primitive to us now but were hi-tech then - each isolated in his own role - they must also have felt as much a part of the machine as its master. They were forced by the circumstances of the times into their bravado and bravery, and into a symbiosis with their machinery that made them the first assimilates of the borg. To do the nasty job at hand, and to survive it, they strapped themselves in and became - thank you Tommy - "part of the machine."

It's hard to imagine the cocktail of raw adrenalized excitement, exultation and glory, fear and desperation, and the intense focus their conditions and situations must have brewed. Isolated and exposed in a small tin-and-glass bubble, high above the ground, clouds and flak in a 3D skyscape of terrible wonder around them, pitching and banking, diving and climbing, adversaries appearing out of nowhere, aiming and operating and feeding the weapons as if they were mechanical bodily extensions, knowing that every second could be their last...taking comfort from the steady drone of the engines, fearing the boom and sputter and eerie silence in which they could hear the distant noises of the battle, and then the increasing rush of wind and whine.

But as long as those engines kept rumbling, as long as there were enough airfoil surfaces to keep their lumbering birds aloft, there was hope. Hope of clearing skies, hope of the Channel, of a runway in the green fields of England - and of an eventual return home.

It's no accident that the survivors celebrated with 20 years of the colorful, sensuous, finned and chromed wish-fulfillment cars the makers of their war machines returned to building after the apotheosis of high-tech war flattened two Japanese cities. The mushrooming shadow of that horror hung over the American good times of the 50s and 60s, but that's another story.


The machines of WWII were a constant study for me in elementary school, subjects of continual fascination. I don't know exactly why - maybe because the frequent Air Force overflights of my town from Rickenbacker AFB near Columbus were a constantly reminder. Or maybe because kids - especially boys - seem genetically predisposed to a fascination with both machinery and weapons, and these were both. Every time the Bookmobile parked on my shady Mulberry Street, I checked out my limit of illustrated guides to the aircraft, the tanks and other ground equipment, and the ships of all participants in WWII. At one time I had memorized and could compare specs whose meaning I truly barely knew.

Most Fridays, I'd saved enough during the week from allowance, lunch money, and odd jobs to buy a model at Stubbs' store. Half the time it was a car model; the others were planes, ships, and tanks. I inadvertently whiffed a lot of Testors in those years. About Jr Hgh, my attention shifted to records and guitars, and by high school I was as much a hippie as circumstances would allow. (IE, not much in fact - but greatly in spirit.) I forgot most of what I had known about the Arsenals of Democracy.

Eventually time teaches the most ardent pacifist that sometimes - sometimes - peace can only come in the wake of battle. One reaches a kind of rapprochement with the trade, tools, and tales of warfare. These great warbirds of WWII survive not only as historic examples of the technology of the time - and their inherent interest as machines - but for their value in helping us imagine something of what it must have been like to ride them in fear, loathing, fragility, determination, and hope.

I can never think of these planes, and the airwar over Europe, without thinking of Randall Jarrell's potent 5-line poem "Death of the Ball Turret Gunner." It's brutal - again, the work of art trying to process reality - and tells the story only of the unhappy endings. But it fully captures the horror and the inhumanity of kids caught in the machinery.

From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

46

If you get this side of the pond you must visit IWM Duxford, the memorial to American Airmen is stark and breathtaking it consists of 52 glass panels engraved with the outlines of aircraft one for each plane missing in action. 7031 planes in total.

Thank you


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