PDA

View Full Version : Wich was the most dangerous gunner position in a B-17?



CyberWings
02-06-2009, 09:00 AM
Just one quick question: wich was the most dangerous gunner position in a B-17?
Was the gunner in the bobble turret under the plane or the tailgunner?
The tailgunner? Right? http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif

Salute!

CyberWings
02-06-2009, 09:00 AM
Just one quick question: wich was the most dangerous gunner position in a B-17?
Was the gunner in the bobble turret under the plane or the tailgunner?
The tailgunner? Right? http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif

Salute!

berg417448
02-06-2009, 09:12 AM
I don;t have the link just now, but the US did a study of aircrew injuries during and after the war. If you can find that study it should answer your question.

jamesblonde1979
02-06-2009, 09:21 AM
I'd go with tailgunner.

PropellerEd
02-06-2009, 09:22 AM
at a guess I would say tail.
I would imagine the most stressful and uncomfortable too. Didnt they sit on their knees.
Ouch!

captgeo
02-06-2009, 09:24 AM
I would say the Ball Turret

berg417448
02-06-2009, 09:30 AM
I checked around and found this:

http://i117.photobucket.com/albums/o49/Berg417448/untitled.jpg

http://history.amedd.army.mil/...lstcs/chapter9.1.htm (http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/wwii/woundblstcs/chapter9.1.htm)


Looks like waist gunner during the time period of this particular study.

SlickStick
02-06-2009, 09:43 AM
At first, I wasn't sure which direction of dangerous he was looking for, dangerous for the gunner or dangerous for the enemy aircraft. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-wink.gif

-HH-Quazi
02-06-2009, 10:15 AM
I was thinking Waist Gunner given it wasn't very smart to come up on or park on the six of a bomber with a tail gunner. Plus, most of the footage I see shows the enemy attacking from on high and to either the three or nine o'clock position. That would also put the Top Gunner at more of a risk.

RoboCriminal
02-06-2009, 10:22 AM
During the war they always assumed it was the ball turret, as it was a pretty terrible and cramped position, coupled with the fact that in some cases if the ball itself got damaged there was no way to rotate it into a position for the gunner to get out in order to bail out of the plane and he was literally doomed to just go down with the plane (plus he couldnt wear a parachute even if he wanted to because of how cramped it was).

Post war they actually discovered that it was statistically the safest position in the plane though, with the most dangerous being the pilot (the thinking is this is because of the tendancy for Germans to attack from a high and head on if possible since the early chin/cheek guns were quite ineffective).

RoboCriminal
02-06-2009, 10:26 AM
The chart is a bit misleading btw, as directly from the survey:

"Table 184 shows the frequency with which aircrew personnel in different combat positions became missile casualties. In this and similar tables and figures, the positions of bombardier, togglier, and nose gunner, like those of the top turret gunner and engineer, are regarded as the same.

The high casualty rate for waist gunners was partially due to the fact that heavy bombers frequently carried two waist gunners. This practice was discontinued to a large extent, but accurate information as to the frequency with which aircrews included two waist gunners during the survey was not known.

The high casualty rates for navigators and bombardiers was to be expected from their positions in the nose of the aircraft. They lacked the protection provided by other personnel and portions of the shipís structure and by being in the most forward compartments of the aircraft; they were exposed to the greatest density of flak. The leading edges of the wings and other parts of aircraft are known to receive a greater density of flak hits than trailing edges. The lowest incidence of casualties appears to occur in the ball turret gunnerís position. This was partially due to the fact that only one of the two types of aircraft (B-17) carried a man in that combat position."

http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif

b2spirita
02-06-2009, 10:31 AM
@ Berg, the site says that the rate might have been influenced by there being 2 gunners in the waist, instead of just one. Increased risk of being hit?

Also werent they open positions? So there might have been extra risk from frostbite ect.

Aaron_GT
02-06-2009, 10:58 AM
If you take into account there being two waist gunners it would seem the most dangerous positions are bombardier (head on risk) and tail gunner (there were still a lot of 6 attacks).

Later in the war the waist positions gained windows so that might have reduced the frostbite risk.

TheCrux
02-06-2009, 11:18 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by PropellerEd:
at a guess I would say tail.
I would imagine the most stressful and uncomfortable too. Didnt they sit on their knees.
Ouch! </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

No, they sat on a small bicycle type seat.

HayateAce
02-06-2009, 11:25 AM
http://www.wreckchasing.com/b17-3.jpg

staticline1
02-06-2009, 01:19 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by CyberWings:
which was the most dangerous gunner position in a B-17? </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Any where you were flying over enemy territory or the one getting shot at.

jarink
02-06-2009, 01:34 PM
The survey was taken from 1 June to 31 August 1944. I don't know the exact numbers, but I know that most groups started eliminating one of the waist gunners from crews starting in the summer of '44. For one, they had to stretch the available manpower further and with larger formations, better escorts and fewer fighter intercepts, one of the waist gunners was the easiest to delete.

Since these are 'missle' casualties which includes flak, it makes sense that the waist gunners would be hit the most. (Another table shows that 86.2% of total casualties in this survey were from flak.) Even on the late model Gs with enclosed windows, they had the least amount of protection. They were in a standing position with usually only a single plate of armor below the gun and flak vests for protection. Other guys tended to be sitting, squatting, etc. (making a smaller target) and have a lot more equipment around them that, while not armor, would still help turn a flak fragment.

joeap
02-06-2009, 02:18 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by TheCrux:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by PropellerEd:
at a guess I would say tail.
I would imagine the most stressful and uncomfortable too. Didnt they sit on their knees.
Ouch! </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

No, they sat on a small bicycle type seat. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Yikes looking at the pic HayateAce posted, I'm guessing "numbnutz" applied to a lot of tailgunners. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-surprised.gif

LEBillfish
02-06-2009, 02:41 PM
One of my husbands old customers I understand initially joined the Merchant Marines before the U.S. officially declared war.......He had 3, count em...1...2...3.. Freighters torpedoed out from under him in the North Atlantic surviving each time.

Realizing he was serving a rediculously hazardous duty......He figured he had had enough of being shot at, so when the U.S. declared war joined the USAAC.......What could be safer, serving in England attached to bombers him believing since he was an Engineer on the ships he'd be set up in Bomber maintenance.

Uh uh...........

Because of his size, being somewhat short and lean............They made him a Tail Gunner on a B17. Supposedly 2 B17's shot out from under him later.....He was captured and became a P.O.W. where he met a life long friend on the other side of the fence of his compound.

I can't recal the camp his new friend was in....but believe it was either Dachau or Buchenwald....His friend having "the" tattoo on his fore arm.

K2

ImMoreBetter
02-06-2009, 02:42 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by jarink:
The survey was taken from 1 June to 31 August 1944. I don't know the exact numbers, but I know that most groups started eliminating one of the waist gunners from crews starting in the summer of '44. For one, they had to stretch the available manpower further and with larger formations, better escorts and fewer fighter intercepts, one of the waist gunners was the easiest to delete.

Since these are 'missle' casualties which includes flak, it makes sense that the waist gunners would be hit the most. (Another table shows that 86.2% of total casualties in this survey were from flak.) Even on the late model Gs with enclosed windows, they had the least amount of protection. They were in a standing position with usually only a single plate of armor below the gun and flak vests for protection. Other guys tended to be sitting, squatting, etc. (making a smaller target) and have a lot more equipment around them that, while not armor, would still help turn a flak fragment. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

They reduced to one waist gunner in April 1, 1944.

Aaron_GT
02-06-2009, 03:46 PM
If just one was being carried then it was the most dangerous place then.

Ernst_Rohr
02-06-2009, 11:06 PM
It depended on the time.

That chart also includes data from B-24's so those figures are a little skewed since the 24's at the time didnt have a manned turret in the belly.

From the same report;
TABLE 231.óDistribution of flak casualties sustained according to combat position, in order of frequency
Order of frequency
Position ofó


WIA casualty KIA casualty
1 Waist gunner Waist gunner
2 Bombardier Tail gunner
3 Navigator Bombardier
4 Tail gunner Navigator
5 Radio operator Top turret gunner
6 Top turret gunner Radio operator
7 Pilot Pilot
8 Copilot Ball turret gunner
9 Ball turret gunner Copilot

Of the casualties due to missiles from fighter aircraft, 88 percent were produced by 20 mm. shells. The tail gunner was found to be the most vulnerable combat position, while bombardier and navigator were the least vulnerable to enemy fighter aircraft. This is the reverse of the relative vulnerability of the same combat positions to flak and is in accordance with the findings of the Operational Research Section, Eighth Air Force, that enemy fighter aircraft usually attack heavy bombers from the rear.

I have had the privilege of interviewing several veterans for a history project I did years ago in college, and a couple of very tolerant gentleman who let me pester them with questions at an airshow two years ago.

One of them was a ball turret gunner, the other a tail gunner, and another was the radioman, and the last was the flight engineer. According the the gentleman who had the tail position, the two positions that were universally hated were the Ball turret, followed by the tail.

All of them agreed that early on, the tail position tended to "catch hell" more often than the others, but that changed as the Germans starting going for head on and vertical attacks more and more.

All of them said that they suffered more casualties from flak than fighters, but were more scared of the fighters.

The radioman said he thought he had the safest spot on the plane, but he was wounded three times, all by flak coming through the skin of the aircraft.

jamesblonde1979
02-09-2009, 08:30 AM
Okay but there are 2 waist gunners right?

So shouldn't we be dividing by 2?

Thoughts?

berg417448
02-09-2009, 08:41 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by jamesblonde1979:
Okay but there are 2 waist gunners right?

So shouldn't we be dividing by 2?

Thoughts? </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

See ImMorBetter's post. Many bombers reduced to only one waist gunner later in the war.

jamesblonde1979
02-09-2009, 08:59 AM
Nice one, thanks Berg.

danjama
02-11-2009, 03:27 PM
I'm surprised and yet not surprised at the high casualty rate of bombardiers. Surprised initially, but then realising and remembering the way the germans adapted their methods to avoid the most dangerous guns, the top and rear. The front gun on a B17 at the time would have been the cheek gun and possibly a 50cal through the perspex, both would have been difficult to hit anything with at incredible head on speeds. Even the chin guns that were installed later on were notoriously difficult to aim well.

Still, all i can think of is how sad it is for any of the gunners lost. Why place more importance on one position over the other? They all assumed the same responsibilities and dangers when signing the dotted line. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-sad.gif

SkyPiggies
02-12-2009, 10:48 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">The lowest incidence of casualties appears to occur in the ball turret gunnerís position. This was partially due to the fact that only one of the two types of aircraft (B-17) carried a man in that combat position."

http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
I don't understand: the B-24 carried a ball turret as well, which was manned.

DKoor
02-12-2009, 11:09 AM
I think - rear gunner without doubt.
Nothing really beats a good old tailwax attack.
To flak, they were pretty much all exposed, luck played no.1 part there I guess...

About charts... I'd like to see:
-total number of gunners in combat by positions.
-total number of WiA/KiA by positions.

Then compare those (relatively in % ).
Now that would answer the original question for sure.

DKoor
02-12-2009, 11:20 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by danjama:
Still, all i can think of is how sad it is for any of the gunners lost. Why place more importance on one position over the other? They all assumed the same responsibilities and dangers when signing the dotted line. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-sad.gif </div></BLOCKQUOTE>+1

BOA_Allmenroder
02-12-2009, 12:03 PM
The waist gunner makes sense to me because you have to consider how the aircraft fought (tactics).

The Combat box ensured an awful lot of guns were firing at the 12, 6 position. And the rate of closure was either slow (6) or fast (12),

But obliquely, where the waist was, the fuselague area presented by the box was larger, aand fighers flying the standard pursuit curve against the combat box had more of an area to 'hit'(fuselage is larger % of aircraft area obliquely: multiply that by the aircraft in the box and the odds of hitting something, go up).

M_Gunz
02-12-2009, 12:14 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by berg417448:
I checked around and found this:

http://i117.photobucket.com/albums/o49/Berg417448/untitled.jpg

http://history.amedd.army.mil/...lstcs/chapter9.1.htm (http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/wwii/woundblstcs/chapter9.1.htm)


Looks like waist gunner during the time period of this particular study. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

I look at that last column, Case Fatality Rate. Tail gunner is 50% higher than side gunner.

DxyFlyr
02-12-2009, 12:58 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by BOA_Allmenroder:
The waist gunner makes sense to me because you have to consider how the aircraft fought (tactics).

The Combat box ensured an awful lot of guns were firing at the 12, 6 position. And the rate of closure was either slow (6) or fast (12),

But obliquely, where the waist was, the fuselague area presented by the box was larger, aand fighers flying the standard pursuit curve against the combat box had more of an area to 'hit'(fuselage is larger % of aircraft area obliquely: multiply that by the aircraft in the box and the odds of hitting something, go up). </div></BLOCKQUOTE>


That makes the most sense to me as well. Well put.

Also, you have to consider that the positions of tail gunner and ball turret were relatively small targets to incoming fighters and flak alike. The waist gunner/s were standing upright, more exposed or presenting more body mass to the shrapnel and what-not flying about the fuselage.

Aaron_GT
02-12-2009, 01:27 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">I look at that last column, Case Fatality Rate. Tail gunner is 50% higher than side gunner. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

It says that if you are a tail guner and are hit you are more likely to be killed, but you are less likely to be hit in the first place, and less likely to be killed overall. Given the relatively similar numbers killed in waist and tail it is probably a statistical dead heat, but significant in that waist gunners are much more likely to be wounded.