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The Sperry Ball Turret ....

Discussion in 'Aircraft' started by sniper1946, Sep 28, 2010.

  1. sniper1946

    sniper1946 Expert

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    The Sperry lower ball turret was used in the Boeing B-17Flyingfortress and the Consolidated B-24 Liberator. The ball turret was mounted underneath the aircraft and was used to defend the bomber against aircraft attacking from below.
    The turret mounted two Browning 50 caliber machine guns that would fire750 to 850 bullets in a minute , that’s about 14 bullets a second. Statistically, the ball turret was one of the safest crew positions during WWII as ball turret gunners had the lowest loss rate.

    THE SPERRY BALL TURRET

    http://browningmgs.com/AirGunnery/05_ball.htm

    http://rides.webshots.com/album/551442433VZhdGx?start=0

    [YOUTUBE]l4GS1PND7pA[/YOUTUBE] if link video is stuttery, use this ..:)

    [YOUTUBE]JjCL6AAEb98[/YOUTUBE]
     
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  2. Spartanroller

    Spartanroller Ace

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    nice. :)
     
  3. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    While the "ball turret" was a nasty place for men to serve in the 17 (they could be locked in), it wasn't quite so bad for the men of the 24 since they could be "pulled up" into the fuselage with the entire unit.

    Now while the Sperry people were responsible for the belly/ball turret, the little revolving twin gun turret you see on the top of the B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, B-25 Mitchell and A-20 Havoc/B-26 Marauder bombers is the Tucker turret.

    Yes the same Preston Tucker who brought you the short lived; Tucker "48" automobile. He dropped the name "Tucker Torpedo" for "48" when someone pointed out that the name could conjure up visions of war and death, not safety and innovation. His turret was also used (without plexiglas cover) on PT boats, and Higgins boats. In fact he and Higgins were working together for a time.

    Tucker's patents for the turret were licensed out to various manufacturers to mass produce the turret in the high volume to meet demand. Tucker's patent rights were stolen and Tucker was embroiled in lawsuits for years trying to recoup royalties for use of his patents on the turret. He never prevailed.

    For some footage on his novel "Tucker Combat Car".

    Goto:

    VIDEO: Archival footage reveals Preston Tucker's novel military Combat Car — Autoblog
     
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  4. Spartanroller

    Spartanroller Ace

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    That combat car looks like it would be very useful in the sort of operations we have going on today - maybe its time will still come? Fascinating, thanks :)
     
  5. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner)

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    I’m afraid that is one of the many myths surrounding the controversial Preston Tucker. Sperry built the B-17 top turrets. The B-25, B-26 and B-24s used the Martin top turret which was a different animal. Neither of which were Tucker designs.
    Sperry had begun work on turrets as early as 1936. The Air Corps Material Branch had experimental work by various manufacturers in progress by 1938.
    The Material Branch looked at Tucker’s armored car mounted turret in July 1939 and found it to be slow moving, but had an unusual feature of interest being a commutator that did not arc under rapid reversals. Tucker attended a turret conference held at Wright Field in September 1939 with various manufacturers. He then proposed to build an electric drive for the existing manual B-18 turret. He asked for $10,000 to build an experimental model. By December 1940, the Material Branch concluded that the Tucker design was “not representative of assemblies contemplated for future procurement.” Tucker then built a modified prototype which was also rejected as unsatisfactory.
    Sperry, Bendix, Martin, Emerson and Consolidated all produced turrets of various designs which were used in production aircraft. The G.E. Amplidyne drive system was incorporated into the Martin turret and was in no way related to Tucker’s drive system. The Emerson turret was manufactured to a British Boulton-Paul design. I can find no evidence that Tucker patents were used by any of the various turret manufacturers.
    An in depth study of turret development can be found in AFHRA Study #54.
    Air Force Historical Research Agency - Studies
     
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  6. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Thank you, I stand corrected. Still liked the little "Combat Car" footage though.
     
  7. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner)

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    The ball turret also had the least fighter encounters and claims of any of the positions. The attached memo is from the 8th AF, 2nd Air Division requesting permission to remove ball turrets from B-24s to save weight and drag.

    The table showing data for the previous 6 months is interesting. The tail gunners had by far the most fighter encounters and claims. The nose, top and waist gunners had an almost equal distribution of encounters and claims. The ball turret was far behind in both.
     

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  8. sniper1946

    sniper1946 Expert

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    so! far from being in, what appears a precarious and vulnerable position, it was the best turret to be in? so to speak..
     
  9. sniper1946

    sniper1946 Expert

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    Alan Magee's B-17 was named 'Snap, Crackle, Pop' because the Fort's original pilot, Jacob Fredericks, had worked for Kelloggs Cereal before the war. Kelloggs was famous for its 'Rice Crispies' cereal, and the three little men, Snap, Crackle and Pop are still the mascots for the cereal. Ball turret gunner Magee fell over 20,000 feet without a parachute, and was saved when he crashed through the glass ceiling of the Nazaire, France train station.

    Remembering World War Two Airmen: Alan Magee: The Luckiest Ball Turret Gunner of WWII?
     
  10. Spartanroller

    Spartanroller Ace

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    'Mythbusters' did a good show exploring this one.
     
  11. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner)

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    A story similar to Magee's:

    On 2 April 1944 over Steyr Austria, the B-24 "Miss Behavin" (42-52086) went out of control and collided with "Superstitious Al-O-Ysius" (42-52136). "Peerless Clipper" (41-29216) was struck by debris from the collision and crashed. One crew member on another ship reported that "Miss Behavin" was struck by a rocket, but no other crewmen in the group reported any rockets fired at them. Of the 31 men aboard the three ships, the only survivor was S/Sgt Mark Schneider who was the BTG on "Miss Behavin".

    After the collision, he was able to climb out of his turret into the aircraft to attempt to find his parachute. He blacked out and awoke about 3 1/2 hours later in deep snow surrounded by the wreckage of his aircraft.

    A couple of pages of the Missing Aircrew Report:
     

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  12. sniper1946

    sniper1946 Expert

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    amazing stories, lucky or what...
     
  13. ULITHI

    ULITHI Ace

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    Since the ball turret experts are here, I wanted to ask if anyone knows any stories about the poem The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell?

    I was bored in English class one day in 11th grade. I flipped through our textbook and saw that poem, and always remember it!

     
  14. sniper1946

    sniper1946 Expert

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    plenty of debate on this very subject, darren.. The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner Analysis Randall Jarrell : Summary Explanation Meaning Overview Essay Writing Critique Peer Review Literary Criticism Synopsis Online Education
     
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  15. DaughterofWWII

    DaughterofWWII New Member

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    This was my father, Mark Schneider, my sister and I have recently discovered old articles etc... online. I knew he was in a plane crash but I was always under the impression he parachuted out and was taken a German POW, had no idea he survived a 20,000 ft. fall. He died when I was 9 sure would have loved to hear the stories. Now at 54 I am learning a lot.
     
  16. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy

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    Welcome. Do you have anything else you would like to add, such as a photograph or other documents? We'd like to see it all if you are willing.
     
  17. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner)

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    DaughterofWWII,

    Please contact me via this board's Private Message feature. I have the full Missing Aircraft Reports for all three aircraft involved and some information regarding the Fetting crew of which your father was a member.
     
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  18. Plwaldo

    Plwaldo New Member

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    Hello DaughterofWWII,
    My uncle was the pilot of the Peerless Clipper which went down when your dad's plane went down. A number of years ago I did some research because our family was never sure as to what happened that day. I made contact with various men who provided me with hand written letters and eye witness reports. Please let me know if you would like copies of these. I always wondered what happened to your dad. I'm sorry to hear that he passed away when you were so young. My dad was a B26 pilot during the war. Hope to hear from you!
     
  19. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner)

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    Your uncle was Jake Kury, I assume. He was also shot down one month earlier on 2 March 44 in "Lurchin Urchin" right over the battle line of the ground war. Two men fell close to the German lines and were captured, the other eight made it to the Allied lines. I would also be interested in the material you have. Please contact me via the PM feature.
     
  20. mac_bolan00

    mac_bolan00 Member

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    wait, the ball turret gunner on a '17 is suspended upside down, right? could something like the one in the movie "memphis belle" happen? could gunfire damage on the turret cause the gunner (sean astin) to dangle from the plane by just his retaining straps?
     

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