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The Brief Life of Turret Gunner
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From 15:00 GMT 6th May 2014 till 15:00 GMT 7th May 2014

Using Gunner positions in any aircraft (turrets, machine guns, hatch positions) - destroy the following number of enemy aircraft (you should be in gunner view)

10/4/2  - 20.000 SIlver Lions

20/10/4 - 40,000 Silver Lions


 

The Brief Life of Turret Gunner

 

The most uncomfortable and by far the most dangerous position in combat aircraft was the gunner’s station, fighting not just enemy aircraft but well below sub-zero temperatures, sunburn, and dehydration.  At the very best it was quite uncomfortable, at the worst it was guaranteed to be fatal.  The danger level was modified, usually worse, by the type (location and configuration) of station the insanely brave airmen had to occupy.

 

Defensive mountings in aircraft allowed paths for strong airflows to blast the crew, in almost always sub-zero winds, nose mounts by far the worst.  For example at ground level on the hottest 40*C (104*F) day will be a cool 17*C (65*F) at 3000m (9000ft), and that was low altitude for bombing.  The temperature at the typical cruising altitude of 6000m (20,000ft) will be about freezing most of the year, worse during the winter seasons, so the crews’ number one concern was not enemy fighters and flak, but frost bite!  The air is dry too, so water was essential or turn into a mummy.  With so much effort to combat the environment the bit about shooting at enemies during a mission was sometimes a welcome distraction!

 

While fighting the elements is an often overlooked part of the gunners’  job, operating the station is better known, and very dangerous.  Located at the extreme ends of the bomber, like the tail or nose, highly exposed to enemy fire and often in between the incoming explosive rounds and the target of those rounds, many shredded bombers returned home almost always suffered gunner fatalities.

 

As the war progressed the light machine guns on pintel were replaced by heavier weapons in powered turrets, but that meant cramming more into the same space, and forcing the gunner into ever smaller workspace.  I had the opportunity to examine several weapon installations which range from fairly open pintle mounts to completely encased power turrets, even enclosed inside those turrets to experience a glimpse of what is must have been like for the brave crew.  Two of the aircraft I examined is the TBM-E3 N7226C at Texas Flying Legends Museum and B-17G (-95-DL) 44-83872 of Gulf Coast Wing CAF Houston allowed me to see the huge risks for the gunner, because once they are enclosed they are effectively trapped inside if the turret is stuck in the wrong position!  I was only able to get inside only because I was bereft of the bulky flight suites.  In both cases the cramped size of these designs meant the parachute was located inside the plane close to the turret, adding more time and complexity to egress. The TBM was the smallest, legs tucked almost to ones chin (put your feet on edge of chair seat for idea) and elbows pinned to sides.  Fortunately for TBM a side window can open in soft emergency landing.  The Ball Turret gunner was not in such a fortuitous position, the ventral location puts it between the ground and the bomber in emergency landings. It is also much darker, feeling more like a coffin which for many it did. To its benefit it had more room and is somewhat comfortable, that is if claustrophobia is non issue.

 

Combat records state starkly casualties for gunners was higher, sometimes far higher, than for most of the other crew; for instance gunners on JU-87 Stuka and IL-2 Sturmovik fatality rate was 3 to 4 times the casualties for pilots.  It was truly a deadly job.

 

The War Thunder Team

 


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