Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Bs: B-24, B-25, B-17 and a P-51

I've always been interested in WW II, especially in the airplanes. I finally went to see some of the classic warbirds from that era at the Anoka County airfield on Friday. The plane pictured above is a B-25J Mitchell. The B-25 is famous for the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. A raid that did little damage, but American moral soared as it was our first attack on Japan after Pearl Harbor.

These planes were not designed to take off from carriers, but they modified them, revved the engines up full throttle and they managed to barely take to the air.

The B-24J Liberator was the largest mass produced bomber made during the war, over 18,000 were manufactured.
The 2 waist gunners didn't have any protection from the cold air. There were no windows!

The B-17 Flying Fortress is probably the most famous of the heavy bombers. It is an amazing plane to see in person.

This is the ball turret gun pod. How a guy could sit in there for 9 hours I don't know. The guy below showed my how you put your feet onto two small platforms and then you layed back against the strap that you see in the picture. There is a plate that went behind you. The gunner could not get out when the landing carriage was up. So, he was locked in until they finished their mission and the plane landed. You had a glass sight about 2" wide. He told me when you had an enemy plane within the 2 lines on the glass, you fired your guns. The guns automatically led ahead of the plane so you were more accurate in your shooting. I didn't get this guy's name. He told me he was trained to be a gunner in the ball turret. He is 82 years old, but he never saw any action. He told me to find someone who was 84, because they got to shoot their guns "for real." You got to go inside the the 3 bombers. What I found most interesting is how little room there was! More then once I got caught at the hips by the framework of the plane and had to turn sideways to get through.
This is a P-51 Mustang fighter, my favorite plane of the war. These were the first fighters that had enough range to fly with the bombers all the way to Germany and back from England. If you've ever seen these planes in movies or newsreels, they taxi zig-zag. That's because the angle of the plane with the tail down doesn't allow for the pilot to see straight ahead. So they taxied zig-zag to look out on the field to see through the side windows. When you see it in person it's very obvious they can't see the ground in front of them with the tail down.

1 comment:

  1. My friend's father Hugh Casey was a tail gunner in a B24 or B17. Their plane was shot down over Germany and he was one of the only survivors. He ended up being machine gunned by Hitler Youth as he parachuted down and would spend 18 months as a prisoner of war. Most of it in a body cast. He had the massive holes (scars) in his legs to prove it. Definitely a hero.