Was just watching one of the WWII series “The Air War” on the History Channel. This one tells the story of the 8th Army- the main Army Air Force group charged with destroying the Luftwaffe prior to D-Day.

There is a part in this segment of the documentary that explains that on the return of one of a B17 bombing run, a gunner became trapped in his ball turret. That’s the plexi cockpit enclosure under the belly of the plane.

The plane had been shot up on it’s run: hydraulics & electrical systems were out, two engines were lost, fuel was low… The pilot radioed base to explain the situation though everyone knew the reality. The landing gear would not come down with the hydraulics out. The plane would have to crash land belly first on the tarmac: the ball torrent gunner would be crushed underneath and in between.

The video is an homage I came across based on the poem….

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner is a five-line poem by Randall Jarrell published in 1945. It is about the death of a gunner in a Sperry ball turret on a World War II American bomber aircraft.

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.

04.17.11