5 Things We Learned From A Ball Turret Gunner

5 Things We Learned From A Ball Turret Gunner | World War Wings Videos

YouTube / American Veterans Center

Lester Schrenk, a WWII Veteran and B-17 Ball Turret Gunner, sat down with the American Veterans Center for an interview. Here are 5 things we learned from him:

1. Nobody wanted to become a ball turret gunner

He was the last one chosen on his crew. Everyone was afraid to be the ball turret gunner, so he decided to give it away. However, nobody would take it from him so he was stuck with it.

It was even more uncomfortable to him since he was 5’11 and a half. Usually, these ball turrets were manned by people around 5’6 or 5’7.

“I was very scrunched in there. Believe me!”

2. They moved the turret with the handles

The ball turret, which is fitted with two .50-cal machine guns, can be pivoted and swung around if needed.

All you had to do was tilt any of the two handles which way you wanted to go – up, down, left, or right.

3. His Minnesotan background helped him a lot

It got very cold on the plane as it flew at high altitudes and were not pressurized. Sometimes it would even go down to -60F!

Fortunately, Mr. Schrenk came from a farm in Minnesota so he was very used to the cold weather.

“I don’t think it bothered me as much as the Southern guys did.”

4. The Germans had a habit of shooting the parachutes

On a mission in 1944, Schrenk and his crew were forced to bail out of their B-17 over Denmark. His parachute didn’t deploy at first, so he had to reach over his bag and get it out himself.

He said it “hit like a brick” when it deployed, due to how small the parachute was. Apparently, this was so they could safely parachute without getting shot down by the Germans.

5. They were guarded by 12 year olds

“They put us in a box car and they had the Hitler Youth… They were 12 and 13 years old guarding us. I think they were more afraid of us than we were afraid of them.”

Fortunately, the train ride only lasted overnight and they ended up in Poland where they were given two Red Cross parcels each.

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