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13th squadron logo

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A B-26 in true fighting trim had upper and lower turrets, the lower turret being located behind the bomb bays and the upper turret over the aft end of the bomb bay. Each turret had two 50 caliber machine guns, with each gun having available about 500 rounds of ammunition in the can.

The gunner entered the gunners compartment through the bomb bay or from the top of the airplane through a hatch into his compartment. The compartment had a Plexiglas top which extended down the sides slightly below the top of the plane, affording some but limited upper side vision.

Once in the compartment, the gunner zipped shut the opening in the canvas which separated him from the bomb bay. For emergency bailout, the gunner had a switch which would open the bomb bay doors and jettison the bombs for a convenient exit. Exit through the top in an emergency was not recommended due to the danger of striking the tail surfaces during the exit.

Once the mission is underway the gunner is secured into his compartment. His main view of the world is through his gunsight.

Vernon Skinner
"Vernon Skinner"
"Gunners in the Chowline"
Jerry Pudwell
"Jerry Pudwell"

The sight is a double ended periscope, with heads sticking out the top and bottom of the fuselage, which enables the gunner to scan the entire sky around the plane. The equipment worked automatically. As the gunner looked through the eyepiece and moved it around, the guns automatically followed, pointing at whatever the sight was pointed at.

As the target moved from the upper range to the lower range, the periscope switched from the upper lens to the lower lens, and the gun continued to follow the target. The guns smoothly changed from firing the top turret to the bottom, according to the sight.

Theoretically, the gunner did not have to worry about shooting off his own wing tips or tail surfaces as he tracked targets which disappeared behind the aircraft structures. The upper turret had a fire interrupter which cut off the guns when they were pointing at his own wings, propeller or tail. Both turrets had a contour follower which mechanically raised or lowered the guns to clear the fuselage.

This was good protection but could fail. If the gunner becomes excited during the action and gets the guns too hot, the guns could "cook-off" as he stowed the guns to the rear.

Charles Billingslea
"Charles Billingslea"
MIA February 21, 1952
Bob Smolinsky
"Bob Smolinsky"

Jerry Sutts
"Jerry Sutts"
During approximately the first two months of the war the 13th flew daylight missions, during which the duty of the gunner was to protect the aircraft against enemy aircraft. The United Nations controlled the sky during the entire war, but a B-26 gunner did in fact shoot down an enemy airplane. However, the principal duty was to suppress enemy anti-aircraft fire during attacks from low level.

During night intruder flights the gunners knowledge of the progress of the mission was principally through monitoring the conversation between the pilot and navigator, frequently hearing such admonitions from the navigator to the pilot to "Pull up, Pull up, pull up you son of a bitch," which did little to ease the gunner's mind about the progress of the mission.

Attacks were carried out at high speed, with resulting high G loads and violent maneuvers as the pilot tried to avoid enemy flak and contact with the ground. The gunner mostly stared into the black night through his periscope. North Korea was always completely blacked out except for truck headlights and the flash of enemy guns. When he could see the enemy guns his work began.

Eight Gunners
(L-R) Standing in back: Al Andre', Lawrence Cooper, Jerry Baldwin, Dale Leedy
Kneeling in front: Dick Shaffer, Earl Brooks, Jose Martinez, Dick VanBuren

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