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PostPosted: Thu 17 Aug 2017 18:53 pm 
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I have been watching the film "Battle of Britain" a lot recently, and it struck me that those poor air gunners in the Heinkels were really flailing away with no hope of success. Similarly, researching for the Defiant GB, I find the turret was not the most successful arrangement against anything other than slow, large bombers. Was it successful at all in different platforms?. One could argue that the air gunnery was intended chiefly as a deterrent, discouraging enemies from coming too close. So, a couple of questions:-
  • What was the success rate for air gunners in downing enemy aircraft in WW2, in all forces?
  • If a gunner actually shot down an enemy, was he credited with a "kill", was the whole of the aircrew, or no one?
  • Were there any markings to "celebrate" this (like the cockpit side crosses on fighters)?
  • Was there a level of success that marked one as an "Ace" and did anyone achieve this?
Idle curiosity, really

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PostPosted: Thu 17 Aug 2017 19:24 pm 
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Interesting topic, but going back to the Movie, "Battle of Britain", at least one German Gunner was successful. The Mass formations of American Bombers, certainly did, (and marked kill tally's on the Aircraft), and of course with multiple guns, from multiple planes, came multiple claims, for the one enemy aircraft downed.
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Aug 2017 19:25 pm 
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A. the deterent factor was the main one, kill success rate was very low
B. yes, he was credited with a 'kill', sometimes in Defiants and Beaufighters the two crew shared the victory, not as a half each but as a whole one
C. some gunners, notably US ones, put markings at their gunnery position
D. There were some gunner aces

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PostPosted: Thu 17 Aug 2017 20:14 pm 
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I read somewhere that the American bomber crews (claimed to) shot down over twice the number of aircraft the Germans had.


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PostPosted: Thu 17 Aug 2017 20:22 pm 
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Aug 2017 20:35 pm 
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There were 10 Defiant Aces, those who scored more than 5 in the type.
Mustn't forget Wallace McIntosh the RAF's most successful bomber air gunner with a total of 8

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PostPosted: Thu 17 Aug 2017 21:47 pm 
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I used to think that bomber gunners were pretty ineffective until I read "I Flew for the Fuhrer" by Heinz Knoke. He makes it clear that attacking American heavy bombers was very difficult and the gunners certainly couldn't be ignored.

Whilst the idea that a formation of heavy bombers could defend itself from fighter attacks proved to be a wrong, that doesn't mean that bringing them down was easy or without losses to the Luftwaffe. Remember that like the RAF in the Battle of Britain shooting down a German fighter didn't necessarily mean that the same pilot wouldn't be back in different aircraft the next day. Obvious tactics meant trying to break up a formation or damage aircraft which could then be destroyed when they couldn't stay in formation.

Even before the arrival of long range fighter cover Knoke describes flying into a formation of Fortresses or Liberators as a very dangerous undertaking and he was shot down and wounded by air gunners.

Overall his book is highly recommended, you can't help admiring his extraordinary courage whilst despising his love of the Fuhrer and National Socialism. I found the book, published soon after the war ended, to be much more honest than some other accounts from the defeated side.

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PostPosted: Thu 17 Aug 2017 22:30 pm 
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Jon.M wrote:
I used to think that bomber gunners were pretty ineffective until I read "I Flew for the Fuhrer" by Heinz Knoke. He makes it clear that attacking American heavy bombers was very difficult and the gunners certainly couldn't be ignored.
'Viermot' (multi engine bombers) counted as multiple kills if you got one - I forget how many but I think 25 viermots would get you a Knight's Cross. USAAF formations and their heavier guns made them a much tougher prospect than bomber raids mounted by the Luftwaffe against the UK and RAF raids against Germany. Although RAF bombers had multi gun turrets, they usually operated in isolation so you didn't get the same concentration of fire as you would with a formation. That's not to suggest RAF gunners were ineffective, if you read accounts by German nightfighter crews it soon becomes obvious that stalking prey undetected was key to their success, a good burst from a four gun tail turret could be devastating.

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PostPosted: Sat 19 Aug 2017 17:05 pm 
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All I know is that if you don't pay attention in European Air War those gunners will spoil your day. One of the more interesting technologies developed during the war was the proximity fuse. It took a big shell to hold one in those early days, but they tore up some kamikazes.

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PostPosted: Mon 21 Aug 2017 07:12 am 
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Found this item https://www.warhistoryonline.com/military-vehicle-news/the-forgotten-aces-air-gunner-aces-of-wwii-image-heavy.html some time ago - have a look

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PostPosted: Mon 21 Aug 2017 13:57 pm 
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@dancho - proximity fuses are irrelevant to most air gunners, since they'd be mostly using 0.303", 7.62mm or 0.5" machine guns, and proximity fuses need a round big enough to hild an explosive charge.

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PostPosted: Tue 22 Aug 2017 10:24 am 
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I think that the measure of success lies not in how many fighters they shot down, but how many bombers would have been shot down had they not been there. As someone has hinted above, their role could be seen as more deterrent than any sense of failure for not achieving vast numbers of kills.


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PostPosted: Wed 23 Aug 2017 22:00 pm 
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Paws4thot wrote:
@dancho - proximity fuses are irrelevant to most air gunners, since they'd be mostly using 0.303", 7.62mm or 0.5" machine guns, and proximity fuses need a round big enough to hild an explosive charge.
You got a point there. I was off topic.

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PostPosted: Thu 24 Aug 2017 00:40 am 
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dancho wrote:
All I know is that if you don't pay attention in European Air War those gunners will spoil your day.
I do miss EAW, but my current PC is too modern to play it. Mind you I'm not sure I could find all the mods and skins anymore, not even the ones I made myself. I did happen across two of mine on a site I was browsing for nostalgia and I downloaded one of them to see what the text files said, turned out I had completed it a few days before my son was born and the scariest thing is he will be seventeen just after Christmas!

I have to ask, seeing as EAW came up. Dancho, are you the dancho of Dancho's EAW Paintbarn?


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PostPosted: Thu 24 Aug 2017 01:41 am 
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I'm minded about the Halifax.
During its rebuilds it lost its nose turret; reasons were to get rid of excess weight and after analysis it was found the nose turret wasn't needed as enemy head-on attacks were almost zero
After a period, due to aircrew pressure and their morale a single free mounted m/g was put into the nose. The crew felt safer with it there. However, that m/g was usually used to 'pop off' at search lights on bombing run-ins, but very rarely to see off enemy night fighters
Bomber crew were happier having guns and gunners even though they rarely had a chance to use their m/gs. As good as the gunners were they rarely saw the night fighter which shot them out of the sky. Few, very few, would have had the chance to get to Ace status
A few years ago an Historian pieced together the details and spoke with the bomber gunner who possibly/probably shot down Guy Gibson VC. One victory that gunner would probably not ever have wanted

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PostPosted: Thu 24 Aug 2017 03:43 am 
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Interesting conversation here (link address below) about ballistics of the .303 round. The claim is that the standard .303 and the armour-piercing .303 couldn't penetrate the protective armour-plate on Luftwaffe night fighters; the air-gunners would have to hope to hit something "soft.;" fuel lines or control wires. The demonstration has a Bren set up about 10-15 yards away from appropriate plate - the rounds don't penetrate. I would think that this is a pretty limited experiment on account of the aircraft in question possibly each increasing/decreasing the velocity of the transaction by 300-400 mph. The .303 Browning had a 2,660 fps and a 1,150 rpm - that would make much more of a rattle in a night fighter than the Bren's 2,440 fps and 500? rpm.

I only saw this about a week ago (airplanes aren't my bag), and I thought it was pretty interesting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALYmYF3vo8o

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PostPosted: Thu 24 Aug 2017 12:42 pm 
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Dangerbod wrote:
I have to ask, seeing as EAW came up. Dancho, are you the dancho of Dancho's EAW Paintbarn?


That's me. I've been an innocent miscreant for years now. Oops-- :ot:

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PostPosted: Thu 24 Aug 2017 12:48 pm 
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James Russell wrote:
The claim is that the standard .303 and the armour-piercing .303 couldn't penetrate the protective armour-plate on Luftwaffe night fighters; the air-gunners would have to hope to hit something "soft.;" fuel lines or control wires.


I read somewhere that the .303 round (and "modern" thirty caliber weapons in general) were developed to kill or incapacitate a horse with one round. A .303 is an anti-horse weapon.

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PostPosted: Thu 24 Aug 2017 21:36 pm 
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The "normal" loading for RAF gunners was equal quantities of standard, incendiary, AP & tracer.
My earlier link was about Tom McLean who preferred just tracer & AP, the increased tracer to discourage the night fighters & the AP to have more chance of doing damage, & he was quite successful.


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PostPosted: Fri 25 Aug 2017 09:33 am 
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I remember reading Len Deightons book Bomber a long time ago and if I remember correctly the take on air gunners in that book was eye opening. They didn't have much luck but were there mainly to put the attacking fighters off. more of a deterent than anything else.

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