Just Published


How to Become a Ball Turret Gunner

By David Sears

Originally published by Air & Space Smithsonian, May 2015

To learn to shoot from a bomber, World War II airmen went to the movies.

Gunners on World War II bombers had only a microsecond to estimate an attacking fighter’s range, speed, path of attack, and bullet ballistics. During attacks that themselves lasted merely seconds, the gunner had to make those mental calculations, then align his weapons and sights, praying that the guns wouldn’t jam or the barrels melt. To teach bomber crews how to survive these aerial attacks, thetrainer_front Army Air Forces opened schools in isolated locales with favorable flying conditions. The first opened in mid-1941—despite, in the words of an Army report, the “unsatisfactory moral conditions” of the location: Las Vegas

Before the Army began preparations to enter World War II, aerial gunnery had been taught in more generalized Air Corps schools. But in the fall of 1941, the service opened a second school, near Harlingen, Texas. In the next two years, five more—another in Texas, two in Arizona, and two on Florida’s Gulf coast—followed. At full speed, the seven schools churned out 3,500 graduates a week, and nearly 300,000 by war’s end.

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3 thoughts on “Just Published

  1. James Moore

    Mr Sears,
    The purpose of this comment is to inform you that my father, Gerald Moore, who served on the destroyer USS Hank during WWII and mentioned in the Roll Call of your book “At War with the Wind”, died on January 1, 2015. Your book (signed by you in Sept, 2008) was a Christmas present from me that year and read by him twice. My stepmother said he kept it by his bed ever since.
    On page 339 where the Hank is mentioned during an attack, he was firing a 20 mm at the kamikaze that killed three men. He never told anyone except his wife (my stepmother) that he ducked as it passed over him and when he raised his head, his loader next to him had no head.
    I had asked him to write down his experiences before your book was published and I’d send to you but he was so like the many men of his generation (the ‘Greatest’) and didn’t want to talk about it.
    I wanted you to know the pleasure you gave him by writing about the men who served our country at that time.
    Thank you,
    James Moore
    Wauwatosa, WI

  2. Mark L Gundert

    Mr. Sears,
    I read your book, Such Men as These, with great interest. My father was KIA in Korea when I was 9 months old. He was a highly decorated WW-II (VF-49) & Korean (VF-874) fighter pilot. My father was mentioned in the appendix of your book but with the wrong fighter group (VF-783). Some Navy records were wrong, as you might have guessed. Lt. LA Gundert was with the Bon Homme Richard in the summer and fall of 1951. He earned the Navy Cross, (3) Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Purple Heart and (2) Presidential Unit Citations before he was shot down on a bombing run in North Korea.

    God bless you for your book!


    Mark L Gundert
    Captain-National City FD (retired)
    1989 Pleasant Valley Loop
    Naples, Idaho 83847
    619 454-6858


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