Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A seat on the plane

B-17G Flying Fortress Sentimental Journey
B-17s were heavy bomber aircraft. Over 8000 G models were built, and some were converted to other uses besides 'bombing'. But most were bombers with 13 'guns'. 
B-17s are HUGE aircraft. Massive. Five gunners 'man' the guns, and five other crew members are aboard. A gunner sits in a little bulb located underneath the aircraft. Another sits in a "bulb" at the tail. One above sits in a bulb above, and two more at the sides/at the 'waist'. 

On one single Thursday during World War II, the aircraft took a beating. 77 B-17s were shot down, destroyed, crashed. 680 airmen aboard those B-17 were killed. 

Randall Jarrell, U.S. Poet Laureate (1956-58), imagined the day all too well. He wrote a poem titled "The Death of a Ball Turret Gunner". 

Jarrell sees the belly gunner/ball turret gunner in ways we can't imagine.
"I hunched in its belly..."

Jarrell envisioned the gunner facing 
"black flak and the nightmare fighters".

And then the most sickening imagery: 
"When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose."

NO! I scream. NO. 

And I add one more PLOTUS to my spreadsheet. 
Sometimes I am sorry I do.


Lucy aka Roeann said...

Neat post. I just love planes and especially all these old ones. If I was a woman of wealth, I'd go out to Falcon Field and take a ride in one of these.

Snapper II said...

Great post. Savannah Ga my home was home to the 8th air force, until the went over seas.

Sandra said...

my dad's younger brother was a tail gunner in one of those bulbs, he refused to tell a single story, would leave the room if anyone asked about the war. i can't even imagine

Thérèse said...

Oh no!
Such a short moving poem!

Sam said...

That was one of my Dad's favorite planes - we visited and flew in the Sentimental Journey dozen's of times before he passed away. I've got such a soft spot for it!


Pat Tillett said...

I love the info on the plane. That line about washing him out with a hose was pretty powerful. Wow!

Pat MacKenzie said...

An uncle of mine was a ball turret gunner during WWII. Unfortunately his plane was shot down over the North Sea and never recovered. That poem is very powerful.

Banjo52 said...

As you know, I find that poem a powerhouse.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Thank you all for your comments. Those who have experienced the War from the viewpoint of a B-17 crew person - I cannot imagine. The poem certainly says it all.

retriever said...

Interresting post, greeting from Beglium