S/Sgt. Harry F. Fryar

Small men were generally chosen as ball turret gunners.  Harry Fryar of Missouri was not small but was chosen because Sgt. Israel Willig had refused.  Harry was the youngest on the crew and a naïve country boy.  The rest were east coast city boys and they made Harry the ball turret gunner.  There was no room for a chute in this cramped position.  He did not climb in the ball turret until after takeoff and climbed out again before landing.  The ball turret was hoisted into the fuselage for takeoff and landing.  It was not unusual for the temperature to drop to -50 degrees when the ball turret was lowered into the slipstream beneath the B-24’s fuselage after the aircraft had achieved altitude following takeoff.  The intense cold was terrible.

Harry was often very frightened during the missions, particularly during the actual bomb run over the target.  At those times the airplanes in formation had to keep their flight path as level as possible for a better distribution of their bomb drop.  The two 50 caliber machine guns in the ball turret were pointed straight down during the bomb run in order to contribute to the steadiness of the flight path with a minimum of jarring or spinning.  This meant Harry was always in a fetal position during the entirety of the target fly-over, looking straight down through the turret’s window at all of the action below and around him.  He had the best view of where the flak was coming from as the bomber formation flew over the target area.

On one mission over Germany Harry’s ball turret and its hydraulic system were hit by flak.  Harry was not hit but his crew had to manually crank the turret up and get him out.  Harry was soaked in hydraulic fluid, which made the rest of the mission his coldest ever.

Ball Turret