The upper turret housing.

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Turret found in the crawl space of a house.

In September of 2010, Mrs. Beverly Folden from Springfield, Ohio, found under her house an item that appeared to be an aircraft part.  She learned that the item was an upper turret of a B-17.  The turret had been under the house for many years. The steel frame was rusted badly where it touched the ground. The Plexiglas window panels were, however, in good shape.

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This a picture of the top turret, as it was, when removed from underneath a house and sat there since 1944-1945, (70 years). The glass looks frosted but can be buffed. A bottom ring had to be made and welded on the steel frame.

TOP TURRET

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A new bottom ring was welded on the turret.

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TOP TURRET T3
The turret was painted with rust protective coatings. The turret was made of steel and required better protection. A couple of 50 cal. guns were fitted to make sure it would fit on top of the airplane. The glass windows were already buffed and put in storage so we wouldn’t damage them during the multiple times we took the turret off and on.

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The turret was most likely manufactured at the SPECO division of Kelsey-Hayes in Springfield, Ohio, during  WW2. (SPECO: Steel Products Engineering Company, Baker Road in Springfield).  The facility was closed in 1970 and manufacturing moved to other places.   We learned from the records that SPECO was given a reward for “Excelence”, presented by an Army General Cook.   News paper articles from 1944 and records show that in the house where  Mrs Beverly Folden presently lives,  during WW2,  a tool & die maker lived who was  employed at SPECO.

We found no serial number or markings  on the turret but we can assume that the item came from SPECO.

The turret ‘s rusted sections were replaced and the window panels buffed.  The freshly painted turret sits on top of the B-17 with Beverly’s name on it.

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A skirt had to be made to secure the top turret to the fuselage. The skirt fits in the opening on top of the fuselage.

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Mrs. Folden donated the part to the Champaign Aviation Museum.

Upper turret operation.

During WW2 the upper turret was operated by the flight engineer, usually a Tech. Sergeant. The flight engineer was the technical man on the airplane and also a trained gunner. He  assisted the pilots during take offs and landings.

The turret had (2)  .50 caliber machine guns which could rotate 360 degrees and point up at angle of 85 degrees.

A 500 round of ammunition, for each barrel, was stored in turret-mounted boxes.

To prevent the gunner from damaging the airplane, the guns would not fire when aimed at the tail and the propellers.   A device called an interrupter prevented the guns from firing.

The Ball Turret.

The Ball Turret.     Where did it come from?

It came from the Armory Dance Hall in Greely, Colorado. 

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The ball turret was purchased in an auction it will be installed in the B-17G,  the “Champlain Lady”.  The serial number of the B-17 from which these parts were removed is 44-83316.    

 The Champaign Aviation Museum has also the aft fuselage section of the 44-83316, which was used as reference to built a new aft fuselage section per drawing.It was purchased at an auction after the place went out of business.  The ball turret was hanging in the ceiling above a dance floor.   There was also a  pilot throttle control for sale.  The Champaign Aviation Museum bought

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Purchased in ………. less the barrels and the stand.

A ball turret on a B-17 hangs under the aircraft directly behind the radio room.

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The gunner protects the airplane from fighter attacks below the airplane with (2) .50 calibers machine guns.  The guns were effective to about 800 yards.

The ball turret is loaded with (2) ammunition boxes. Each box holds about 500 shells.

The ball turret gunner usually slides into the ball as soon as the airplane is airborne with the help of an other crewmember.

B-17 ball turret 2

The gunner enters and exits thru a narrow opening which gets locked/unlocked from the outside.          The entering and exiting can only take place when the (2) barrels are pointing down and the opening is inside the airplane.

In case of emergency somebody has to help the gunner to come out of the ball turret.   On long flights the gunner will stay in his position until it is safe and the area is clear of enemy planes.  Usually this takes place when the airplane is preparing for a landing.    One does not want to be in the ball during landings in case a landing gear in not locked in place and the airplane’s weight sits on top of the ball.   A ball turret gunner may be in his ball as long as 8-10 hours.  The ball turret gunner was important in the protection of their airplane.    According to B-17 airplane fatality statistics, the ball turret was the safest place to be in.                            

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When the barrels are pointed down the gunner can enter or exit the ball turret through a hatch in the ball.  The hatch must opened or closed, externally, by one of the other crew members.

Electric motors would horizontal 360 degrees and also 90 degrees in the up/down position.

It was a very effective weapon covering the bottom side of the airplane.

A ball turret gunner was connected to the interphone, oxygen and electric system of the B-17.