View Full Version : The dreaded tail gunners deserve a medal!

Skoshi Tiger
09-02-2007, 11:52 PM
I was just reading through a old copy of FlyPast when I came across an article about a gunner Paul Vleck, onboard a B-29 in the Pacific.

Now I've (like many others) have had missions cut short by a Japanese Bombers' tail gunner/sniper. This article made me reflect on the time I suffered that fate and realise that every single time, it was probably all my own fault!

He is a section of the article

<QUOTE FlyPast may 2005 – a Gunner's Tale>
On April 12, 20 B-29s of the 6th carried out a comparatively rare daylight attack on a chemical complex in the city of Koriyama. As the bombers entered Japanese airspace and headed for the target at over 250mph (400km/h), Paul saw through his sight blister what first appeared as a speck, which soon grew into a Ki-43 fighter attempting to close on the formation:

"He was at like 7[o'clock] – 7:30, low, trying to catch us from the rear... I thought he wasn't ever going to get up to us, and we were in formation! And nobody in the other planes saw him, just the tail gunner and I ... and he's going like hell trying to catch us – and he was a long time before he was in effective range.

So I screwed the sight down as far as it would go so that made the circle small, and that was supposed to be in [maximum] range of the guns –like 800 yards. So I Had the lower turrets – those were the only guns to bear – that's like four 0.50s, so this guy's coming and I'm letting him grow in the [sight] because he's catching us so slow and I thought, ˜I'm gonna burn up the guns or something before he gets here'.

So wicham, the tail gunner, must have been tracking him with his sight, but his guns wouldn't bear, and he said, ˜Hey, Vleck, any time you can open fire now,' so I start and ... and he just went all to pieces – probably 600 [yards range] and he was maybe catching us at 30 or 40mph – it takes a long time to travel 600 yards at 30mph. I must have got off probably a thousand rounds, at least". </QUOTE>

I did the maths and came up with the figures. (I converted to metric)

800yrds is about 744meters (800*3 *0.31)
40mph is ~65km/hr or about 18 meters per second.

That would take about 41 seconds to travel 800 yrds.

Considering that I normally have my guns set on a convergence of about 250 meters the gunner would have about 500m or 27seconds to take his time to nail me.

I know that the Betty bombers aren't Super Fortresses, Armaments are different and a lot of other factors come into play, BUT the same principles apply. The tail gunners have the advantage of time to set up their shots, take aim and warn the other gunner in the plane of my movements.

If as a fighter pilot I make a tactically stupid mistake like attacking from a bombers' 6 then I deserve to die.

09-03-2007, 01:25 AM
What do I think?
I think their chances to nail you at distances over 200m are about same as winning the small prize on lottery.

It's hard to nail a running human at 200m from fixed position (I'm not saying close to impossible, but...) let alone high speed flying aircraft from fast moving position.

The only real chance they have (rear gunners) is if you are close and keep closing directly at 6 o clock so they don't have to use deflection.

Real machine guns (not ours from IL-2) have some degree of vibration, shaking or whatever you want to call it that renders their attempt to be precise on longer distances close to impossible. Sure with fixed (automatic etc.) gun positions that chances are increasing.

It's not without a reason why many players regard IL-2 Ai bomber gunners as 'snipers' http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif

09-03-2007, 01:40 AM
yea i agree, gun recoil, aircraft movement (turbulance etc.)limited gun movment and muzzle flash. would have made life as a defencive gunner very difficult..

Skoshi Tiger
09-03-2007, 04:47 AM
Given all that, in the situation described you'ld have the advantage over the fighter pilot who would have to put up with all that and manuver his whole aircraft to aim his guns.

I'm not saying it was easy. But these guys were generally highly trained professionals.

09-03-2007, 07:03 AM
Keep in mind that the B-29's guns used a computer to come up with the correct firing solution and could coordinate at least two turrets at one time to deliver fire on a single target, far more accurate and formidable than the non-computer controlled twin 50 caliber turrets of other bombers.

09-03-2007, 07:58 AM
Nonetheless...its all about angles and that Ki-43 came in pretty much dead six (thus no or very little angle) with no overtake (granted the Ki-43 doesn't have any real opportunities for overtake on a B-29) and he paid the price for that sort of attack.

Interesting story!

09-03-2007, 04:23 PM
Originally posted by VW-IceFire:
Nonetheless...its all about angles and that Ki-43 came in pretty much dead six (thus no or very little angle) with no overtake (granted the Ki-43 doesn't have any real opportunities for overtake on a B-29) and he paid the price for that sort of attack.

Interesting story!


09-03-2007, 05:22 PM

This is a 1948 RAF trainning focused in dealing with the "new" Soviet four engine long range heavy bomber, the TU-4.

Skoshi Tiger
09-03-2007, 06:06 PM
Also, like some 'computer' gun sights in the fighters of the time, to use accurately you had to dial in the sight so the ring matched the wingspan of the target, set the size of the target wingspan and track the target until it could resolve the firing solution.

In the fighters, pilots who good deflection shooters disliked the computerised sights. But they gave average pilots an advantage.

Interesting to note that US stategic bombers from Korea onwards lost the defensive guns except for the tailgun.

Newer ones have relied on speed/NOE or stealth to avoid detection.

09-04-2007, 03:49 AM
Defensive guns began disappearing from bombers because the method of attack was changing. Machine guns and cannons were of little use against missiles and flak. Also, in the skies over Korea I don't think the B-29's were being attacked by large numbers of fighters like they were in the skies over Japan during WW II.