Trapped in the ball turret of his B-17 … over Germany he almost died…

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War Tales

Trapped in the ball of his B-17 … over he almost died

September 22, 4:38 am

Staff  Sgt. Bob was 20-years-old when this was taken during World War II. He 31 combat  missions as a ball gunner in a B-17 “Flying over Nazi-occupied Europe.

He now in Lazy River Mobile Park in North Port, Photo provided

Bob Burling’s Samuel, served as a motorcycle driver on the front lines in during World War I.  Bob served two four months and 10 days as of a B-17 … crew in War II, and his son, Robert, served the 1st Cavalry in Vietnam.

Ball gunner’s tale

It was their mission in “Berlin Special,” a “Flying Fortress.” Their … was part of the 92nd Group, 407th Squadron of the 8th Air flying out of an airbase near a tiny farm village 40-miles northwest of London World War II.

The date was April 20, Their mission: Bomb a suburb of Munich.

“What happened that a (Junker) JU-88, German … …, flew our formation of B-17s and tore us. Then a Focke-Wulf-190 fighter our ship and the other five at the tail end of the 1,200 … and shot down three of the six bring up the formation’s rear,” Bob of Lazy River mobile park in North Port, recalled 65 years later.

He was a sergeant and ball turret who contorted himself to squeeze the clear, plastic bubble on the of the massive aluminum bird.

we got over the target the flak was so you could almost land on it. Our bay doors were open and we on our final approach. I could see our fall away,” the 87-year-old resident recalled.

Former Sgt. Bob Burling holds up his flying jacket with the on the back representing 31 combat he flew over Nazi-occupied in a B-17 … during  War II. Sun photo by Don Moore

“Normally, fighters didn’t … final approach because of the but this time they We lost our number three and were forced to drop out of the because we couldn’t keep up.

“Two enemy fighters right with us. One of the fighters so close to our … its wing was our wing tip. I could see the of the German pilot’s eyes,” said. “He was flying a Messerschmitt-109 It had black and yellow check on its engine cowling and tail.

The cone was painted yellow.

there were three in our formation that were behind the main formation. The to our left went down one engine on fire. I don’t what happened to the one on our right,” he

“It was at this point my ball got knocked out. I lost but my oxygen. I got one round out of each of my machine guns and that was it.

I open my hatch and escape the plane and I could swivel my around. I was stuck,” Burling with a tremor in his voice and in his eyes more than a century after the incident.

“I knew we had lost an engine and I we were going down. I want to go down in flames so I everything to escape,” he said. “I to force open the turret and out at 20,000 feet without my but couldn’t. They say your flashes in front of you when about to ….

Well I move so I just sat there.

my radio was out I couldn’t communicate anyone and didn’t have any what was going on inside the Finally, I looked up through a glass port that me to see into the ….

“I could see Stallworthy, one of our waist gunners, an Indian. He saw me and he gave me the OK sign,” remembered. “Once we were out of the area the crew got the track of my turret unjammed, cranked it by hand until my trap could be opened and pulled me

By the time “Berlin Special” it back to its base at Podington the of the squadron had landed. Miraculously the crew escaped their and 45-minute 1,530 mile to Munich and back without a

Lt. Bill Ennis, pilot of B-17, picks up the story there. In an account of the 31 missions he years later, Ennis, and the rest of the crew flew April 20, 1944 until last mission on July 17,

“We later learned from our chief (after the Munich there were more 200 holes in the wings, fuselage and of our plane. I looked it over and a puncture in the left wing #2 engine. The edge of the puncture had jagged, upturned wing That meant a bullet or of flak had entered the leading of the wing, exploded and torn the top of the wing where one of our gas tanks was

We should have been to bits. Because I hadn’t any fuel out of that tank wasn’t any oxygen in the tank to an explosion.

“Every time we above Nazi-occupied Europe and it was a miracle. Here I must add all our safe returns go to the credit of the and His protective grace,” Ennis in his six page flight log. the war he became a Baptist missionary.

He is retired and lives in Grantville, MD.

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In Bob Burling and the remaining members of the 92 Group who could make it invited back to Podington for a Reunion. The 10 day affair wrapped up in the church. Sitting beside Bob was an couple who walked out of the services the old aviator.

“The Englishman in his pocket, pulled put a small aluminum cross on a silver He handed it to me,” Bob said. I was young I took a piece of from a damaged B-17 and it into this cross and it for years. I want you to have

On the flip side of the cross into the aluminum is one word and a “Boeing 1-18630.”


Name . Robert Burling

. 3 February 1922

Hometown . Ohio

Currently . North Fla

Entered Service . 21 November

Discharged . October 1944

. Staff Sergeant

Unit . Bomb Group, 407th of the 8th Air Force

Commendations . Distinguished Cross, an Air Medal with oak leaf clusters, campaign with three battle representing the Normandy Invasion, France, European, African and Eastern Theatre and the Air Offensive in

This story was first in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Florida on Monday, January 4, and is republished with permission.

All reserved. This copyrighted may not be republished without permission. are encouraged.

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