Three of Depot 41's five WWII Chevrolet trucks covered in snow. From left to right,

an actual former Gunnery Trainer, Cargo and Dumper.

TRUCK, TURRET TRAINER

1-1/2 TON, 4 x 4, E-5

 

WWII roles for the 1-1/2 ton Chevrolet Army truck included that of Cargo Hauler (similar in appearance to the deuce-and-a-half GMC, but with a single rear axle and less-beefy drivetrain), Dumper, Fire Equipment, Bomb Service, Field Lighting Platform, Telephone Construction/Pole Setter and, as seen to the right, E-5 Turret Trainer. The E-5 was first delivered from the factory simply as 'cab-chassis' to Herman Body Co. that fabricated steel framework to accomodate any of the U.S. Army Air Force's fully-operational aircraft gun turrets:

 

Students at the various AAF's gunnery schools who showed proficiency in the classroom

earned the right to squeeze into these earthbound, lead-spewing machines,

where each trainee then learned the fine art of syncronizing the turret's movement

with the electronic Gunsight, hopefully resulting in a target riddled with his .50 caliber bullets.

Projectile tips pre-dipped in slow-drying printer's ink would leave traces of the gunner's assigned color as it penetrated the cloth target.

Here's a Sperry A-1 Top Turret Ammo Can that was repurposed for Kingman's Gunnery Training; one can see various colors of printers ink smudges that must have coated fingers as well!

...Passing this portion of ground phase, the student's excitement was just beginning,

for it was now into air training and one step closer to combat...

The PROJECT

Early in the 80's, clearly realizing that a flying platform (aka B-17 or B-24) to wrap around the newly-acquired Sperry Ball Turret was out of financial reach, something a little more down-to-earth would have to materialize. Hey, how about a Gunnery Trainer, just like they once used at Kingman?! It would combine both air & ground in an honest-to-goodness, authentic recreation...

 

Years rolled by restoring the Ball, gathering the many related parts in order make it function, plus finding, purchasing — and this was the heavy part of the project — hauling home, not one, but FIVE of the correct WWII 1-1/2 Ton Chevys so at least a single E-5 Training Truck could be built. Searches through Kingman junkyards in the 80's yielded many valuable original parts stripped from E-5 Trainers, such as this group of Jack Stands . . .
. . . several large Bins, used during WWII to store ammunition, Jack Stands (above), tools, etc, that also provided spare tire mounts for the Turret Trucks, which are currently stuffed full of various items from the Kingman planes . . .

 . . . and a dozen steel traversing Rings stenciled with various types of USAAF Turrets. What appears to be a running board at the lower right is actually the Instructor's Platform originally mounted behind the truck's cab.

Several boxes that once housed electronic controls for operating the turrets, along with many other small items unique to the Chevy E-5 were also discovered.

 

Only one of the fascinating Depot 41 Projects, the Lower Ball

is currently waiting patiently in the Depot 41 Museum Room.

However, this is what it looked like back in 1985,

coated in chromate green primer and flanked by two close friends,

B-17 Ball Turret Gunners

Dick Bowman

(96th BG)

 & John Hurd

(401st BG)

You may have seen these fellas on various television specials,

relating their fascinating War experiences. Dick's connection with the Kingman story:

On 2 of his combat missions he manned the Lower Ball Turret

in the 96th Bomb Group's famous 5 GRAND, Boeing's five thousandth

B-17 to roll off their Seattle assembly line. This bomber completed

over 70 missions and ended her days at Kingman.

The Depot 41 Museum Collection includes the Load Adjuster (object seen in Dick's hand above) that was removed from 5 GRAND prior to her being destroyed at Kingman . . .

A nice shot of Dick at the 1983 Chino Airshow with the B-17 Sentimental Journey.

Dick Bowman went on his final mission in 2004.

 

 

11 April 1944

On his 11th mission, John Hurd was forced to bail out of his beloved 401st BG Flying Fortress named

BATTLIN' BETTY

after it received fatal blows from enemy fighters and FLAK.

While floating to earth in his parachute, John watched in amazement

as his flaming & smoking B-17 plunged into a river without any dramatic

explosion whatsoever - just a big splash and she was gone!

He then spent nearly a year as a POW behind barbed wire at the infamous Stalag 17B

before starting an 18 day forced march westward, away from the approaching

Russians and eventually to freedom once more!

 

John L. Hurd Stateside and shortly after being captured:

My wife & I have recently been honored to escort him

to several of his American Ex-Prisoners of War meetings.

July 2001

John is seen here putting his name & Bomb Group information on one of the Depot 41 practice bombs that have been painted to look like the real thing; they're hanging from a

B-17 #4 Bomb Rack that survived Kingman.

Click the arrow below to hear John talk

(recorded by my first digital camera with video ability, but less than one megapixel capacity - my apologies for the poor quality)

25 May 2009

This was the last time I saw John; he passed away in November of that year.

He was one of my oldest & dearest friends and I will forever remember his firm handshake. Our telephone conversations always began with "Top Turret Gunner John to Ball Turret Gunner John" or vice-versa.

It is for him and my other WWII-era friends, plus the countless individuals

involved in that epic event I've never met, that I proudly carry the message forth...

There will be more on John later...

_______________

 

Ball Turret &

another Celebrity

Also taken in the mid-80's, behind the Ball Turret to the left is none other than the 91st Bomb Group's prolific artist Tony Starcer

...shaking hands with yours truly

Perhaps best known for painting nose art on the B-17F Memphis Belle,

Tony's brushes also decorated scores of other Flying Fortresses, jackets,

handkerchiefs, mess hall walls - you name it and he painted it!

Tony was one of the kindest, most

unassuming persons I've ever had the pleasure of

knowing. He kept his familiar brushes busy even

into retirement, honoring requests from all over....

1985

Tony proudly displaying the

Kingman Base logo he had just applied to my

A-2 leather jacket:

Part of the Depot 41 Museum Collection, the last paintings he ever did are these

recreations of his Wartime nose art on four 26" diameter B-17/B-24 aluminum hubcaps:

Tony assured me he'd paint mission bombs on each hubcap once he got out of the hospital,

but we unexpectedly lost our extraordinary friend in June of 1986.

There will be more on Tony...  JCS

December 1987

Me & Tony's wife Jackie and the Hubcaps plus Tony's Memphis Belle painting, for which I'd just crafted a custom frame.

With deep sadness, I have to report that Mrs. Jackie Starcer passed away

on February 23, 2016. One of the classiest persons I've ever met,

she has been a dear family friend for over 3 decades and we'll miss her terribly.

JCS

October 21, 1990

Another Depot 41 Ball Turret's unusual encounter with a former adversary!

This one currently hangs under the EAA's B-17 ALUMINUM OVERCAST, but over 2-1/2 decades ago, the Turret & I bumped into a WWII German fighter pilot who was the guest speaker at the October 1990 meeting of the B-17 Combat Crewmen & Wingmen . . . My son Brian captured us with the Polaroid (which I asked the pilot to autograph) BUT I UNFORTUNATELY DO NOT RECALL THE GENTLEMAN'S NAME, NOR CAN I DECIPHER HIS WRITING!

I do remember him telling me that when attacking a combination of B-17 & B-24 formations, it was standard procedure to go after the latter because they were "easier to knock down".

He admitted to himself eventually having been shot down by bombers' defensive gunfire, to which I replied "probably from one of my Kingman boys". What an fascinating fella!

April 27, 2016

Distinguished WWII Veteran pays a visit

to the Depot 41 Display!

 

94th Bomb Group Ball Turret Gunner Wilbur Richardson inspecting Depot 41's inert AN M30 100 pounder equipped with a VT Fuze:

Wilbur flew 30 missions over Europe, including two on D-Day and was awarded

the Purple Heart for wounds received on his 30th and final mission, which was to Munich.

Back in 1986, I hauled the Ball Turret to Wilbur's school where he was finishing up his last year as a history teacher:

Shortly after the 1986 class visit, we met at Ontario Airport for another photo shoot, this time with the

B-17 Sentimental Journey . . .

. . . Wilbur sporting various USAAF flight

outfits

 

During his recent visit to the high desert, a Depot 41 100 pounder

from the B-17 Bomb Rack received 93-year-old Wilbur's painted inscription:

And 4 days after that, my wife & I met Wilbur at the legendary Chino Airshow.

Some of the action:

I tinkered with it for faster loading...

Taken with my iPhone, what an amazing improvement

over the 15 year old video above from a dedicated camera!

photo credits, this page:

William T. Larkins,

John L. Hurd,

Don & Margaret Strait,

Jackie Starcer,

Depot 41 Photo Archive

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