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The View from the Tail Turret

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NASM 9A04899

When Eighth Air Force gunner Art Krieger turned his camera on one of the other Consolidated B-24 Liberators in his squadron’s formation, he probably didn’t realize he was making a self-portrait. Swathed in heavy flight gear, his oxygen mask firmly in place in the thin air at an altitude of 20,000 feet, Krieger’s own face squints back at us, reflected in the shiny Plexiglas of the big bomber’s tail turret.

Krieger flew his first mission on July 7, 1944, in a B-24 carrying a load of twelve 500-pound demolition bombs destined for a Junkers aircraft factory in Aschersleben, Germany. He wrote about the mission after his return to base:

“We bombed plant making new JU-188s, and hit target well. Just as we passed the target on the right a formation run right into a flak wall and the fighters jumped them at the same time. It was hell and 24s were going down like flies. Going down in flames, two blew up and about three spun and broke up on the way down. As we were over the target a P-38 chased a ME-109 up to our right side, just off our wing, about a hundred yards off and got a direct hit and the 109 just blew to little bits. The bits floating down in small bits of flame. We lost a number of 24’s but can’t say. Was a hot mission but cold as hell there at 20000. If all the missions will be like this one, I’m ready to call it quits already.”

Krieger survived World War II and a dozen of his photographs and a handful of papers—notes to a friend describing his wartime experiences—found their way to the National Air and Space Museum Archives, one of the numerous small collections of material contained in the Archives’ Technical Reference Files.

Melissa Keiser is chief photo archivist in the Archives Division of the National Air and Space Museum.

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10 thoughts on “The View from the Tail Turret

  1. Great article and picture. It would have been nice to get a direct link to the rest of his pictures and papers mentioned at the end. Kind of like getting a great nibble, but now I want to see the rest!

  2. I was a ball turret gunner on a b17 in ww2. and am proud to say thanks for the service to any and all who served then,before,and now.To my knowledge there are just 2 of my crew still with us.

  3. ……..I am SO impressed with this photo….
    As a man who wishes he could have been alive during the WW2 years, I always wanted to be a gunner on a B-24 or a B-17 or the like……I realize it was dangerous, but I would have done ANYTHING to be there……….

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  5. My father, John, was a sergeant in the Army Air Corps during World War II.
    His B-24 took a significant hit during a mission. John and one other survivor, George, barely got out of the burning plane with their parachutes and ended up behind enemy lines in Romania.

    He hiked around on the ground for days and then he was captured and was held in a Camp in Romania until the end of the War.
    Seven of the crew of nine went down with the B-24 plane.

    He is an incredible man at age 91 Y. O. He was not able to speak of his experience until about 45 years later.
    He keeps his Purple Heart award and other little mementos in an old cigar box tucked away. He is the most humble man I have ever met. Later he became a mechanical engineer,married my mom and they raised six successful children. God bless the WWII Vets!

  6. My father was a SSG in the Army Air Corps in a B-24.
    His plane went down during a mission over Romania. He and one other soldier/ airman got out of the burning plane.
    Seven other men went down with the plane. He was captured and ended up in a POW Camp in Romania until the War’s end.

    Though he is a hero and a very brave guy, he is the most humble man I have ever know.
    God bless the WWII Vets!

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