Tossing guns to save the plane

A B-24 gunner’s job did not always involve firing .50 caliber machine guns.

Many times, whether he was in the nose or at the waist, George McKown simply had no targets. Sometimes, the commanders decided the guns posed more of a danger to friendly units than security against enemies.

Once, McKown intentionally got rid of his guns.

With his plane in trouble, the pilot had crewmen lighten the load.

“We were supposed to throw everything we could get our hands on,” McKown said. “I threw out two waist guns when we thought we were going down. Brand new. I threw ’em right out the tail.”

When there were no guns or the guns were of no use, there were other things for gunners to do.

The missions made use of an early form of electronic countermeasures.

In a box on the floor of the plane were hundreds of pieces of foil. “They looked like Christmas tree trimmings,” McKown said. “”When you were coming close to the target you stand over by this slot. Every five seconds or ten, you’d take one of these little paper-wrapped things and poke it out.”

“That was to screw up the German radar,” McKown said. “They did that all the time.”