title graphic

Chapter VI:

The graduate of a flexible gunnery school had learned much that was theoretical and much that was practical. Indeed, the task which it was hoped he would complete, first within five weeks and then within six, was so complex and exacting as to make the term "learned" a relative one. If, as has been said, "to learn to do by doing," the question may arise as to how often and how carefully it is necessary to perform actions before the learning process is satisfactory. Flexible gunnery training was, to some extent, experimental in nature and often gave rise to differences of opinion as to the wisest policies to be tenured. Inquiry, discussion, and the willingness to profit by the lessons of experience were fundamental factors in the steady improvement that was manifest in the training program as time went on. It was evident as the program unfolded that the student was not retaining those skills he was supposed to have mastered. In 1942 headquarters of the Kingman school urged the sending of necessary equipment to operational training stations so that they might give refresher courses in flexible gunnery. This step Was urged on the ground that gunnery students, Who were said to be usually of a low intelligence level, had a tendency during operational training to forget what they learned in the gunnery school.1 In a report during


the same year, a special board of officers concerned partly with the conduct of training by replacement training units, suggested three reasons as to why such training was unsatisfactory. There was a lack of equipment, students were often required. to use equipment with which they were not familiar, and they often lost too much time in moving from one station to another. The board suggested control of replacement training by the Flying Training Commend as the best solution to the problem.2 The Director of Military Requirements urged the Second Air Force to use every local effort and ingenuity possible to give continuity to training. Hot only was such action necessary because of the detrimental character Of absence especially from air-to-air firing, but also because of "the sketchy nature and brief period of the course of instruction in our Flexible Gunnery Schools."3

Early in 1943 the Director of Bombardment, convinced that the "proficiency" of the air units sent overseas had "been far from satisfactory," addressed to the headquarters of the Second Air Force a communication embracing 14 queries in regard to OTU training. Did OTU's have a standard program for combat crew members, and did they carry out the program in the same standard way? Had the program been coordinated with the course of training received, by gunners in the flexible gunnery schools? How many hours of turret manipulation were given? How many high-altitude flying missions were given, and how much firing practice did gunners receive on such missions? What use was made of the aerial gun cameras? The above were some of the numerous questions. The reply stated that the OTU's did have standard program



and had attempted to carry it out in a standard way, but they had been hampered in so doing by lack of equipment, such as tools, spare parts, and tow-target planes. Each gunner had instruction in turret manipulation 4 hours a day for 4 weeks, and was given a total of 5 high altitude missions, during which he used oxygen equipment and the interphone system end fired guns to familiarize himself with malfunctions which might be due to freezing conditions. No gun cameras were used or were available. A considerable portion of the reply was devoted to an explanation of what was necessary to coordinate the gunnery school and 21 OTU programs.4

However, we have done away with a lot of theoretical training, as our trend is toward practical training. The men from the Flying Training Command Flexible Gunnery Schools are sent to the 18th Replacement Wing for distribution. Upon interviewing these men, we have found that they have not been sufficiently trained to be aerial gunners in heavy bombardment equipment. They do not know hew to harmonize turrets, load ammunition and install in turrets; they do not know the use of E-3 and E-4 sights; they do not know how to install guns on the turrets or time solenoids for firing; they do not know how to detail strip the .50 caliber machine guns, end they do not know how to take care of any malfunctions which may occur in the action of the .50 caliber gun. We teach these men, upon their arrival, how to detail strip a .50 caliber gun blindfolded, and through a series of six steps we teach them how to be able to clear any malfunctions which may occur in the .50 caliber gun.

Late in 1942 and early in 1943 the Central Flexible Gunnery Instructors School had established liaison with the training air forces so that the latter and the flexible gunnery schools might better understand what each group was doing. Officers of the schools visiting the



OTU's and Mills were convinced that training in the schools was superior to that in the training air forces. In the letter instructors were often not satisfactory, equipment was frequently lacking, and no distinction was made between graduates of gunnery schools and basic soldiers. The visitors admitted, however, that there were defects in the preparation of graduate gunners and that the air forces were making vigorous efforts in the face of difficulties. It was pointed out also that too much time not infrequently elapsed between training periods.5

Steps were taken in the summer of 1943 to try to correct situations which seemed to be interfering with the continuity of the gunnery program. On the basis of an inspection of the Second Air Force, the Air Staff prepared a report embracing recommendations in respect to training. The two most important were that gunnery instruction Should be standardized both in the Training Command and the air forces, and that the Training Command should be directed. not to graduate and ship personnel to the air forces until the students had reached a standard of proficiency which was felt to fit them for aircrew duty. AC/AS, Training replied that three steps had been taken to standardize training: (1) Training standards, acceptable to the Second Air Force, had been established and transmitted to the Training Command. (2) Steps had been taken to expand the authority, facilities, and staff of the Central Flexible Gunnery Instructors school, and since instructors of


both the Training Command and air forces were processed through that school, uniformly trained instructors, standardized textbooks, and identical curricula were being provided for both groups. (3) The Training Command had been directed to establish gunnery wings to effect further standardization.6

When phase checks given in the fall of 1943 demonstrated that students from Harlingen, Laredo, and other schools were deficient in many phases of training, AAF Headquarters addressed to the Training Command a communication asking information on various phases of the gunnery program in their schools. Were graduates ever held over during the course? that were the academic, phase check, ground firing, and air firing scores? What had been done to correct the deficiencies found? The reply to this searching inquiry emphasized mainly the point that nine months had elapsed between the dates when the students were graduated and were given the phase checks at the Mountain Home Army Air Base. "This Command," the reply went on, "is constantly striving to improve the product of the Flexible Gunnery Schools; however, unless action is taken to insure that graduating students arrive at Operational Training Units and Replacement Training Units with minimum delay, this Command does not feel it should be charged with the responsibility for the proficiency of flexible gunnery students."7


At the Tampa Conference of April 1944, Gen. C. W. Sullivan, Air Inspector for the Training Command, stated that "the principal requirement, as we see it now, is a closer coordination with the training air forces, and the development of both scientific and practical devices."8 In February 1944 Robert A. Lovett, Assistant Secretary of War for Air, expressed the opinion that on the basis of reports he had from combat gunners, there had been since the summer of 1943 "substantial improvement" in the quality of gunners turned out by the gunnery schools. There were, however, "obvious deficiencies" in training which he felt could and should be corrected so that it would not be necessary to do so in theaters of action.9 The recommendations for greater continuity in training an& for closer coordination to that end came from others who yet recognized the progress that had been made in flexible gunnery training.10 General Harper expressed dissatisfaction with the RTU system of training as compared with that in gunnery schools, and he urged the training air forces to take steps to improve the system.11

In the attempt to check the deficiencies which stemmed in part from the lack of a continuous program, added emphasis was placed in


1944 upon three interrelated factors: phase check, standardization, and closer liaison among training agencies. Phase-checking, recommended early in 1943 by the Central Instructors School, was a method of finding out in a practical way whether the student could apply his knowledge, much of which had been theoretical. Though applied in a limited way at first, this practice was gradually extended to cover most phases of training. It was necessary before the end of 1943 for the Training Command to make it clear that phase-checking was not only for the purpose of discovering wherein the student was deficient, but was also for the purpose of correcting deficiencies.12

In February 1944 the Training Command Prepared and sent to all flying training commands a series of standard phase-check forms, so as to insure uniform minimum ability in flexible gunnery school Graduates.13 In April the Central Instructors School was asked by AAF Headquarters to prepare a program of instruction which would include what was necessary for flexible Gunners of heavy-bomber crews to secure additional proficiencies end to retain those secured. This plan, which was to be presented to a gunnery conference scheduled to meet 17 July, but ultimately postponed until two weeks later, was to cover the following main points: (1) standard proficiencies, (2) quantity of training required on each subject, (3) proper timing or frequency of such training during the RTC phase, (4) type of equipment, lesson plan, or aerial missions


required on each subject, and (5) required phase checking.14 The plan as developed was accepted by the training conference of early August, but before that time the Training Aide Division was requested to publish the standardized phase checks prepared by the instructors school and to distribute them to the flexible gunnery training agencies. Eleven checks were designated, and gunners were supposed to be checked twice in the gunnery schools, twice in the OTU's and twice while in combat theaters.15

The Flexible Gunnery Division took steps to see that all phase checks were given and passed during OTU training before a gurney went into the theater of action, and the division directed that after 31 August 1944 the second series of phase checks be given as near the end of the third phase as possible.16

Phase-checking was only one aspect of standardization. In February 1944 the conference report of the Flexible Gunnery Gun Camera Training Committee recommended that the instructors school prepare "a standardized, simple method of assessing and scoring film obtained with computing and non-computing sights," and that close coordination be established between the gun camera department and the sighting department at all installations training flexible gunners. It suggested further that


gun camera missions be placed on the same basis at OTU stations as other missions.17

At the Tampa training conference, representatives of the Second Air Force recommended that standardization of flexible gunnery training be effected among the Training Command, training air forces, and combat air forces.18 The San Francisco training conference endorsed the continuation training program which, at the suggestion of AAF Headquarters, the instructors school had prepared, and efforts were made to develop and expand that program.19

The idea of closer coordination of the agencies of control of flexible gunnery was one that naturally accompanied the move toward greater standardization. In his detailed report on training given in March 1944, General Bradley vigorously advocated the placing of flexible gunnery training under the Commending General of the 75th Training Wing. He pointed out how necessary it seemed to have a coordinating agency among the numerous commands, schools, and headquarters connected with the program. The placing of the Central Instructors School under the 75th Wing he characterized as a "splendid. move.".20 The marked significance


of the instructors school as a liaison and standardizing agency has been well suggested by Brig. Gen. E. B. Lyon, Commanding General of the 75th Flying Training Wing. He pointed, out that of its eight opinions only two had to do with instructors. Among the others was the standardizing of flexible gunnery training throughout the AAF; the establishment of liaison and coordination between the flexible gunnery schools, the Training Command, the training air forces, and the air forces abroad; and coordination with Headquarters, AAF in the preparation of directives on flexible gunnery training.21 The move toward the establishment of a single wing over all the flexible gunnery schools was enhanced when the Committee on Organization of the Tampa conference gave its indorsement to such a plan.22

Even before this indorsement a practical step had been taken in that direction when, in the face of some opposition, Harlingen and Laredo were transferred from the Jurisdiction of the Central Flying Training Command to that of the Eastern Flying Training Command.23 In April and flay, after considerable discussion, SAT Headquarters directed the establishment of a deputy to the Commanding General of the Training Command, whose duty was to supervise flexible gunnery training.24


This important official had numerous duties. The following were the most important:25

(a) Supervision of the training and training activities of the AAF Instructors School (Flexible Gunnery).

(b) Maintaining liaison with the Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Training, Army Air Forces Board, Army Air Forces Materiel Command, Army Air Forces Proving Ground Command, the continental Air Forces, the Theater of Operation (through AFACT) and with other agencies concerned with the development of flexible gunnery tactics, equipment and training needs.

(c) Making necessary visits to the Flexible Gunnery Wings and schools of the AAF Training Command for the purpose of inspection and correction of deficiencies noted in the gunnery program and to observe and report to the Commanding General, AAF Training Command upon the standardization of instruction.

(d) Keeping the Commanding General, AAF Training Command informed as to the equalization of the distribution of equipment and personnel within the various Flexible Gunnery Schools.

The memorandum in its definition of functions of the deputy made it clear that all directives and official instructions to lower echelons,would be coordinated in, and issued by Training Command Headquarters.

It is clear, from the preceding part of this chapter, that continuity and control of training go hand in hand. However efficient the instruction, a student within six weeks could scarcely be expected to master in satisfactory fashion the technique of flexible gunnery. How could deficiencies be corrected and how could skills be retained? Inquiry, criticism, and discussion along these two lines resulted in added emphasis, especially in 1944, by AAF authorities upon three interrelated factors: phase checks, designed to correct errors as well as to discover them; standardization, so as to prevent confusion resulting from instruction;


and closer liaison among training agencies as an aid to standardization and as a means of preventing long time intervals between training periods. The expansion of the functions of the instructors school and the creation of a deputy to the Commanding General of the Training Command to supervise and coordinate flexible gunnery training were steps in the direction of the fulfillment of this triple program.



Table of Contents 
Previous Chapter (5) * * Next Chapter (7)


Notes to Chapter VI:

1. Hq Kingman Field FGS to WCAFTC, 17 Sep. 1942, in AAD 353, Gunnery Training.

2. Special Board of Officers to CG AAF, 3 Nov. 1942, in AAG 353A, Training.

3. AFDMR to CG 21 AF, 30 June 1942, in AFACT-353, Gunnery, General.

4. Brig. Gen E. L. Eubank to CG 2d AF, 12 Jan. 1943, and 1st ind., Hq 2d AF to AFRDB, 19 Jan.1943, in AAG 353A, Gunnery Training.

5. History of Eastern Flying Training Command, Installment 3, II, 882-86.

6. DC/AS, to AC/AS, Training, 20 July, 1947, Brig Gen. R. W. Harper to DC/AS, 24 July 1943, in AFACT 353, Gunnery, General.

7. Hq Mountain Home AAB to AC/AS, Training, 12 Nov. 1943; 1st ind, AFTRC to AC/AS, Training, 19 G Dec. 1943, in AAG 335, Gunnery Training.

8. Remarks of Brig. gen. O. W. Sullivan in the Report of Flexible Gunnery training Conference held at Headquarters, Third Air Force, Tampa, Fla., 12, 13, 14 April 1944, 21.

9. Memo for AC/CS, Training by R. A. Lovett, 15 feb. 1944, in AAG 353, Training.

10. See remarks of Col. W. G. Garland, 8th AF, San Francisco, Appendix B, 3, 19; Hq 15th AF to CG AAF, 9 may 1944, in AAG 353, Gunnery Training.

11. Maj.Gen R. W. Harper to CG's 1st, 2d, 3d AF's, 10 May 1944 in AAG 353K, Training.

12. History of Eastern Flying Training Command, Installment 3, II, 865-66.

13. AFTRC Monthly Progress Report, Feb. 1944, 20-21.

14. Maj. Gen. R. W. Harper to CG AFTRC, 27 April 1944, in AAG 353, Gunnery Training.

15. Maj. Gen. R. W. Harper to Chief, TAD, 8 May 1944, in AAG 353A.

16. R&R, No. 2, AC/AS, Training to AFTAI, 28 Aug. 1944, in AFACT 353, Gunnery, General; Daily Diary, Flexible Gunnery Div., 31 Aug. 1944.

17. Conference Report of Flexible Gunnery Gun Camera Training Committee to AC/AS, Training from CO Harlingen Field FGS, 10 Feb. 1944, in AFACT files. There was another meeting of this committee at Laredo, Tex., in June, and soon thereafter AAF Headquarters approved its recommendations for standardization. Daily Diary, Flexible Gunnery Div., 14 June 1944.

18. Report of Flexible Gunnery Training Conference held at Headquarters Third Air Force, Tampa, Fla., 12, 13, 14 April 1944, Recommendations of Committees, 14.

19. Committee Reports of the AAF Training and Gunnery Conference, 31 July. 1-2 Aug., 1944. Hq 4th AF, San Francisco, 14; Daily Diary, Flexible Gunnery Div., 31 Aug., 23 Sep. 1944.

20. Memo for C/AS by Maj. Gen, Follett Bradley, 28 Mar. 1944, in AAG, 353, Gunnery Training. Later, however, jurisdiction over the instructors school was placed directly in the hands of the AFTRC. See AFTRC Monthly Progress Report, May 1944.

21. Report of Flexible Gunnery Training Conference held at Headquarters Third Air Force, Tampa, Fla., 12, 13, 14 April 1944, 26, 27.

22. Ibid., Appendix, 113.

23. History of Central Flying Training Command, Installment 4, III, 505-507; AMC Monthly Progress Report, Feb. 1944, 20.

24. AFTRC Monthly Progress Report, April 1944, 15; ibid., May 1944, 16, 17.

25. These duties, as finally assigned, are found in T. C. Memo No. 20-7, 27 June 1944.

Table of Contents 
Previous Chapter (5) * * Next Chapter (7)


Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Terry Welshans for the HyperWar Foundation