Friday, June 11, 2021

Quote of the Day: Tailgunner edition

Tam has a very interesting post about jet bomber tail gunners:

The number of gun kills from defensive gun positions on jet bombers is truly tiny. More dudes have driven dune buggies on the moon than have scored a confirmed gun kill from a jet bomber.

Go read the whole thing that starts in 1916 and ends in the Vietnam war.  And a scan of the Borepatch archives looking for something else turns up this comment from Aesop about when Hollywood stars weren't a lot of dirty traitors:

Was doing an Internet wander the other day. Cary Grant's WWII service consisted of making movies, like Destination: Tokyo, about a US submarine tasked with infiltrating Tokyo Bay to secure weather and other data for the upcoming Doolittle B-25 raid. He later made Operation: Petticoat, in a somewhat lighter vein, and the boat used in several scenes during the movie, made in Key West in 1958 was the Archerfish. There was a picture of the Archerfish tied up alongside several other boats in Tokyo Bay for the WWII Surrender Ceremony, alongside the sub tender Balao. Serving aboard the Balao was one Seaman Bernard Schwarz. You might know him as Tony Curtis. The next time Curtis, Grant, and Archerfish were together was making Operation Petticoat.

Lee Marvin earned his Purple Heart for taking a 7.7 round through the butt offshore from Saipan, and was later shot again in the foot.

At a prior invasion at Tarawa, a former coast guardsman later commissioned a Lt j.g. in the Navy won a Bronze Star with combat "V" for using his landing craft to pick up a total of 47 Marines while under intense shore fire, in the surrounding waters from sunk or grounded landing craft. His name Was Eddie Albert, from Green Acres, The Longest Day, and The Longest Yard.

Jimmy Stewart, originally joined the Army Air Corps as a private. Taking additional flying lessons (he was already a rated pilot before the war) at his own expense, he was discharged to accept a commission, eventually working his way up to a full colonel and wing commander of a B-24 wing. While in command of that wing, one of the men under his command was a young radio operator, eventually staff sergeant, named Walter Matthau.

Ermes Borgnino did 10 years' service in the Navy starting in 1935, leaving as a gunner's mate first class. You know him as Ernest Borgnine, Academy Award winner, commander of the PT 73, and Lee Marvin's commanding general in The Dirty Dozen.

The PITA colonel who kept trying to bust Lee Marvin and his unit in Dirty Dozen was Robert Ryan, who in real life had been a Marine Corps drill instructor at Camp Pendleton during WWII. Marvin had been previously busted down from corporal for being a screw-up; Ryan was in all probability a sergeant when he was discharged.

David Niven had graduated from Sandhurst (the British version of West Point), resigned his commission and left the military to become an actor, but returned to Britain once war broke out to serve as an infantry and later a commando officer during WWII. One of his best and lifelong friends, assigned as his batman, which was the only way a Lt. Col. and a private could be seen together in the British Army, was Private Peter Ustinov.

Victor McLaglen, 1935 Academy Award winner, and frequent sidekick with and the other half of the epic fight with John Wayne in The Quiet Man, had served twice in the British Army, first as a member of the Guards Regiment at Windsor Castle, until he was kicked out because he'd only been 14 years old when he enlisted trying to get into the Boer War. He re-enlisted (legally) when WWI broke out, and served as an infantry Captain in the Middlesex Regiment with service in the trenches of France and the Middle East. At one point he was also heavyweight boxing champion of the British Army, and between his illegal and legal enlistments, he was a boxer, wrestler, and Winnipeg police constable in Canada.

Don Rickles made it to seamen first class in 2 years' service on a torpedo boat tender during the war. Just after WWII, Gavin Macleod, from Love Boat, Operation Petticoat, Pork Chop Hill, The Sand Pebbles, and the always-negative-waves Moriarity in Kelly's Heroes, was serving his time enlisted in the Air Force band. 

That's just off the top of my head. They were all better men than the current crop of pampered Hollywood princes, and made of much sterner stuff.

But the all-time best WWII war story was delivered by WWII USAAC fighter pilot and flight instructor George Gobel, who never left Oklahoma during the war, and pointed out to Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, and Dean Martin, that that's where they must have needed him , and reminded everyone that while he served there, "there was not one Jap aircraft got past Tulsa, and we didn't even have guns in our aircraft".

And never forget that Christopher Lee was The Real Most Interesting Man In The World.  And when I say he was the most interesting man in the world, I mean Chuck Norris shut up and listened when Christopher Lee spoke.  Men strode the Earth in those days.

Tagged badass because, well, you know.  And that applies to Frederick Libby, SSgt Sam Turner, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin, Eddie Albert, David Niven, and Sir Christopher.


LindaG said...

There were lots of small names in Hollywood that served also; but as said, real men then.

Ed Bonderenka said...

Greta post!

I know Ernest Borgnine as Lt. Commander Quinton McHale.
And Dominic from Airwolf.

Brig. Gen. James M. Stewart

Ed Bonderenka said...

I had a friend years ago who was a tail gunner on a B-52.
A lonely job.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

And those are the ones who made their names. Given the ubiquity of service in WW II, one suspects that there were many behind the scenes helping to make the movies that also had such stories.

We are surely poorer for their absence, both in real life and in the movies they made.

CT Ginger said...

James Doohan, who played Scottie on the original Star Trek served in the Canadian Army and had his right middle finger shot off on D-Day. The episode about “The Trouble With Tribbles” contains one of the few scenes where the wound is visible.

Beans said...

I've read somewhere that directors often were peeved with Marvin because he didn't do what they wanted but did what was real, which, of course, then came out much better than they wanted.

And Jimmy Stewart had a bad case of PTSD which the director of "It's a Wonderful Life" used viciously against him to get the performance the director wanted. Those scenes when Stewart looks like he's breaking are, unfortunately, mostly real. Of course, Stewart credited the movie for helping him get over his war troubles.

Then there's little known trivia, like much of the cast of "Casablanca," both 'German' and 'French,' was made up of people who fled from or escaped from the German occupation of France. Which, of course, made the scene where "La Marseillaise" was sung in Rick's Cafe so damned poignant.

Roy said...

One small correction to Aesop's comment...

The submarine tender on which Bernard Schwartz, aka Tony Curtis, served during WWII was the USS Proteus AS19. The USS Balao was another submarine similar to Archerfish. Indeed, it was the Balao that they painted pink and used for the "pink submarine" exterior shots during the movie.

As it turns out, I actually have something in common with Mr. Schwartz. I too was assigned temporary duty aboard the Proteus when she was at Guam in the early 70's. Proteus had been converted to carry Polaris reloads in the early sixties.

Sherm said...

Serving with and friends with Bernard Schwartz on the Proteus was Larry Storch (Cpl Agarn on F Troop and 25 films). They both watched the Japanese surrender from high up on the Proteus' superstructure. Larry was jokingly told that with Tony Curtis watching out for him, he didn't need an agent.

Aesop said...

Pointless stat.
No wars for the early jet bomber era, and missiles over guns for the rest of it. And the B-58 never saw combat, ever.

It's not 1917 on the Western Front, and you don't kill a bomber by getting above and behind it anymore.

That's why after the B-52 Vietnam era, the whole silly idea of aft guns was eliminated.

Hitherto unknown rear facing air-to-air missiles, OTOH, might prove quite the annoying surprise to a would-be adversary.