Heroes: the Army Air Corps

"...So I turned my turret and I was looking right at him to see what they really looked like. And he got a direct hit and the only thing I saw left from that plane was the engines and the wheels -- no propellers -- just the engines -- no cowling -- no nothing -- just that corn cob engine-like -- those and the wheels. Everything else was in little scraps." What was he hit by? "Flak -- a direct hit. He was lower because I was the only one who saw him. I'm in the turret looking at him and I knew that they had nine or ten men on the plane and I didn't have no control..."



image of american flag

 Carey W. Mavor

  • Branch of Service: Army Air Corps
  • Unit: 452nd Bomb Group/728th Bomb Sqn. [Heavy]
  • Dates: 1943 - 1945
  • Location: European Theater
  • Rank: S/Sgt., Ball Turret Gunner
  • Birth Year: 1919
  • Entered Service: New Orleans, LA


Carey W. Mavor. Image taken in 1944.
at age 20 in Hays, Kansas. (Image courtesy of Carey W. Mavor)


IMAGE of air medal

IMAGE of good conduct

IMAGE of european theater

IMAGE of WWII victory

IMAGE of national defense

IMAGE of air medalIMAGE of bronze oak leaf cluster

IMAGE of good conduct

IMAGE of european theater

IMAGE of WWII victory

IMAGE of national defense



Ball Turret Gunner

     This article that ran in the New Orleans Times Picayune's "Pictures from the Past" is the catalyst that began this series of interviews with everyday citizen soldiers who all became ball turret gunners on the B-17 "Flying Fortress" over Europe. The article to the right was about a veteran from Metairie, Louisiana. He served during the war and the paper ran a short piece about his time as a ball turret gunner.

     He received a number of phone calls from folks -- including this web master -- to invite him to sit down with me and "tell his story" -- which he did. His story is contained on another page of this web site.

     Additional phone calls to Mickey Hurley came from others such as the subject of this interview -- Carey W. Mavor.

     Carey suggested that Mickey meet with him one day for lunch and by the way, two other former ball turret gunners would also be attending.

     This luncheon began a gathering of former veterans who all had one thing in common -- they were all ball turret gunners.

     You can now read the second in what we hope will be a total of four stories in this series.

image of Picture of the Past
Article of September 8, 2002, Section E-8, "Pictures from the Past" of the Times Picayune illustrates the catalyst for this story.

The image of the B-17 bomber crew grouped proudly in front of their aircraft offered an opportunity to conduct an interview with one of the men in the photo -- Leonard J. "Mickey" Hurley.



Pictured are, from left, top row: 1st. Lt. Roy O. Miles, pilot, New York (Puerto Rico); 2nd Lt. Allmon, co-pilot, Ohio; Homer O. Whitley, navigator, Corpus Christi, Texas and 1st, Lt. Burns, bombardier, Alabama; front row: Cpl. H. I. Carey, waist gunner, Hawaii; Cpl. Carey W. Mavor, ball gunner, New Orleans, Louisiana; S/Sgt. Chuck Theriault, engineer, Hartford, Conn.; P. T. Cote, radio operator, Boston, Mass., Cpl. Duhon, tail gunner, Lake Arthur, Louisiana.

All of the men pictured in this photograph returned to the U. S. after their tour of duty.

The aircraft pictured in the image above is not the plane this crew flew into combat.

According to Carey Mavor, the following men have passed away: Roy O. Miles, Burns, H. I. Carey, P. T. Cote, and Duhon.

Some Background to Carey's Story:


     On the 17th of August, 2003, a short article appeared in the local newspaper, the Times Picayune, in which the following image appeared. The image is of four former veterans who all had one thing in common. They were all "ball turret gunners" on B-17's at different times during the war. An earlier article that ran on 8th September, 2002 featured a "Picture of the Past' and the crew of a B-17 bomber standing in front of a bomber. In that picture, was the gentleman on the left in the photo below -- Leonard J. "Mickey" Hurley.

     This short article led to Mickey being contacted by Carey Mavor and from that phone call, the four men eventually got together for lunch one day to "reminisce" about the days when each of them squeezed into the small ball that sits snugly under a B-17 Flying Fortress.

     Each man had his own story to tell.

     Below is the story of the second man in the group -- standing next to Mickey Hurley who is Carey Mavor.

     His story is quite interesting and entertaining!

Staff Photo by Eliot Kamentz (The Times Picayune)

Mickey Hurley, Carey Mavor, Joe Elliot and Irvin Kennedy meet for the first time during a lunch this month at Ye Olde College Inn. All New Orleans area residents, they were ball turret gunners for B-17 Flying fortresses during World War II.


     Read the story at: WWII Gunners Reminisce

     Mickey Hurley, Carey Mavor, Joe Elliot and Irvin Kennedy meet for the first time during a lunch this month at Ye Olde College Inn. All New Orleans area residents, they were ball turret gunners for B-17 Flying fortresses during World War II.

     On September 30th, this World War II buff was invited over to share the hospitality of the home of Carey Mavor and to conduct an interview with regards to his flying career.

     My host, Carey allowed me the privilege of sitting down with him for a couple of hours to talk about Carey's World War II experiences.

     The day was a gorgeous early fall morning, crystal blue skies, and as airmen would say, CAVU [Clear Above - Visibility Unlimited] -- a perfect day for flying, pleasure flying, that is!

     On Sunday morning, we had met at the local airport, Lakefront Airport, to view a B-17G, called the "Aluminum Overcast" which was touring the country to help teach folks about just what fellows such as Carey, Joe and Mickey had done back 50+ years ago in a much different time.

     At the airport, my wife, Sue and I met with Mickey Hurley, Carey Mavor and Joe Elliot who were all ball turret gunners pictured in the photo above.

     During that short meeting, we talked briefly about the experiences that these men had had aboard planes such as the one that we were looking at. Viewing the plane from many different angles, and touching items that these men had touched many years ago helped to bring a flood of memories to the men that I had the good fortune of spending a few hours with. We examined the ball turret in detail and that Carey, Mickey and Joe were instrumental in educating me in some of the workings of the place that they had once called "their home" back in the war years.

     I wanted to see if I could get a feel as to what these wonderful men, who went up in machines such as the B-17, might have experienced -- and felt. It was almost impossible to really get a true feel of their experiences -- but crawling (and I do mean crawling) around one of these big birds gives one a respect for the men and the planes that took them to war.

     The B-17 is a huge flying machine -- at least from the outside. Once you climb up into the nose of the bomber -- through the nose escape hatch -- you get a much different impression. I could not help but sense the feeling that this plane was indeed quite compact and cramped for it's nine (earlier -- there were 10) crew members. Each location in the bomber was compact/efficient -- almost claustrophobic.

     Gazing through the nose bubble, I was offered a spectacular view (if only in my case, a panoramic view of Lakefront Airport and it's runway environment).

     Also here, was the workstation for the bombardier and the navigator. These two men had some of the best views -- if they had the time to look. Thinking about this location on the big bomber, you could easily get a mental picture of these two crew members at their work stations -- and to the stark reality of their exposure to enemy fire.

     The bombardier, sitting on his stool [in the nose] usually had the task of guiding the bomber during its last few minutes over the target -- then dropping the bomb load. This was the most dangerous part of any mission. At this point, under the control of the bombardier, the plane must fly straight and level -- lining up on the target thousands of feet below. This is where the flak gunners below really pour on the flak -- the big plane at its most exposed! Before and after the bombs are dropped, from the "G" model on, the bombardier had an additional duty of firing the chin turret mounted under the nose. The controls could be pivoted down directly to the front of his position.He could fire on attacking aircraft approaching from the front of the bomber. The chin turret was added because it was found (the hard way) that this was one location that did not have adequate coverage from attacking aircraft. There were two 50 cal. machine guns located in the nose, on each side of the fuselage. The bombardier and navigator would operate these...but, prior to the "G" model, nothing directly to the front.

     One can only imagine, the view and the danger inherent to this position on the B-17. A head-on attacking enemy plane could cause havoc with but a few lucky hits and the bombardier would be the first crew member to be in the direct line of fire.

     The addition of the twin 50 cal. machine gun chin turret at least gave the bombardier a chance to fire back at an enemy plane attacking directly from the front.

     To the rear of the bombardier, sat the navigator at his small work station. Besides having the job of keeping the bomber on course, he also had access to a small dome in the top of the cabin to take navigational readings (at night, the stars) and also would man one or more of the 50 cal. machine guns in the nose. There is a story from one such navigator that would also make for some interesting reading. Should you care to read his story, you may do so at Joseph Gilinsky, B-17 navigator.

     In his story, Joe mentions about a flak hit that struck the nose, left [port] side, and low taking out a portion of the plexiglass. A fragment then caught Joe [navigator] directly in his right temple knocking him unconscious. Another fragment penetrated the bulkhead directly to the rear of the compartment, tearing into the flight crew cabin, penetrating the cabin and rebounding off of the instrument console above the 2nd pilot's head. The 2nd pilot, Lloyd Conklin was then struck in the head by the spent force of this piece of shrapnel which severely stunned him. The the fragment of metal dropped directly into his lap. The force of the shrapnel was not sufficient to break the skin, so Lloyd Conklin, the 2nd pilot was not awarded a Purple Heart for his "head injury". He but received a nasty headache and a small memento that he possesses to this day.

     To reach the remainder of the big bomber, one had to literally crawl on his knees under the instrument panel and through a crawl space into the pilot's crew cabin. Here you could stand and were afforded an excellent view from the cockpit windows both in front and to either side of the 1st pilot and second pilot's position. Behind the flight crew station was an upper turret position which normally held twin 50 cal. machine guns... instrumental in the big bomber's defense. These were normally manned by the flight engineer who was also station there to monitor the flight instruments and gauges.

     The next part was the tricky part, for here you entered the bomb bay via a small walkway [catwalk] -- only wide enough for one foot in front of the other. This led into the next section of the bomber.

     One can almost imagine the bomb bay doors open and the racks of bombs being pickled away at today's target far below. The view from here at altitude could more than likely induce vertigo even in a stout hearted individual.

     Once traversing the bomb bay, you now entered the engineer/radio operator cabin. Here you would view the radio equipment and equipment to monitor the power plants as well as an overhead skylight. An additional duty was to manually switch fuel tanks with the switches being located near the floor of the compartment. He would first switch from the wing tip tanks, to the next set of tanks inboard and so on.

     You then stepped down, through another bulkhead, into the waist section of the B-17, skirting the ball turret with its massive supporting structure. These structures allowed for the free movement of the ball as well as supplied both ammunition and oxygen for the man cocooned within.

     Slightly rearward of the ball turret were the two main positions normally manned by the waist gunner(s). These waist positions carried a single 50 cal. machine gun mounted on each side of the fuselage. The windows commanded a wide view of the sky -- enabling the gunners to fire their weapons within a large cone away from the big bomber. Originally this position was manned by two gunners...but, as the plane continued through its many modifications, it was decided that only one gunner was "required" here. He now became responsible for both sides of the aircraft and both guns. I could only imagine, as to just what would happen if fighters were attacking from BOTH sides simultaneously? I can also imaging the fellow sitting at a desk back in the Pentagon, sipping his cup of coffee in air conditioned comfort, saying that it would be much more economical and beneficial to have only one gunner here.


     From here, you could travel towards the rear of the plane (if you crawled on your hands and knees) to where the tail gunner kneeled at his twin 50 cal. machine guns. A lonely spot indeed!

     He accessed his position via a small escape hatch position right behind his firing rear gunner location. He of course had no real protection in this position and was probably the most venerable of all crew members. I am sure that if you asked ANY crew member, you would get the same answer from each man -- "My position was the most dangerous" and if you had manned that position, you would have probably had felt the same.

     I would have thought that the ball turret to be the position that was the most dangerous on this big bomber.

     Getting a closer look at the ball, one can easily see that it is indeed claustrophobic! You are literally crunched up into a position where your knees are almost in your face and would stay in this position for upwards to 8 hours at a time! With all the equipment stowed in the ball, along with your electrically heated flying suit, your harness (parachute was within arm's reach in the waist cabin) and the twin 50 cal. guns next to your head, the equipment needed to run the ball (no sophisticated computer electronics here) and ammunition belts coming into the ball from two sides along with a gun sight directly in front of your face, you were pretty much crammed into the ball. No wonder the man in the ball was usually a fairly small man.

     You did command a spectacular view -- if you had the time and inclination to look out. You froze almost the entire time you were in the ball (and the remainder of the aircraft for that matter) and you were pretty much isolated from the remainder of the crew -- most of the flight. If you were prone to claustrophobia, then you would really be in a heck of a mess in the ball.

     I did find out that the ball did have some protection for the man in the ball. The ball had armor plating at certain locations including the backside where he rested his back. The large circular view port directly in front of the gunner was approximately two inches thick! made of laminated glass and plastic. This was a bit of a surprise to me.

     It was stated in a book shown to me that the ball turret was actually the safest position on the B-17 as well as the B-24!

     Viewing this and the other aspects of this flying fortress for the first time ever, I could come to realize that even as big as this plane was, there was a sense that the men who crewed this bomber were going off to war in a death trap. It would be easy to assume that if the big plane were hit -- and begin its plummet down to earth, it would be almost impossible for some of the crew to exit the stricken plane.

     That thought sent chills down my spine.

     Considering this and the other factors, this plane did indeed bring many a crew home even following horrific punishment in battle. It was no wonder that the plane became affectionately known as the "Flying Fortress".

     I tip my hat to the brave men who went up in these machines.

     These men were indeed, among America's Greatest Generation!



Carey's Memories of World War II:


     Arriving at Carey's home near the New Orleans lakefront, we settled in to begin our visit. This interview took place on the patio of his ranch style home. A light northerly breeze was blowing, birds were chirping in the trees above and Carey was in the mood to talk about those days so very long ago.


Carey W. Mavor -- His Ball Turret Memories


     The early fall day was gorgeous, bright and clear (as they say in flying -- CAVU).

     We sat outside under the trees for about 2 hours. Carey had brought laid out some books with tagged pages [post it notes] to illustrate some interesting items about his experiences.

     He also had a few photos that we discussed in detail.

     Sitting down, I turned on my recorder and the interview began with Carey telling me about a photograph of his B-17 crew. He flew with this crew for 20 of his 25 total missions.

     Carey produced an old photograph of his crew. It was a typical photograph of a bunch of very young men -- the youngest was but 19 -- the oldest was only 23. They were standing or kneeling in front of a B-17.

     The plane pictured was named the "Arkansas Ramblers" and Carey commented, "That was not our plane, though." One of the guys in the photo was Carey and we sort of played a little game and I took a few guess as to which one was Carey. Three tries later, I finally got it right. Carey was the second fellow on the bottom row, kneeling, from the left.

     I asked Carey that I had heard that you had to be at least a sergeant to fly as a crew member. (Some of the men clearly had corporal stripes.) He replied, "I didn't get to make staff sergeant 'til I was overseas". When asked about the plane behind the men, he replied that that was in Oklahoma before they went overseas and it wasn't their plane. It was just for show, to take the pictures of the crews before going overseas.

     The men in the photograph were identified on the rear of the photograph. We briefly talked about the crew members.

     The notations on the rear of the crew photograph identified the men as follows:

1st Lt. Roy O. Miles - Pilot - New York - (Puerto Rico) - 22
2nd Lt. Allmon - Co Pilot - Ohio - 23
F. O. Whitley - Navigator - Texas (Corpus Christi) - 19
1st Lt. Burns - Bombardier - Ala. (Bham) - 22
Cpl. H. I. Carey - Waist Gunner - Hawaii - 21
Cpl. (ME) - Ball Turret Gunner - Guess Where? - 20
S/Sgt. (Chuck) Theriault - Engineer - Conn. (Hartford) - 21
P. T. Cote - Radio Operator - Boston, Mass. - 22
Cpl. Duhon - Tail Gunner - Lake Arthur, LA. - 21

Notations include the date:
November 1944, Ardmore, Okla, O. T. U.
A stamp on the photograph indicates Fonville Studio, Ardmore, Okla., Nov 28, 1944.

     While looking over the photograph, Carey passed on to me a bit of sobering information: "There's only [the] navigator, I mean co-pilot [Howard Allmon], navigator [Homer O. Whitley], engineer [Chuck Theriot] and myself [Carey W. Mavor] -- the four of us, that's all. The rest of them are all dead."

     Carey told me that he was able to keep in touch with two former members of his crew through the 452nd Bomb Group Association.

     I was curious about the photo of Carey and his crew as to how and when the crew photos were taken. He replied, "Well, we left from Oklahoma. They have to take a picture of you -- of your group -- 'cause you may not come back. And then they take a 'missing in action photograph' of just you and they send [it] to your local newspaper."

     Carey then produced a print depicting two B-17s being attacked by a pair of Me-262's. A notation on the rear stated:

     March 19, 1945
     452nd Bomb Group
     Raid on Oil Refinery
     at "Zwickau" Germany
     B17 Fortresses were bounced by 28 Me-262 Jets.

     When asked if this was his group, Carey replied, "That's me,...That's my unit...I was on that raid." He then said, "That's the German jet that flies 600 miles an hour, and the turret is not even designed to track them that fast. Unless you pick it up at a great distance -- when he comes through there -- you can't -- even a hand held one [50 cal.] in the window -- you only got about, not even a second -- when he comes through."

     Asked if the painting was identified as a particular unit, Carey responded, "We got a Unit Citation for that -- for that raid." He did indicate that the aircraft shown -- being from the 452nd Bomb Group was not identified in the painting and probably represented one of the planes in general -- for there was no identifiable markings on the plane being attacked.

     Referring to the time that Carey served in the European Theater, he jokingly referred to his friend, Mickey Hurley, -- Mickey said, 'Oh, you were over there after the war was over.'

     Carey then said, "...Let me tell you what else. This was only one thing. They were ramming us...and it wasn't a suicide [plane] like a Kamikaze. They would aim a plane -- their fighter plane -- at us and bail out. On the last raid we went on, one of our wing men got hit in the radio room and both of them went down." Asking if he had actually seen any of this, he replied, "Yeah, oh yeah, yeah." He indicated that the 'ramming mission' was one that the Me 262's had also bounced them on.

     Carey recalls that they were attacked by Me 262's on two separate missions. He said "This one [indicating the painting] and another one...the first time we saw them, we didn't know what the hell they were -- because nobody ever told us." He mentioned that they were never told because, "...evidently they didn't want to 'scare us' with anything. So when we came back, and we found out, and we asked them what were those and then they told us what they were."

     Looking at the painting, I inquired about the B-17 tail marking. He told me that the squadron marking was a "box L" ..."some of them called it a "square L" but most everyone called it a "box L". "...we had a radio code name of DRY WINE FOX" which stayed with them on all missions.

     I then asked Carey about some background information.

     Looking back, Carey told me that he had joined the service back in July 1943. He joined up in New Orleans and went up to Camp Beauregard which was a reception center, located in Alexandria. "Most of the guys that were up there, were from around the country...a lot of them couldn't read or write. They had a school up there and you could go to school. When I went in I was a typist clerk for the railroad. I graduated from high school and they didn't know exactly what to do with me. So I worked on the clothing line. When the recruits came in, I gave out shoes, I gave out pants. Finally, I guess after about a month -- I spent about 3 months in the reception center -- when somebody looked at my MOS -- that's your number of what you did in civilian life. They saw 'typist-clerk'."

     "So, they made me make the dog tags on the machine. It was a big ole' machine and you would press it down -- and you would have to hit it hard [making clunking sounds]." When asked if the dog tags were similar to what they are now, Carey replied, "All the ones I saw had that little 'googy' in it...you know what that was for?" Both of us had heard that the little 'googy' was for placing between the front teeth of a soldier killed in action as well as we both had heard that it was also for placing the tag in the proper location inside the stamping machine....used to hold the tag in place.

     "One morning", said Carey, "after everybody assembles, the guy introduces a captain from the air force and the captain gets up there and speaks and says, 'I'd like to know if any of you all would like to volunteer for the air force.' About fifteen of us put up our hand. So he said, 'Well tomorrow, we'll send a truck around to pick you up and we will give you a mental test over at Alexandria Army Air base. Sure enough, we went over there and we took a mental test. It narrowed it down to about ten of us. I passed it. And then after that, they said they were going to take us to Alexandria Army Hospital and give you a physical. That narrowed it down to five of us."

     "Most of the, it seemed like this, they harped on depth perception and that is what washed out five of the guys -- doing good -- everything, but depth perception. About three days later, we find out we were accepted. When the sergeant in the reception center found out we were accepted, he put us all on KP -- permanent KP. We worked KP for four days."

     "When the truck came over and got us, they took us up to Shepherd Field in Texas, right outside of Wichita Falls. That's where we took basic - basic training."

     "After basic training, they sent us to Kansas State Teachers' College in Hayes, Kansas for cadet training."

Carey Mavor, standing by an A/3 in cadet training in Hays, Kansas. Image taken in March 1944. Unit: 83rd C.T.D. (Image courtesy of Carey W. Mavor)

Carey Mavor standing by an A/3 at the Hammond, Louisiana Air Show on 30 May 1987. (Image courtesy of Carey W. Mavor)

     "We finished that, and we were going to go to preflight down in San Diego. We got on the train and we were heading down there -- it was a good ride -- and we were two or there days I believe. And then, the train stops -- backs up, and everybody wakes up and wants to know what we were backing up for. It stops again and we see all kind of trucks on the side there and we asked one of the guys where we were and what were we doing here? What is this? because we weren't due into San Diego until the next day."

     He said, 'Well, for the convenience of the government, we don't need any more pilots -- officers -- we need gunners and you are all now at Las Vegas Army Air Base Gunnery School -- all of us, the whole class.'

     "We were go and train [as an officer] either as pilot, navigator or bombardier."

     "That's were I was introduced to the ball turret [Las Vegas]... nobody had a choice."

     I then asked Carey as to how they would train him in the use of the ball turret. He replied, "They had a long building, and it had different rooms in [it] and each room had a ball turret mounted on a platform -- elevated platform -- I guess, about eight [or] nine feet in the air. It had a railing around it. You walked up the steps with the instructor and he opens the hatch and everything. He talks to you and you look at what's inside the turret. Then he gets in and he shows you how it works. Then he closes the door and you can see the turret turn around and go down -- just like it does on the airplane. Then he comes back up and he opens the door and gets out. He then says, 'You want to try it?' So I get in and I -- no parachute and nothing like that -- just regular clothes. It seemed -- comfortable (a chuckle here). So we got used to working the handles and making it go back and around and everything. But it didn't have any guns in it. It had a dummy housing in it -- a piece of wood shaped like a machine gun."

     "So that was just one day. The second day, we moved down to another room and they have it outfitted a little bit more -- a sight in it this time. The next one we moved down -- they have a sight in it -- they have the oxygen hook up - they have the radio control and the have real guns in it -- but, no ammunition."

     "Then on the last one -- this takes weeks and weeks and weeks. When you are not in the turret, they are sending you to school on how to take apart a 50 cal. machine gun and put it back together again and to find out if something is wrong with your gun, you would know what to do with it. The last part of that thing was -- they had a great big table and they put all of the parts on the table and they would blindfold you. They had one part in there that didn't work -- didn't fit -- it was bent or something like that -- too short or too long or something like that. You had to find it blindfolded by feel. Because that was the only way you could do [it] in the plane -- actually is feel everything. After you got to know what the gun was, then you went down to the last turret room and got into it with a gun, with regular clothes -- heavy clothes on and everything."

     "After that you went on, what they called a skeet range. They shoot skeet and they got a zig-zag course as you ride in the back of a pick-up truck in a cage standing up with a shotgun. They have a guy, and ever so often, these skeet release things. You are supposed to lead and turn around and catch it, and everything, while the truck is moving. It was to give you a little feeling of how to lead in advance of a skeet. They graded you on that."

     "That was another thing that was really horrible, because I was not used to shooting a shotgun. I had my arm by the second day, with that thing kicking -- Aw man I was figuring on using the other side. Anyhow, I think that I wasn't the only one. It gave you a sense of how to lead two moving targets."

     Asked about how long Carey was in basic training? "Basic training was about three months." You went in in July? "July." July of '43? And then when you went to gunnery school, how long was that? "That was in the summer of '44. Because I remember it was hot as hell in Shephard Field when we got there....we went to the college training detachment, to cadets, in Kansas...that was six months...It was basic -- three months -- cadets, six months and then gunnery training, almost six months. Well after they got you familiar with the turret, then you really go into the B-17 in the turret and fly it...at Indian Springs. You fly it first at ground targets. He flies real low -- maybe a hundred feet -- maybe 200 feet and they have targets on the ground spread out in different ways. He does the same thing like the pick-up truck. In a B-17. And you have waist gunners, tail gunners, ball gunners and top turret gunners. But the top turret gunner -- the only time he can shoot is when the plane is banking at the ground. That was at a place called Indian Springs which was about 60 miles outside of Las Vegas. That's close to where they tested the atomic bomb. [This was using] live ammo. The targets on the ground was two poles and they had a canvas between the two. You would shoot live ammo with color tips on it. They could grade you on the color holes that you would make. That's how everybody got graded...even on tow targets. When the bullet went in -- the paint would stay and put a round mark on it."

     "Before we did that really, they had a range where they had a little trolly car -- from here to that little picket fence over there [pointing across the street -- a distance of about 30 yards]...iron fence, and it had a levee behind it or a mud mound. You had your 50 cal. mounted on a post. As that thing went -- it went pretty good -- pretty fast -- you would shoot at it. It was maybe 8 feet across and maybe six feet tall on this little cart. That was the first time we had the paint markers go in it. You could go after and the guys in back would bring it out where your marks -- where you hit." When asked if he was pretty good at it, Carey replied, " Well-- fair-- I didn't fail -- I didn't flunk [a big laugh here]. Well I think most of us all did good -- because we all had depth perception and we all had good eyesight and everything. The instructors would tell you if you didn't hit the damn thing, I am going to hit you, or something like that. They made you really try hard."

Carey prefers this image to the one on the left -- because he said that it shows that he actually had a head of hair once!

Carey Mavor's formal MIA photo taken at Lincoln, Nebraska in 1944. Photos were taken to use in the newspaper in case the crew was shot down and taken prisoner. (Photo courtesy of Carey W. Mavor)

Carey Mavor's formal MIA photo taken at Lincoln, Nebraska in 1944. Photos were taken to use in the newspaper in case the crew was shot down and taken prisoner. (Photo courtesy of Carey W. Mavor)

     "After that we went into form a crew. From Vegas we left and went to Lincoln, Nebraska and that's where we got our crew. After we were assigned to a crew, then we flew bombing missions into the Gulf of Mexico with a brand new B-17...from Nebraska, from Lincoln, Nebraska. Off of Galveston, they had a range out there and they had a barge anchored -- a big barge -- I guess maybe a hundred feet by fifty feet. It had a target on it." Carey was asked about what kind of bombs dropped? A black bomb, a black smoke bomb, a practice bomb. Something like that bomb that was standing by that [referring to the gift booth at Lakefront Airport during the 'Aluminum Overcast' visit]...filled with black powder -- leaves a black mark on it." When asked if they carried live ammunition...the response was..."No."

     "That was the first time we went on oxygen. All of the other training, we never had an oxygen mask or nothing like that. We didn't know...and the temperature was just shirt sleeve. I think we went into the Gulf twice and we got up high enough where we had to have warm clothes on and oxygen masks. After that I never knew what -- if we hit the barge -- we hit close enough to it. I could see it from the ball."

     "Then after that we were assigned to a crew. They gave us a brand new plane and we left from Lincoln, Nebraska and we flew up to Bangor, Maine at night in the middle of winter. We landed at Bangor, Maine and we got snowed in there for a week...spent Christmas and New Years in Bangor, Maine...as a crew. The biggest thing we did there after the snow and everything was to chip the ice off the plane. They had tarpaulins to cover it, but you couldn't lift the tarpaulin.You had to chip the ice off the tarpaulin to get it off the plane. This was in Bangor, Maine and this is where I learned to ice skate."

     "I've always heard the expression -- I don't know if you want me to say this on tape -- sometimes these guys would talk about the dates they had back home, or to date the girlfriend waiting for -- would describe what they looked like. One guy said, 'Man, this guy had fixed me up with a date with his sister and her eyes looked like two piss holes in the snow,' and I didn't know what that meant. But when I left Bangor, Maine, I did it in the snow and I looked at and, boy [lots of laughing here]."

     "We flew that same plane from Bangor. From Bangor [we] went up to Reykjavik, Iceland. [We took off at] hour intervals -- one plane at a time. In Reykjavick, they had these search lights and they formed a cone -- way up -- maybe 10,000 feet up so you could see it from a distance. What you did, you followed that cone down until you got to the runway. That runway, everything was frozen, ice and everything and it was always dark because it was in the winter. I think they had one hour of sunlight...I slept through that one hour of sunlight. But, the plane in front of us, when he landed, he couldn't stop. I don't know whether his brakes went out -- and he cracked up into a mound -- part of a mountain, on the side. I don't know -- it didn't burn -- I don't know what happened to the guys or anything like that. I think that was the first time when we were doing that circling and coming down that we actually had to use our deicers. It was kind of scary to look out and see that ice on the wing and to find out if the deicers worked. Yeah, they worked. Now we could see the ice peeling off of it and that is what the pilot said, 'Everybody watch -- let me know what you see...this is the first time I ever had an occasion to use the deicers.' So, when it worked, all of it came off. It was designed pretty good."

     "From there, the next morning, we took off the same intervals -- an hour, about an hour apart and we flew to Scotland and we landed at Scotland -- turned the plane over to the air force -- the army air force. They have to make radio changes and swing the compass again and a couple of other minor changes for European frequency and everything. We left the plane there and we got on a train that brought us to Attleborough, the little town of Attleborough [Norfolk], where the 452nd Bomb Group was, in northern England. We were about 60 miles from London, and I guess about 60 miles from the coast. The base's name was Deopham Green. I didn't know where they got that name. I still don't know where they got that name -- Deopham Green."

     "When all the enlisted men -- all of us over there -- we were all corporals." This was in reference to a question that I had heard that all enlisted flying crew were sergeants. The first thing that they did when we got over there was to send us to armory school. We had to go with the 50 cal. machine gun again. We had to go to different positions in the plane -- familiarize ourselves with. But then after corporal, you made sergeant. They had another school where [they] were orientating you with German territories, city, states in England -- France. Get you oriented. And then, before you make your first flight, they make you staff sergeant. Somebody told me the reason they made you staff sergeant was if you got shot down and you go to a prison camp that they can't make you do physical labor. The other reason, I think, was that they wasn't going to get any volunteers to go over there as a corporal or a PFC -- flying and do that. They had to make some money -- they had to have some incentative. I thought I was making pretty good money. I was making sergeants pay, overseas pay, and flight pay. I had enough money to send back home so that my Mother didn't lose the house."

     "I was 18, 19 years old." When asked if he also received 'combat pay' -- he received 'flight pay' instead. "I was making close to $200 a month. My Daddy died when I was 11 years old -- right after 1935 and we still had 15 years still to go on the house. The homesteads and the banks -- they didn't want your house. After the Depression, they had more houses...so the homestead said, 'Just pay the interest, and after when you get on your feet again, you can pay the principle and the interest.' But it made the term longer. So I sent home as much as I could, because I liked New Orleans and I wanted to come to my same house that I lived in."

     "I had an older brother and he went in right after -- about a month after Pearl Harbor. He went into the Marines. He was in the Pacific and he saw it [combat] from a desk, I believe. He was in the paymaster corps. I had a younger brother -- that he didn't get into it 'til right after -- just before Japan surrendered. He got in the medical corps and they sent him up to John Hopkins Hospital to work there. He since passed away -- where he died -- he died at 66 years old, when he died. My older brother -- he lives over in Waveland [Mississippi]. He has been retired. He retired when he was 39 years old."

     "I retired from Shell [Oil Company] in 1985 and I had three sons that were still in school. They were just about getting out of high school." Everybody said, 'Well how can you do that -- how can you do that?' "Well I had it figured out. I could pay off my house which I did and all my college tuition, I had. So my retirement -- then I went to work for exporting speciality company for 14 years. So they were all graduated out of college and got jobs and I'm sitting here with a house that I got to go cut the grass and I gotta go paint and I got to fix up [lots of chuckling]."

     "I didn't get married 'till I was 41 and I worked with a lot of guys that married earlier and everything and I could see the struggle that they were having with kids in school and one salary and everything and I think that was -- my brothers too. They were struggling. Well I said [that] I don't want to struggle. I didn't get married 'til I was 41 years old. I worked with my wife for ten years at Shell. She worked up there and she was 35 -- I was 41."

     "The enlisted men lived in one quarters and officers in another quarters. When we got into these quonset huts -- this is in the middle of winter, and I mean cold, cold and they didn't have any firewood or coal. They had coke. It was hard to get coke started in a little pot belly stove. When we were gone all day on a mission -- nobody was there to keep the fire going. Every time we would come back to a cold hut -- had to get a fire going and everything."


Carey Mavor standing next to "Scrappy, Jr." You can clearly see
the tail number and group identification "box L" for the 452nd Bomb Group.
(From personal collection of Carey W. Mavor.)


Carey Mavor, painting the prop spinners red. He suggested
painting the spinners red to his pilot and got permission.
(From personal collection of Carey W. Mavor.)


The crew of the "Scrappy, Jr." You can clearly see the tail number and
group identification "box L" for the 452nd Bomb Group. You can tell by
the photo who the turret operators were: all the rest of the crew are
six feet tall or over. (From personal collection of Carey W. Mavor.)


Carey Mavor in the ball. This was the position on the ground
where you loaded the 50 cal. machine guns prior to every mission.
A very tight fit, indeed. (From personal collection of Carey W. Mavor.)


     While thumbing through some of the many books and other items spread across the table, Carey came across a sheet of photos that he began to comment on. "That's the number of the plane -- referring to the photo of him standing near the rear of the 'Scrappy, Jr.'. That's me. When we had our plane, our spinners were just aluminum color and most of the other planes were red. So I told the ground crew guys -- Could you get me a can of red paint and I will paint our spinners red. So that's what I was doing -- I got a can of paint. That's me [pointing to another photo] -- That's the crew [another photo] and that's Hank Carey there, the top engineer, the pilot, I believe, co-pilot, tail gunner, navigator, myself and the radio operator. You can see the two short guys in the turret -- that's me and Chuck. When I sent this in back in '95 I had forgotten Whitley's first name. His name is Homer -- I called him Jim. Jim Duhon and Howard Alleman and Lloyd Coty was the radio operator."

     "The missions were -- they called us around 2 -- 2:30 in the morning. We would get up and get dressed and go down to the mess hall and get breakfast. From breakfast, we would go to a debriefing -- not debriefing, but briefing to tell us where the target was and how far it was and the bombs we were going to carry and everything. From there we would go to -- I like to call it -- wardrobe -- where you would go get your clothes on -- your heated suits, your heated boots, gloves and everything. Then a truck would pick you up -- would bring you down to the revetments where your bomber is. And the officers, the same thing with them. So, we got there about the same time." Officers and enlisted men had separate briefings. "After we got down there, usually the ground crews were still loading the bombs and all our machine guns were on a dolly -- a little trailer. You had to put your own machine guns in your own turret and get them all set up yourself."

     "And then after all the bombs were loaded, the gasoline checked and everything -- well, the first thing we did, really, when we got down there -- we had to pull the props through. The ground crews didn't do that -- they had enough to do. It kind of woke us up a little bit. Each engine had to be pulled through nine times -- nine cylinders." What was the reason for this? "The radial engine -- the bottom cylinder has a tendancy sitting over night -- the oil in the radial engine is right in the middle and it has a tendency to seep down to that bottom cylinder. And that is why you see when you start up a radial engine you see the smoke come out. Well you can't do that -- you will bust the cylinder if you don't get that oil out of there. So when you pull it through slowly -- by hand -- it squashes the oil out through the exhaust valve and the manifold gets full of oil and that is the smoke you see coming out of that thing. If you start that thing up with the bottom cylinder full of oil, you break the cylinder and it ruins the engine. So we would pull those things through nine times on four engines. But we had mostly the enlisted men did it -- officers didn't do it -- unless you fainted, something like that."

     "Then we would get in there -- the inside of the plane and that was one of my weak points, I guess. They have what they call now, an APU -- auxiliary power unit -- it was a putt-putt, in the back, right by the back door and it is a two stroke engine -- it's gasoline and oil mixed. Most of the time the exhaust is supposed to go outside the plane through a hole in the side -- but it seemed every time we went down there, the exhaust was inside the plane. Just smelling those exhaust fumes, seem like, nauseated me -- I think some of the other guys too. So we would leave the door opened. It didn't do any good until you started the engines up when you got some air moving out. But anyhow between that being nauseating with that smoke and knowing what your target was for the day it seemed like it had a profound effect on my stomach. Right over the revetments, they had a privy on each revetments. It happened not to only one person on the crew, it happened -- but, the hard part about it was you had to take off all that heated suit and everything and get it down to where you could have your bowel movement. In a way it was good, because if you were flying for another nine or ten hours or maybe more, you didn't want to have a bowel movement 20,000 feet. So it was a little advantage to go with empty bowels."

     Did they have any 'facility' on the plane? "They had it just for urinating -- but it wouldn't work at altitude, because it would freeze. So one time that I had to do that -- behind the ball turret, on the floor, there is a clean off hatch that when you turn the guns to the tail of the plane your glass is right where you can open -- reach the hatch and wipe it off if it gets oil on it. So you flip up the floor and it had some little zerk fittings and flip up the metal because it was conformed to the bottom and you could just stand there and urinate through the hole in the floor. I had to do that a couple of times."

     "I think on one mission we had a B-24 that came up pretty close to us. Evidently, he was lost or out of his formation [something like that]. So he tagged on to us. He was kind of low, on the low side and I had never seen a B-24 close up. I've seen them in formations -- way out and everything. So I turned my turret and I was looking right at him to see what they really looked like. And he got a direct hit and the only thing I saw left from that plane was the engines and the wheels -- no propellers -- just the engines -- no cowling -- no nothing -- just that corn cob engine-like -- those and the wheels. Everything else was in little scraps." What was he hit by? "Flak -- a direct hit. He was lower because I was the only one who saw him. I'm in the turret looking at him and I knew that they had nine or ten men on the plane and I didn't have no control. I just -- spit up all over my sight. I had to take my mask off and crunch it all out -- it all froze just that quick. So I got it all piled up in a pile like you would pea gravel or something like that and I put it under my seat so it wouldn't get on my clothes after it thawed out. So when I came back and we landed -- I knew it was down there and it was starting to thaw out. So first thing I did -- opened the door, like we was sitting down and I was half way in there and getting it out and putting it in a cardboard cup. The waist gunner comes over and he stands there and he says, 'Ha, ha, ha' and he starts laughing at me, and he says, 'You got airsick' and I never did get airsick before and it wasn't airsick then. I said, 'No, I didn't get air sick'. He didn't see it -- nobody saw it and I said, 'You didn't see that B-24 get hit.' He said, 'No, you got air sick.' So I didn't say anything. I told the pilot -- he didn't pay no attention to it."

     "Well the same guy, the waist gunner -- I guess, I skipped this part -- but maybe -- when we were flying out of Lincoln, Nebraska down to the Gulf, everybody was in position. In the turret, right above your head, right above the sight, there is a little window that you can see into the plane, when you've got your guns up at a certain angle. You can see into the waist or you can turn around and see the radio operator [from] that little bitty round window. When I see him [waist gunner], he is crawling on the floor, like that, sneaking up to the turret and I don't know what the hell he is doing and I could hear him. You see, he was trained to get me out of that turret. They've got a set of gears outside in the waist and he was going to disengage the power gear and let the turret just swing. When I heard him with the crank handles, putting the arm on there, I reached up and I have a set of crank handles inside that I can do it too and I grabbed it before it starts swinging and I could see him going back again. So afterward when we got back I said -- what started it all of with was -- his last name was the same as my first name. His name was Henry Carey -- mine was Carey Mavor and everybody started calling him Hank -- and he didn't like that. I told him, 'Call me Mavor' -- told everybody else to call me Mavor and call you Carey -- it didn't make any difference to me. But everybody picked up on Hank. So he took it out on me -- he would sit on my parachute while I was in the turret -- my chest pack was in the waist -- he would use it as a pillow and if I tell him anything, he said, 'Well, that's all right.' So I said, 'Sleep on yours.'"

     "Now the good parts going to come. He did that TWICE in the States, here -- training and I told the pilot about it and I figured that was going to be the end of it. So I guess it was about the 3rd or 4th mission overseas and I see him do the same thing -- coming, sneaking up to let the thing swing on a mission. I grab the turret -- the cranks again. And so after we landed, I told the pilot, 'Henry -- Hank is doing the same thing again on a mission -- we were over France and over Belgium.'I said, 'I don't appreciate it and I think he ought to be paying more attention to what's going on out the window,' and I figured that would do it. So, he did it again and I told the pilot again. The pilot didn't do nothing."

     "So one mission, we was just getting into a flak area and I could see the flak and I was watching it below us toward the tail. I could see three puffs -- poomp, poomp, poomp -- right in a row. It was down a little bit, maybe about 5 o'clock. I am sitting here looking at it -- two -- three more puffs -- a little closer -- a little higher. I knew the next three were going to be right on us. So I pressed my mike and told the pilot, 'Pull it up -- pull it up' and we didn't move and I said. 'PULL IT UP, PULL IT UP' -- I hollered louder, and sure enough, man, he pulled it up. I don't know whether the co-pilot, or the pilot pulled it up and -- poomp, poomp, poomp -- the last one, I could feel it on my back -- on that back door. Just like throwing gravel on a piece of tin. So when we landed, I am out there underneath the turret looking under the plane -- a bunch of little holes. Do you know how a hand grenade works? It's got all little jagged pieces -- well, that's what flak is -- and my door was all pitted up. I am there looking at [it] and the pilot crouched down, coming from the front -- got out -- he was pissed off, man and he hollered at me and he came back there and said, 'Don't you ever holler out at my intercom again.' He didn't ask me why or nothing. But, man I tell you, I was [showing a hand motion across the throat] right to there. I figured that I had saved the airplane, the crew and everything. So, the more I thought about it, the more I thought about it, I said, 'I don't think I want to fly with them anymore.' So I went to the Chaplin. This was late in the evening, after debriefing and I told the Chaplin exactly what happened and I told him I would like to fly with another crew that's more professional than what this crew was. And sure enough, the next mission, I was on another crew." So you got assigned to another crew? "I didn't get assigned to another crew, I flew with different crews the last five missions. I flew with different crews and man it made a big difference. They had respect for me and I had respect for them. I was flying more than my regular crew was -- so I was going to finish before them -- which I did."

     "The waist gunner told me, 'As soon as you get the 25 missions, I am going to bust the hell out of you.' And the crew knew it. So, sure enough, when I finished the missions, he said, 'Let's go outside.' I really intended to kill him -- I could have killed him -- that's how mad I was. I know how to kill a man with my own hands. All the crew sitting up there, he starts -- he starts swinging at me. Well, I'm no good at all at boxing, but I could sure as hell wrestle him. I grabbed him around the neck and I got a hold on him and we slipped into a ditch -- like a drainage ditch -- no water in it or nothing like that. We were down in there fighting and I lost my grip on him -- but he never did get up. None of us really stood up. He started kicking -- I [was] kicking and did everything and finally somebody said, 'OK, that's enough, stop it.' We came out of there all beat up and everything and that was the last time that night -- next morning I was on my way back to the States."

     I asked if he -- the waist gunner -- had released the ball turret, as he had attempted to do on more than one occasion, would the ball turret be out of action? "Well, the ball would swing until the guns were hanging down -- the heavy part. I have a set of gears -- cranks inside that I could crank it if I lost power. But when he disengages my power from the outside... When the bomber is on the ground, when you get down there in the morning, the guns are aiming aft and the door is outside -- in order to get in it, you have to have the guns down and the door up. So you have to have a crank, to crank the turret where the guns are aiming down and the door comes up. But after you do that, you disengage your hand cranks and you put your power on. So, I thought the radio operator knew how to do that -- but I came to find out, the only guy who knew how to get me out of the turret was the waist gunner who didn't like me. Just because of the name thing, he didn't like me. He didn't like to be called Hank. I told him. I said, 'Call me Mavor' -- but all the rest of the crew said to call him Hank."

     "He was studying to be a lawyer -- he was from Hawaii. He wasn't much older than me -- I think even a year older. But, I just think that he thought he was a lawyer and I was -- somewhere else."

     "That was the best thing that happened to me. The Chaplain must probably had a good pull with somebody or maybe they were used to that. Somebody asked me, 'Oh, I imagined some of the crews -- you know -- buddy, buddy -- all for one another and all that.' I said, 'Maybe some of them were, not me. It seems like everybody was looking out for themselves and a lot of horseplay around.'"

     I asked Carey about one interview that I had had, in which one guy (a navigator) was required to do 35 missions and he replied, "I don't know how long it took him to do those missions -- but I know -- some guys broke down and I think maybe I did 25 missions in 37 days. I was flying sometimes seven days in a row. I only had one pass -- to go to London. What it was, they knew what they were doing, by doing this and 25 missions, if you did them and you got them all in in a short time, they knew that Germany was going to fall. But they couldn't let up. They had to hit 'em and hit 'em and hit 'em and that's the only thing that brought Germany to their knees."

     I suggested that the weather might be a factor in the short time frame. "We were in the middle of winter and it wasn't all that good. We bombed through clouds. We used to pray for a 'under cast', we called it -- an overcast on the ground, because Germany had radar on their anti aircraft guns. If it was with the clouds -- they couldn't see you and they had to rely on their radar and we had what they called 'chaff'...[aluminum foil] glued to a piece of paper that keeps it from knotting up. Every plane had I guess, about a hundred pounds of it in little packs and the radio operator had it right on his side a little square hole and a chute and all he did was shove that stuff out when we were getting into flak. They worked with an under cast. Their [radar] screen just got white. But when they could see us -- that was it."

     I asked Carey about the incident of the downing of the B-24, if the plane had any markings, etc that he might have recalled, Carey replied, "No -- 'cause they asked me at debriefing I couldn't remember it."

     "I was asking Mickey [Leonard J. 'Mickey' Hurley -- a ball turret gunner with the 305th Bomb Group] -- did you ever bring your bombs back. He said, 'No' and I asked Joe [Joe Elliot, a ball turret gunner with the 452nd Bomb Group] and he said, 'No.' I said, 'Well, we brought them back one time. When we crossed the channel, just about when we are getting ready to go, the weather forecast and everything -- we would have never made it to the target. Weather all over Germany and the continent was real bad up to 50,000 feet. Recon planes and everything...Evidently somebody at the base or the 8th Air Force told our group -- I don't know about the rest of them -- to bring the bombs back. Don't drop them in the Channel or nothing like that. Nobody had ever trained to land with a bomb load. Like Mickey says, 'It is just like taking off with a bomb load.' I said, 'It ain't -- you can come back with a flat tire and taking off and landing is not the same thing.' When we found out, the pilot said, 'Secure everything and be prepared to land -- we are going to land with the bombs.' So, it worked out all right -- it was touch and go, it was touch and go. You didn't know what was going to happen. Everybody was used to coming back almost empty with fuel, no bombs and not much ammunition. It made a big difference on the pilot and co-pilot to land a loaded -- bomb load of plane...and we didn't get credit for the mission. That's the worst part about it." I asked if the entire squadron made it back OK? Carey replied, "Yea, I think one of them ran off the runway. He didn't break anything." I inquired if the bombs had been armed? He replied, "It doesn't have to armed -- if you get enough concussion on it -- and the plane still had a lot of fuel in it and if the fuel ignites, the arming business doesn't make a bit of ----'"

      I asked if this was his group and about how many planes in the group? "We had four squadrons, the 728th, the 729th, the 730th, and the 731st. -- I think we were eight to ten -- [a helicopter flies overhead and drowns out the conversation] I think we were about nine or ten planes per squadron...so we are talking roughly 40 to 50 planes per group. I don't know if it was worth it, but maybe it was -- we only did it once."


image of Sperry Ball Turret
Raid on Oil Refinery at "Zwickau" Germany. March 19, 1945. B-17 Fortresses
were bounced by 28 Me-262 jets. Carey was on this raid when they were jumped
by the German jet fighters. Not much you could do as a ball gunner -- for the turret
could not traverse fast enough to allow you to get off a shot at the high speed jets.
(From personal collection of Carey W. Mavor.)


     I asked what in Carey's opinion was his most memorable mission? "This one...[pointing to the painting of the B-17's and the Me-262's over Zwickau] --- March 19, 1945, the 452nd Bomb Group was headed for a target in Germany named Zwickau and we got bounced by 28 Me 262 German jets known as 'Swallow' -- [a little ironic I told Carey, for that was the name of the street that he lived on] -- That was what the Germans called it, the Swallow -- we called them the Me 262. Nobody ever knew anything about them. I think that they traveled at 600 miles an hour. When they came in, they came in about 600 miles an hour and usually came out the sun. So you can't track them too long if you can track them at all with the turret. I know that my turret didn't turn fast enough. If I picked them up at a distance -- maybe I could -- but when they came through, the turret couldn't follow them. I couldn't tell you I shoot you in the tail or I shoot you in the head. So everybody was surprised and the worst part about it was [that] nobody never briefed us on the Germans having jet fighters. So it was all new to us. The beauty part about it was that they came in close enough that you could look down and see the pilot -- you could see him sitting there just like -- when he came through, you could see him sitting there with his helmet on -- not a metal helmet -- a leather helmet. So that was the second time that we saw them. The first time we saw them, we did not know what they were. He just came up and fitted right in with the bombers where nobody could shoot at him and he would radio down to the gunners -- anti aircraft gunners -- our airspeed and our altitude. Then he would take off. The first one, when he came in, he radios down to the ground -- he comes in and puts his flaps down and gets to our speed. That's when he can -- our altitude and our airspeed. By the time we realized what it was and try and get a gun on him, he just -- he's gone. [Asked about the time frame of the attack on this mission?] Maybe a half of a minute -- less than that. They were gone. [Did they make multiple passes?] No, they didn't have enough fuel to loiter around like a propeller plane. [Did the group lose any planes?] I don't think -- we didn't lose any -- we had damage -- but we didn't lose anyone. I think [that] they only had minutes of full power. What I read and heard later on -- a Mustang could chase him and run him out of fuel and then he would get him on the ground."

     I inquired about altitude that this mission occurred. "Well, a lot of our missions were at 18,000 to 20,000 feet. At times when we had to get over some weather, we had to get up to -- I think the highest we ever got up to was 40,000. Most probably [this mission was at 18,000 to 20,000.] I inquired about the lack of bombers pictured in the painting? "Well, like they always do, they pick on 'tail end charlie'. 'Tail end charlie' is the worst one that they pick on when they came in from the back is what evidentially they are doing here." Asked if the German fighters would attack head on? "Oh yea, yea. When we took off from England the sun is in our back -- so he wasn't coming out of the sun. We were heading to Germany -- he was heading right into us. It seemed like, when I remember it -- [the attack] was from the tail or the head and from in the front."

     "I came back with a ball gunner on a ship -- we were leaving England and coming back to the States. He had gotten hit right through the sight glass with a 20 mm cannon [shell]. The only thing that saved him was -- we had a 45 cal. on our chest -- for if we bailed out, at least we had a gun. This thing -- after it came through the glass, it hit him in the chest on that 45. [The 45 saved his life.] He had it with him. He said, 'He was all bruised up -- they let him take it home.' He had it in a box and he showed it to us. It was just like somebody had come in there with a big ole' sledge hammer and just mashed it...20 mm. By the time it got through that 2 inches of glass, it slowed it down a little bit. [The glass is laminated.] [It is] close to about an inch and three quarters...I know it is about that [showing measurement between thumb and forefinger] thick. [In essence, it offered some protection.] The back door, the seat, was 1/2 inch. Thats' what I say, somebody was talking to me about being in a venerable position -- according to everything taken after the war they found out that people that got killed -- the ball turret turned out to be the safest place. Asked -- I'll bet you didn't feel that way, though? "No, no -- as far as being shot up -- they've got some pictures in some of these books to where they've been shot up pretty bad."

     "I think that the guys that got shot up the most where right in the nose there. When the Germans found it that [it] was a blind spot -- before they put the chin on it -- they had an 8 foot blind spot -- they could fly right up with that. No, the chin turret, that was a blessing to have that on there. The bombardier [fired the chin turret]. He had a control and when he was using his bomb sight, he pushed the controls over on the side. But it moves off of his bomb sight. That was a jammed up place up there. When you've got somebody shooting at you, you are glad to have something that you [can shoot back with]."

     Asking if they had sustained damage on that mission? The response was a relieved --- "No. The only mission [that] we really sustained damage was that flak -- the one I told you about, that flak." I asked if the pilot had ever thanked him about his efforts in saving the plane and crew during that mission and Carey replied, "No. He came through New Orleans -- I was discharged, and everything, he came through -- he and his wife came through New Orleans -- he called -- I was at work and he spoke to my Mother and when he told my Mother who he was, my Mother invited him to supper that evening. He and his wife, myself, my younger brother -- and I wasn't going to bring it up. He didn't bring it up and I wasn't going to bring it up. I was going to let my Mother and brother think [that] everything was alright. But, he never did -- even on the side."

     "He was about a year and half or two years older than me and he didn't see his 24th birthday. He was from Puerto Rico and he spoke Spanish, fluent Spanish. After the war, he was assigned to teach Spanish cadets how to fly a B-25 and he got killed in a B-25 as an instructor [a training accident]." Pointing to the crew photo, Carey pointed him out to me and he was what was called the 1st pilot. Down the line, he pointed to the 2nd pilot, the navigator, the bombardier -- pointing to the bombardier, Carey said, "You see his face? He had the worst case of gonorrhea and they let him go over with it and they figured he would get rid of it in the hospital over there. But he didn't. We had another bombardier fly with us -- a guy by the name of Rothenburg and he came back on the second mission tour. He already had flew his missions and he was coming back to another mission. But I think the last time we saw him [Burns] when we were in Scotland. He was supposed to go [to] the the hospital over there. He looks like he is in pain there. [When asked as to why there was only nine guys in the picture, Carey replied, Well, the waist gunner -- he works both guns -- this is the guy that was supposed to get me out -- his name is Hank Carey [pointing to group photo]."

     Again referring to the mission where the ball turret and bottom of the bomber was peppered by a flak burst, Carey goes on to say, "We had a couple of other ones with some holes in it -- that we didn't know how we got them. [Referring to holes, etc.] We didn't know when we got them. You know, these guns, dump out the empty cartridges -- the ball emptied out empty cartridges -- the tail dumped out empty cartridges and all that stuff is flying all around the place. So some of that stuff -- when it hits -- [pointing to the B-17 in painting] the leading edges."

     Carey recalls one mission in particular. They were returning from a mission and were approaching the [English] Channel. At the time the Channel was full of small ice bergs. The bail out bell began to ring. "We got our chutes hooked up -- on standby, and kicked out the waist door. We looked around -- no smoke -- no fire -- in formation and flying level. So the radio operator returned to his compartment, opened the door to the bomb bay and looked through to the cockpit. He saw the pilot, the co-pilot and the engineer flying as normal. The radio operator plugged [his intercom] back in and told the pilot [that] the bail out bell was ringing. He [pilot] shut it off and said nothing about it. To this day no one has said anything about it -- after we landed."

Scrappy, Jr., B17G, 44-83264, 452nd Bomb Group. The photo is of the 1st Pilot, Roy Miles pointing to the plane's nose art named after his newborn son. (Photo: Vintage Aircraft Nose Art, by Gary Valant, pp. 26)

     Asked as to what was the name of the airplane that he flew most of his missions on..."Scrappy, Jr. [The artwork was that of] -- a baby in a diaper. We named it after the pilot. He was the only guy that got married just before we went overseas, his wife had a baby and he was a scrappy little baby. I think it's a little baby, holding up a stork in a diaper. It was 'Scrappy, Jr.'"

B-17G with markings of the 452nd Bomb Group
From: The Mighty Eight by Roger A. Freeman


Notation of the history of the B-17G, #44-83264:

44-83264 was delivered at Linclon on January 17, 1945. Dow Field Febuary 8, 1945; Assigned to 730th Bomb Squadron, 452nd Bomb Group at Deopham Green on February 2, 1945. Returned to the U. S., Bradley on June 28, 1945. Sth Plains January 7, 1945. RFC Kingman May 12, 1945. SCRAPPY, JR.

(From The B-17 Flying Fortress Story by Roger A. Freeman, pp. 302.)

     Asked if Carey recalled the number of the aircraft...he replied, "No, I would have to look it up -- I have some photographs of it -- I'll have to find 'em."

     When asked as to some of the targets hit...Carey reply, "Well, I went to Berlin, four times, Leipzig, Munich, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Peenemunde, Stetting." Asked if the raid on Peenemunde was the original mission there, he indicated that they had hit it before they went there. "They were determined that if they built it back, they were going to hit it again, and again. We bombed some -- I don't think -- it had a name -- it was like in the open forest -- it was clear -- you could see -- I could see, it was trees and the forest there and I could see some smoke coming up -- but no buildings -- no nothing -- everybody dropped their bombs -- and what it was, was the Me 262 plant underground in the forest. We hit it. I think the whole 8th Air Force went in for it. It was what they called a maximum effort. Anything that would fly, would fly that day."

     When asked if Carey recalled if his plane was camouflaged or all silver, he replied, "All silver." When asked if he recalled the last five missions that he flew, if he recalled the planes, he indicated that he did not -- "All different crews -- all silver."

     "I tell you what it was -- all I was interested in was to get back from the mission and get up to the 25. I didn't care what I did, what the plane was, or who the people were as long as I got back and got that 25 missions -- got that mission in. I don't even remember the people on the crew."

     Asked as to any other mission details that come to mind -- "No, other than they were all freezing cold and miserable and noisy -- especially in the back of the plane, when you are behind the engines." Asked about normally finishing up a mission until about 5 in the afternoon, Carey replied, "Yeah, un huh." And about eating breakfast before going on a mission, he replied, "We ate breakfast -- that was about the only meal I had." I then asked Carey about the flight crews getting a nice meal upon returning from their missions and received a startling reply -- "No -- the mess hall was closed. They closed the mess hall and they closed the showers. --- When we got back, now, this is the best part about it -- when you got back and you got debriefed, and you turned all you clothes in and everything -- the guy where you turned them in, he had a case of scotch and little cups -- glasses, not cups. If you want a shot of scotch, he would pour you a shot of scotch. I always got behind, I am trying to think of one of our crew members who didn't drink and I told him, 'I'll take yours' -- I always got a double shot. That was the only thing that calmed you down and be able to go to sleep." Again I brought up about their not opening the mess hall -- Carey replied, "I'm glad they didn't -- I lost 30 lbs in those 37 days -- but if I would have been eating, I would have had to have bowel movements at altitude -- and everything. The only thing I took on a mission was -- I tried taking an apple or an orange when I first started -- they froze up solid. So we had little hard, sugar candies and I put a whole bunch of those in my pocket just to have something to taste and everything. You couldn't drink either -- it would all freeze up." Eight, nine hours with nothing to eat or drink? -- "No, nothing. Well, it's not like working in the heat. It's like working in a refrigerator." You would get awfully thirsty, wouldn't you? "No, no, it didn't dawn on me -- I don't recall ever being thirsty."

     Asked after your 25th mission, how did you come home? "Well, I got sent -- rode the train back to Scotland and I think that we spent about a week in Scotland getting organized and everything and getting on a -- what we called them -- a 'Victory Ship' [Liberty Ship]. I remember the name of the ship. It was the 'Marine Robin' and it was converted to a hospital ship. They had about 15 or 20 of us -- all air force -- all enlisted men and we were assigned to a bunk right in the bow of the ship. The rest of the ship, while we were waiting there for a week, was as Patton [General George S. Patton] was going through Germany and liberating these prison camps, these Americans that they had in these prison camps were starved and that was what filled the rest of the ship up. All of them -- we must have had hundreds. These guys were thin -- skinny -- Aw, man. Some of them couldn't get out of the bed until maybe after we were at sea for a week."

     "It took us 15 days at sea. We thought one day -- and we got up we could see land about five days out. And man we said, 'That's not New York' and everybody's looking and New York was on the opposite [direction] and what it was that it took us five days to form into a convoy. We were running up and down the coast of Scotland -- picking up ships -- and after five days of doing that, then we headed across. We got caught in a storm and knocked the hatch off -- in the bow and the water came down. Before we landed in New York -- all those skinny PW's -- they were expert crap shooters and they had gained a little bit of weight on them. But they were still on a diet. Some of them, they were so funny -- they were so hungry and everything, they couldn't feed them everything they wanted. They had to watch them what they gave them and you could see their stomach looked like a little ball, until they got enough in their -----."

     "When we heard that Germany had surrendered, April -- the whatever -- we were in the middle of the Atlantic. I know it was in April -- everybody celebrated." So, you hit a storm en route? "Yes. The fifteen or twenty airmen on the ship -- we had pulled what they called guard duty at night and in the day time. We had two destroyers that followed us in the back and on the side. One evening, this destroyer pulls up alongside of us and they shoot a line over to us and everybody is watching it to see what it is and they got a guy in a litter hooked on there and they bring him over onto the hospital ship and they brought him up to right where I was. There were about three of that came over to see him -- to see what it was. There is this navy guy -- he is laying in there and got a big grin on his face and we asked him, 'What happened'. He said, 'Well, that storm we had the other night, he says it knocked me off the deck and I broke my leg hitting something.' So they put him on the hospital ship. He said, 'Boy, this is the happiest day of my life. I've been on that tin can for two years.' That's all he had been doing -- going back and forth. When they get to New York, they didn't give a leave or nothing. [They] loaded them up with food and they would go back again. He said, 'This was the best broken leg I ever had in my life.' He said, 'Man' -- he looked at that tin can -- 'I'm glad I'm off of it.' They would go down, and sometime you wouldn't see them between the waves."

     Again bringing up the time frame -- "Fifteen days" and where did they dock? "We docked in New York, right past the Statue of Liberty. The only thing we had [in response to a hero's type welcome for them returning] was that they put the gang plank down -- I think it was the Red Cross was there and they had BIG boxes of Hershey candy bars. Nobody had [had] any chocolate in I don't know how long and the prisoners of war didn't have it for years. Man they were giving out this -- and the guys were eating chocolate -- I guess Hershey donated it. If you had Hershey bars over there in Europe or somewhere -- you could have swapped that for anything. But that's what I remember, coming down and they had these two ladies -- Red Cross people sitting there -- and they had that box sitting there and handing them out. That's when I knew I was in the States -- back home."

     "They put us on a train and we went to Camp Shelby, Louisiana -- not too far. Then from Camp Shelby, I think we -- they fed us there in the mess hall and we had a big humbug in the mess hall there. Camp Shelby was beautiful -- we went in and sat down at the table and they had all these white waiters in there -- white aprons on and white shirts -- white pants -- white shoes -- all healthy looking guys. One guy found out -- who were these guys waiting on us -- German prisoners of war. One guy took up his cup and said, 'You bastards' [throwing the cup] and they had a big fight -- once we found out. Well, they had other guys -- wasn't only us there -- other people there and man they brought the MP's in there and they couldn't do nothing about it. All they had to do was separate us. These guys were starved and these guys [Germans] had everything. I don't blame them -- if we had had a gun, we would have shot them."

     "I came back and I had two weeks leave. I got orders to report Maxwell Army Air Base in Alabama right out of Montgomery -- because the Japanese war was still going on in the Pacific. So being a typist clerk I got assigned to the office. My main job was to write out hardship discharges -- application for hardship discharges. It was a B-29 base. I knew when I was there, the war in the Pacific kept on going I was going to go train on B-29's. The army and everybody knew about this time about this atomic bomb -- but me. Boy, when they dropped that bomb -- Japan was next. I said, 'Man, I don't swim that far in that big ocean out there.' I was so happy. That's where I got discharged from. It took 'til November. They were getting us out on points. You had so many points, this month -- everybody with that many points got discharged and then lower, and lower and lower. Well, I got discharged when I was still 20 years old."


Close up of the side mounted Barbette. (Photo: Gunner, An Illustrated History of World War II Aircraft Turrets and Gun Positions, by Donald Nijboer. Photographs by Dan Patterson. pp. 128)

     Looking at a couple of books, Carey showed me a photo of a gun pod on a German Me 410. He goes on to say, "[About the pod] It turns down and it turns up -- all he has to do is fly over you or under you and shoot you." Asking if he had seen some of them? Carey, replied, "Yea. [He saw] Me 262's, Me 410's, the Me 109 and the FW 190 -- those were the main ones. But we saw this [410] maybe twice. But when they came through -- they could be way above you -- not even aiming at you -- everybody is watching him. -- All he had to do was turn the guns on and rake you." [Asking which he had the most respect for as a fighter?] "I guess it was the 109."


image of Sperry Ball Turret

Note: Check out the following web sites for an excellent description and illustrations of the ball turret installed on the B-17.

B-17 Ball Turret
Sperry Ball Turret

Interior of the ball. The extremely cramped interior of the Sperry Ball Turret. (Photo: Gunner, An Illustrated History of World War II Aircraft Turrets and Gun Positions, by Donald Nijboer. Photographs by Dan Patterson. pp. 50.) Click on Image for Larger View and Additional Information.


image of Sperry Ball Turret
Sperry Ball Turret. This wartime drawing shows the
ammunition storage system.
Gunner, An Illustrated History of World War II
Aircraft Turrets and Gun Positions
, by Donald Nijboer.
Photographs by Dan Patterson. pp. 50.)
Click on Image for Larger View and Additional Information.


     We then looked an an excellent image of the interior of a ball turret and Carey began commenting on items in the photo. Regarding the 'foot switch' located under the resting place for his left foot, he commented, "You see, the sight is different on here -- you remember the thing [referring to the sight on the B-17 'Aluminum Overcast'] you remember Mickey [Hurley] saying he was hitting his head on it -- this [one in photo] is nice an compact. This handle isn't red -- that handle is the handle to cock it [referring to machine guns]. The other end is here. When you pull it, it pulls the bullet -- you have to get one bullet in there to make it work. You see, it is a bullet proof seat -- all this is heavy and you got the guns. [Looking at the round view port] Laminated glass. The 20mm went through it -- but it slowed it down so that it didn't get into the guy's chest."

     Carey told me that the seat on which he sat and was actually facing more towards the front of the turret, was "bullet proof". He pointed out that a metal faring had been added to the turret in order to cause less drag as the ball was turned and rotated.

     I mentioned to Carey that I had heard that the ball turret he used was also installed in the B-24 and that the result in the B-24 was that it could be drawn up into the belly of the bomber.He commented, "Well, I don't know if that's luck. Have you ever seen the B-24 and see what it looks like inside? I wouldn't put my foot in that thing. It's held by little cables -- little bitty ole' small cables -- just like a block and tackle."

     Referring to the foot rest with a "switch" located directly above it, Carey said, "That's what controls your sight. You see, when you've got the plane in your sight, they have two little lights -- red lights -- streaks -- that you have to frame the plane in and keep him in there. That is just like giving you the deflection and everything." Asked if the sight and guns were zeroed in at a particular distance, Carey replied, "They wouldn't -- they kept the same thing all the way out. Well, you had a distance [that] you couldn't shoot anything -- I think it was about 2,000 feet." Regarding the firing system employed on the ball, the 50 cal., Carey said, "If you held the trigger down too long, you ruined the barrel. That's why they [have] got these sleeves on there. If they didn't have the sleeve and you maybe if you fired more than 15 rounds without stopping, letting it cool off, your barrel would bend. That's why these sleeves are on there -- to hold the barrel if it melts -- if it gets too hot and bends. All the guns are like that -- got the sleeve on it."

     Asking about the gunner having to "install the twin 50's", Carey said, " Well they had the housing in there [ball]. You had to put the guts and the barrel in there. You had to slide the barrel through here [pointing to the barrel opening in the turret] and then open the hatch on top and put all your buffer and everything else -- from inside the turret -- on the ground. You had to lay in there -- on the ground. You didn't sit in it -- you opened the door and climbed in it -- belly first and you worked on it -- just like when that door was opened [referring to the "Aluminum Overcast"] -- you stick your head and your arms in there -- go in head first.

     Following Carey's interview, we continued to sit -- relaxing -- and just shooting the breeze. Carey brought up a rather interesting little story about his Dad. He said, "My Mother had some [newspaper] clippings of my Dad, Conrad Mavor, when he was single and he came back from World War I. He got strafed by an airplane. He was in the cavalry -- in the Rainbow Division. He had a horse and a crew that carried a caisson with the gun on it. He was riding on the lead horse that pulled the caisson and here comes this plane. He didn't shoot the gun. He shot my Dad on the horse. He shot him through the leg, through the horse -- in both legs. My Dad went to the hospital and he got discharged afterwards. I think that's really what caused my Dad to die so young. He had been shot up in the legs. My Mother had the little clipping in the paper when he came home from the war. He was one guy and nine sisters and I think I've got it somewhere. I think that my Dad and myself are the only two guys that got shot at and shot. My Daddy had the Purple Heart and a couple of other awards that they had given to him. But of all the family, it was my Dad and myself in the 'shooting war'. The rest of them either worked at the dock, or worked here -- New Orleans -- or worked in the office."

     Carey mentioned that he was telling a guy about the tires on his B-17 that they flew in. He said, "On the side of the tire about every foot and a half or so were some louvers made out of rubber made into the tire. It grabbed the wind and started the tire spinning...it was all on the inside, not the outside. The runways on our base were asphalt over concrete and impregnated with big pieces of wood shavings to take the wear and tear off of the tires."

     Talking about the ball, Carey said,"Our ammunition rode with us -- it turned around -- big cans. On top of that we had oxygen bottles -- we had our own oxygen system"

     Asking about Carey's Air Medals, he replied that every sixth mission that he flew, he received an air medal. He received the air medal four times. He didn't know about the awards until he was leaving and they gave him a little box with the Air Medal in it.

     In parting, Carey sums up his days with the 452nd Bomb Group, "We were there!"


-----Carey W. Mavor

Information on the Operational Bomb Groups:

Identification: SQUARE L

452nd BG

B-17F & G in olive and grey factory finish. Natural metal from March 1944. Squadron codes issued but not displayed during hostilities. 728BS -- M3, 729BS -- 9Z, 730BS -- 7D, 731BS -- 6K, underwing post VE-day. A few PFF a/c inherited from 431BS retained MZ codes on fuselage. From summer 1944 bar and plus symbol adjacent a/c letter: 728BS -- bar before letter, 729BS -- bar after letter, 730BS -- no sign, 731BS -- plus after letter. Group markings: L in square. From end January 1945 two parallel horizontal yellow bands on vertical tail and cordwise on wings. A/c letter on lower tail band in black. Existing markings remained.

Source: The Mighty Eight (A History of the Units, Men and Machines of the US ith Air Forece), by Roger A. Freeman. pp. 289

Missions flown by Carey W. Mavor:

Target Locations of the 452nd Bombardment Group

#196 Feb 3, 45


#217 Mar 9, 45


#197 Feb 6, 45


#218 Mar 10, 45


#198 Feb 9, 45


#219 Mar 11, 45


#202 Feb 17,45


#220 Mar 12, 45


#203 Feb 19,45


#221 Mar 14, 45


#204 Feb 20, 45


#222 Mar 15, 45


#205 Feb 21, 45


#223 Mar 17, 45


Ruhland-Plauen Received
3rd Air Medal

#207 Feb 23, 45

1st Air Medal

#224 Mar 18, 45


#208 Feb 25, 45


#225 Mar 19, 45

Jet's Hit Us)

#209 Feb 26, 45


#226 Mar 20, 45


#210 Feb 27, 45


#227 Mar 21, 45


#211 Feb 28, 45


#228 Mar 22, 45


#212 Mar 1, 45


#229 Mar 23, 45


#213 Mar 3, 45


#230 Mar 24, 45


#214 Mar 4, 45

So. Germany

#231 Mar 26, 45


#215 Mar 5, 45


#232 Mar 28, 45

4th Air Medal

#216 Mar 8, 45


2nd Air Medal

Mr. Carey W. Mavor and his wife, Meliene live in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is still a very active 79 years young and spends his spare time working on his summer home in Waveland, Mississippi. Carey and Meliene have three sons. Carey retired after worked for Shell Oil Co. for thirty three years.



The materials depicted on this page were reprinted with kind permission of the subject of our story -- Carey W. Mavor.

We, at the World War II Stories - In Their Own Words web site wish to offer to Mr. Carey W. Mavor our most profound THANK YOU for his poignant story of his personal experiences -- during World War II and especially for allowing us to share those memories. We will always be grateful for Mr. Mavor's contributions to the war effort and to the countless other men and women who put forth their "finest hour".


Original story transcribed from a taped interview conducted at the Mavor home on September 30, 2003.

Story placed on the web on 7 October 2003.
Story modified on 15 October 2003.
Story modified -- additional photos on 16 October 2003


Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...

452nd Bombardment Group (Heavy)

Army Air Forces: B-17 Flying Fortress Tail Markings

728th Bomb Squadron: Pat Gallagher - Tail Gunner

452nd Bomb Group: Killed in Action List

Poop from the Group: 452nd BG Association Newsletter

Deopham Green

Deopham Green Airfield

Markings of the 8th USAAF Bombardment Groups based in East Anglia

image of NEWUSAF Aircraft Serial Number Search

USAF Aircraft Serial Number Search Help

World War II Causality Search


image of WWII Logo

Survey Form

image of NEWSeptember 5, 2002.

Would YOU be interested in adding YOUR story --
or a loved-one's story? We have made it very
easy for you to do so.

By clicking on the link below, you will be sent
to our "Veterans Survey Form" page where a survey form
has been set up to conveniently record your story.

It is fast -- convenient and easy to fill out --
Just fill in the blanks!

We would love to tell your story on
World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words.

WW II Stories: Veterans Survey Form


image of WWII Logo