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Interior of Sperry Ball Turret
Above is the interior of the Sperry Ball Turret.
To the center (left) is the circular view port that the ball gunner uses to sight through. The glass in this window is 1 3/4 to 2 inches thick and composed of laminated glass and plastic. Just above the center of the circular view port is the gun sight. You can see one of the foot rests (the right foot sits here) directly to the right. Directly below the foot rest is a small instrument that looks a bit like an aircraft directional gyro. This instrument allows the orientation of the ball gunner in relation to the actual position of the bomber. The small center ball has a pair of lines extending from it and rotates in conjunction to the position of the ball.
Slightly above and to the right is one of the twin 50 cal. machine guns that are the armament of the ball turret. Just below is a handle (one on each side of the ball turret that acts as a cocking mechanism allowing the operator to cock the weapons prior to firing them. You can see the cable extending back (out of picture) and then back to the cocking mechanism on the 50 cal. gun. Below the machine gun is the instruments for the oxygen supply for the operator. The dark item in the left/lower center portion is the armored seat that the operator rests on and is about 1/2 thick and is made of hardened steel. On the lower left side of the photograph, you can see hanging down, part of the aircraft intercom system as well part of the oxygen hose and the "Mae west" life preserver.
Even though this position was cramped and confining to the operator, it was proven after the war -- following the gathering of statistics, that the ball turret was in fact, the SAFEST position on both the B-17 and the B-24 bomber -- contrary to popular belief.
(Photo: Gunner, An Illustrated History of World War II Aircraft Turrets and Gun Positions, by Donald Nijboer. Photographs by Dan Patterson. pp. 50.)