Army Air Forces Gunnery Schools

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Gunnery trainee fires on a scale model aircraft mounted on moving unmanned jeep.

Army Air Forces Gunnery Schools were World War II organizations for training fighter pilots and bomber crewmen at several United States Army Airfields and gunnery ranges (3 schools opened in 1941).[1]:20 "Flexible Gunnery" training developed diverse skills for various aircraft and differing positions within bombers, e.g., waist gunner, rear gunner, etc. (fixed gunnery training was used for tbd.) "The number of graduates had reached 19,789 by 7 July 1943, with another 57,176 men completing the course by the end of the year."[1]:20 For example, at Las Vegas Army Airfield 600 gunnery students and 215 co-pilots were graduated every five weeks at the height of World War II.[citation needed] Training started on the ground using mounted shotguns with fixed arcs of fire, and then shotguns mounted on the backs of trucks, which were driven through a course. Then the students went up in the bombers, shooting at targets pulled by other aircraft.[2][not in citation given]

Installations and media[edit]

The USAAF had a "Central Flexible Gunnery Instructors School",[where?] which collaborated on the "restricted" November 1, 1943, handbook Get That Fighter."This book deals only with the shot when he is actually coming in at you. … Believe it or not--when a fighter is making his attack you don't aim ahead as in other shots. Always aim between him and the tail of your own plane because the forward speed of your plane is added to the speed of your bullet. … The amount you aim behind is deflection.")[3]


General Arnold on 29 June 1943 noted the "serious lack of proper aircraft and equipment to support the training",[1]:20 and early gunnery training had used guntruck platforms with guns mounted on the beds of pickup trucks, e.g., for firing at clay targets (guntrucks at Las Vegas AAF were only used January & February 1942.)[7] In-flight training included firing at aircraft-towed targets, and camera guns in 1944-5 simulated fire at fighters flying mock attacks on the bombers.[8] Las Vegas was 1 of 7 USAAF schools that used frangible bullets to fire at "specially built Bell RP-63 aircraft that simulatied conventional fighter attacks against bombers",[1]:37 and the bullets splattered into powder when striking he RP-63, which had radiosonic equipment for a wing lamp to flash so the gunners could identify a hit.[citation needed]

"At the beginning of 1944, flexible gunnery still lacked proper equipment, especially turrets and sights that automatically compensated for the movement of the aircralt and the target, and it also lacked a definitely established training doctrine. To promote the latter and provide better direction, the command established a deputy commander for flexible gunnery within the headquarters on 10 July 1944".[1]:24


Harlingen AAF had a Waller Gunnery Trainer for firing at "planes projected on a screen",[1]:26 and B-29 Flexible Gunnery Training at Buckingham, Harlingen, and Las Vegas included the "manipulation trainer". The manipulation trainer used 12 towers at heights of 10–40 feet (3.0–12.2 m) and arranged like a B-29 formation. Each tower had 2 nose, 2 tail, 2 ring sighting, and 4 blister positions for students to fire camera guns against simulated attacks by PT-13 and PT-17 Stearman biplane aircraft.[1]

External images
At Buckingham Field in Florida, a …target car is readied for flexible gunnery practice.[1]:38
guntruck at Las Vegas AAF


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Manning, Thomas A (2005). History of Air Education and Training Command, 1942–2002 (Also available in text format). AETC Office of History and Research. ASIN B000NYX3PC. Retrieved 2013-06-09. Throughout 1944, B-29 gunners received practically the same training as those for other aircraft, but at the end of the year a few of them began to receive training in B-24s modified by the addition of central fire control turrets to make them more like B-29s. Then, as the year progressed, Buckingham Field, Florida; Las Vegas Field. Nevada; and Harlingen Field, Texas, all began offering B-29 gunnery instruction … Among the training devices used in this instruction was the manipulation trainer- 1 2 towers arranged to resemble a formation of planes. The towers ranged in height from 10 to 40 feet, each equipped with 2 nose. 2 tail. 2 ring sighting, and 4 blister positions. As students in these positions faced simulated attacks from PT-13 and PT-17 aircraft, they "fired" camera guns at the attacking fighters. … Two hurricanes, one in September and the other in October, destroyed Boca Raton Field in Florida [which] accelerated the move of the radar school to Keesler
  2. ^ Remains of Clay Pigeons
  3. ^ "Get That Fighter 1943 Training Manual - USAAF". Footsteps Research.
  4. ^ Comprehensive Site Evaluation Phase II (PDF) (Report). June 2010. Archived from the original (draft "Rev.02") on 2013-03-03. Retrieved 2013-06-08. In September 1969, Area II became part of the Nellis AFB complex. Previously, it was named Lake Mead Base and served as a weapons storage area for the U.S. Navy. … the RP-63 Pinball, which was sufficiently armored to be fired upon using frangible bullets. The Las Vegas Valley (the Valley) is a bowl-shaped basin surrounded by rugged mountain ranges. The entire hydrographic basin is 1,600 square miles. The western edge of the Valley is approximately 5 miles west of Lake Mead, which is an impoundment on the Colorado River. The Valley occupies a structural basin in the Basin and Range Province of the northern Mojave Desert, and most shallow groundwater and all surface flows are transported to Lake Mead via the Las Vegas Wash.
  5. ^ Manning, Thomas A (2005). "Installations". History of Air Education and Training Command, 1942–2002. pp. 42-tbd. Retrieved 2013-06-09. INSTALLATIONS   Las Vegas Field, Nevada   Air Training Command inactivated the base on 31 December 1946. From its activation on 20 December 1941, Las Vegas AAF had conducted flying training.
  6. ^ "The Rear Gunner". Internet Movie Data Base.
  7. ^ Rininger, Tyson V. (2006). "History of Nellis Air Force Base". Red Flag: Air Combat for the 21st Century. ISBN 9780760325308. Retrieved 2013-06-10.
  8. ^ "Las Vegas Army Air Field (Nellis)". Cooperative Libraries Automated Network. Polaris Library Systems. Retrieved 2008-11-08.