Harlingen – Hags – Army Gunnery School (PDF)



The Men Behind the triggers of the Army Air Forces ……. Army Air Force Soldiers here are training to live in glass houses and still throw stuff more dangerous than stones. At this school in the near-tropical Rio Grande Valley, where a Gulf breeze mixes orange blossom scents with powder smells, soldiers learn to sit in plexiglass bomber blisters and keep would-be attackers at arm’s length while pilots and bombardiers do their jobs undisturbed. The brand of shooting taught here is known as “flexible gunnery.” That means the gunner swings his barrels around in any direction from which the enemy approaches. In the bomber the guns are purely for defense. Interceptor planes generally have their guns mounted in the fuselage or wings. Their business is to attack and the pilot points the whole plane to make that attack. The gunner’s role in aerial combat was described in a speech by General H. H. Arnold in August, 1942: “In the bombers it’s the combat crew that counts. The navigator gets them to the target; it’s the bombardier who drops the bombs and determines the hits or misses made. It’s the gunner who sits in the turret all cramped and tense with his eyes peeled in all directions watching for the enemy diving out of the sun. “It’s the gunner sitting back in the tail who takes it on the chin when the Zeros come in. “It’s the gunner, who may double in brass as an engineer or radioman, who dishes it out, dishes it out in a manner designed to keep the other fellow at a respectful distance. They are all members of a team. For a time only the pilot wore wings. Then wings were authorized for bombardiers and navigators. Now wings, air crew wings, are authorized for the other men of that combat team. Now the gunner has something to wear on his chest to proclaim he’s a first-rate fighting man. He always has been appreciated by the Army Air Forces as such; now we are giving the man himself something to wear that will identify him as a “Gunner”, a man to be honored and respected by all.” This book attempts to tell part of the story of each man’s activities here,- the comfortable living quarters, the soldierly routine, the recreational facilities, the opportunities for church going, good libraries for enlisted men and Officers and of course, the vital story of training to make the world’s best aviators and to keep them aloft.