B-29 TAIL GUNNERS DONATE GUNSIGHT TO USAF ENLISTED HERITAGE HALL; MAXWELL-GUNTER AFB, MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA
By Bill Gaddes
William Gaddes is shown holding a photo of the B-29 “ENOLA GAY” ´tail gunner sight; while Pete Pettit is holding a model of the B-29 Superfortress in which they both flew as tail gunners. The sight they have donated to the USAF Enlisted Heritage Hall is identical to the one shown.
Photo taken at Coaldale Veterans and Women's Memorial.
William Gaddes and Don "Pete" Pettit, B-29 tail gunners who flew combat missions during the Korean War, have donated a B-29 tail gunner's sight to the USAF Enlisted Heritage Hall at Maxwell-Gunter AFB, Montgomery, Alabama. This rare gunsight , which controlled a remote tail turret containing three .50 caliber machine guns, was manufactured by GE in Johnson City, NY. The sight will be featured in an annex to the Heritage Hall, called "Gunner's Alley". It will join a Korean War B-26 Periscopic gunsight that Gaddes and Pettit donated to the Heritage Hall in 2009. Bob Matherly, Editor of the Air Force Gunner's Association periodical "Short Bursts", also assisted in both acquisitions.
CMSGT Pettit (USAF-ret.) flew combat missions over Korea in both B-26 and B-29 aircraft. He also flew combat missions over North Vietnam. CMSGT Pettit was in charge of more than 300 B-52 tail gunners during several phases of the Vietnam War, including the massive December 1972 Hanoi raids where more than 15 B-52's were lost. CMSGT Pettit was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross. Air Medal with clusters, SAC Combat Crew Medal, and both Korean and Vietnam combat service medals. SSGT Bill Gaddes was awarded the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf clusters, the USAF Commendation Medal, and the Korean Service Medal with five battle stars.
Bill Gaddes stated "I am very proud to have been able to locate and purchase these two very rare gun sights for the Air Force Enlisted heritage Hall. I am very pleased that Pete and I were able to take the B-26 periscopic gunsight to Maxwell AFB. The curator, Dr. William Chivaletti, was very gratified to incorporate these rare items into the outstanding displays of the 75 years of defensive aerial gunner history. The Enlisted heritage Hall is one of the finest military museums in the world. The museum emphasizes the contributions of enlisted military personnel over the history of military aviation. CMSGT Pettit epitomizes the professional defensive aerial gunner. His career spanned 26 years as a gunner; through three generations of bomber aircraft. We are very proud to have been able to contribute these sights in honor of the Air Force Gunners Association.'
Dr. William Chivaletti, Curator of the USAF Enlisted Heritage Hall, was gratified to acquire a gunsight from the B-29. The defensive armament system represented a significant technical advance in aerial gunnery; incorporating a lead computing gunsight, remote control turrets, and analog computers that were sophisticated for its day. The B-29
“Superfortress” and their heroic crews played a key role in the surrender of Japan in WW II, saving of more than a million American and Japanese lives and many millions of casualties by avoiding a full scale invasion of Japan.
The gunsight will be completely refurbished and placed in a custom enclosure. The story will be featured in the August 2010 issue of “Short Bursts”, the magazine of the Air Force Gunners Association.