Randall Jarrell: 1914-1965In 1942 Jarrell entered the Army Air Force, but failed to qualify as a flyer and became a celestial training navigator in Tucson, Arizona. During his nearly four years of service he wrote many poems about the army and the war, accumulating the bulk of his next two books, Little Friend, Little Friend (1945) and Losses (1948). Source: Modern American Poetry.
THE DEATH OF THE BALL TURRET GUNNER
From my mother’s sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from the dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.
Published 1945: Written by Randall Jarrell
Frank Reese Mays (aka “Junior”): Ball Turret Gunner on the “WAR HORSE” – 35+ Combat Missions in the Ball Turret (NOT the subject of this poem)
“A ball turret was a plexiglass sphere set into the belly of a B-17 or B-24 bomber and inhabited by two.50 caliber machine-guns and one man, a short, small man. When this gunner tracked with his machine-guns a fighter attacking his bomber from below, he revolved the turret; hunched upside-down in his little sphere, he looked like the foetus in the womb. The fighters, which attacked him, were armed with canon firing explosive shells. The hose was a steam hose.” (Jarrell’s notes)