An Interview with 404th Fighter Squadron Armorer Victor Kramer

It takes teamwork to generate the airpower needed to fly fight and win.  It’s always been that way in aerial warfare.  Usually the pilots receive their due credit, but unfortunately, many members of the ground echelon don’t receive much attention, nor do they ask for it.  But the pilots and P-47s of the 371st Fighter Group would have never left the ground in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) were it not for the untiring efforts of the ground crews.

One of these unsung servicemen is Mr. Victor Kramer, who served as an Armorer in the 404th Fighter Squadron of the 371st Fighter Group.  He loaded the weapons that Frisky was using in combat operations in the European Theater of Operations.  Specifically he serviced a P-47 Thunderbolt in C Flight of the squadron, one flown by Jack Pitts (misspelled in transcription below as Fitz).

Ground crew of Jack Pitts P-47D, 9Q O, Gus, Moses and Vic (From Jack Pitts  book, "P-47 Pilot:  Scared, Bored, & Deadly"

Ground crew of Jack Pitts P-47D, 9Q O, Gus, Moses and Vic (From Jack Pitts book, “P-47 Pilot: Scared, Bored, & Deadly,” page 52)

A description for Victor Kramer’s Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), is as follows from AAF Manual 0-35-1:

MOS 911 Airplane Armorer:  “Inspects and performs 1st and 2nd echelon maintenance on all armament within the unit, and loads bombs and ammunition in aircraft.  Periodically examines aerial machine guns and other aircraft armament and equipment such as aerial cannon, bomb racks, bomb release mechanisms, gun mounts, gun turrets, and pyrotechnics for cleanliness and proper functioning.  Installs armament and equipment and checks their completeness prior to missions.  Removes and replaces aircraft armament to be serviced or repaired.  May remove and replace bombsights. Inspects, disassembles, cleans, repairs, assembles, and makes parts replacements to such weapons as .50 caliber machine guns, .30 caliber machine guns, 37mm cannon, rifles, carbines, and pistols.  Uses depth gauges, and other hand or bench tools in making these repairs. Loads bombs on bomb racks of aircraft prior to missions.  Completion of a course in aircraft armament at an Army school or equivalent experience required.”

Source:  http://forum.armyairforces.com/Description-and-Responsibilities-of-Various-Armorer-Rating-during-WWII-m197640.aspx

Victor B. Kramer is the man either to the left or the right of the pooch - incomplete roster of names in the original caption to correlate (From "The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O., page 100)

Victor B. Kramer is the man either to the left or the right of the pooch – incomplete roster of names in the original caption to correlate (From “The Story of the 371st Fighter Group in the E.T.O., page 100)

A few years ago, Victor Kramer was interviewed about his military experience as part of Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress.  The interview, giving one a sense of the war from an Armorer’s perspective, is available to read online at:

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/story/loc.natlib.afc2001001.07853/transcript?ID=sr0001

The P-47 in the fighter-bomber role was a voracious consumer of munitions.  With eight .50 caliber machine guns, up to 3,500 rounds could be carried, which could be a lot of work for an armorer, though the amount varied based on mission requirements.

The gun bay and ammunition storage trays atop one wing are opened for servicing in this view of a 371FG P-47 at a muddy airfield on the Continent.

The gun bay and ammunition storage trays atop one wing are opened for servicing in this view of a 371FG P-47 at a muddy airfield on the Continent.

Armorers also made sure the guns were properly aligned as they were regularly removed for maintenance and reinstalled.  Each one had to properly aligned in what was called boresighting.

Armoers "boresight" the .50 caliber machine guns in the right wing of a 371FG P-47.

Armorers “boresight” the .50 caliber machine guns in the right wing of a 371FG P-47.

The P-47 had three points under which it could carry bombs, again, the number and type varying depending on the mission requirements. In the ETO, the armorers were very busy.

An armorer services the .50 caliber machine guns in one of Frisky's Thunderbolts.

An armorer services the .50 caliber machine guns in one of Frisky’s Thunderbolts.

So, a Frisky Kudo goes out to Victor Kramer for recording this interview for us all to enjoy, and for posterity.  The editor of this blog encourages any other 371st Fighter Group veterans and families to document their record of military service for the family, and for sharing with others as well as future generations.  This is an important thing to do.

Consider this quote from General Gordon R. Sullivan, former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, “World War II was the largest and most violent armed conflict in the history of mankind. However, the half century that now separates us from that conflict has exacted its toll on our collective knowledge. While World War II continues to absorb the interest of military scholars and historians, as well as its veterans, a generation of Americans has grown to maturity largely unaware of the political, social, and military implications of a war that, more than any other, united us as a people with a common purpose.”

We can all do our part to mitigate the lack of knowledge in today’s generation about this colossal, global war with impact still resonating today by documenting and making available any number of recollections, facts, artifacts, from that time.  For more information on how to do this like Victor Kramer did, via the Veterans History Project, see:

http://www.loc.gov/vets/

Bombs and bullets, bullets and bombs…Frisky poses as an Armorer at Metz Airfield, France

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