The Memphis Belle Crew: Ball Turret Gunner
Serial #13047756 Scott, Cecil H. -
Ball Turret Gunner, Asst Radio Operator.
Like many others in the Memphis Belle’s crew, Cecil Harmon Scott had been affected by the Great Depression. His father Ross had been a timber and logging operator and had experienced more than his fair share of tough times around Holidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Ross and his wife Tena had a hard time keeping enough food on the home table for themselves and seven children. ‘Mixing Maple syrup with clean snow was really delicious...’ recalled Cecil’s sister Mary ‘... we called it poor folk’s ice cream’
When Cecil arranged at the Recruiting Office to enlist, he was told ‘too small and too light’. He was a quarter-inch under minimum height. So he hung on a bar every day, trying to stretch himself - and ate bananas to put on weight. When he went back to that office in Harrisburg, PA, he was accepted as a Private in the Air Corps.
Suddenly, the Air Force wanted the short-stuff guys. For gunners, for instance, all curled up in one of those ball turrets in a B-17 bomber. And off to war. He was promoted to Sergeant in Walla Walla on August 1st 1942.
In England they called him Scotty, the guy the other crew members relied on to keep the German fighters from hitting the belly of the Memphis Belle.
'I once spent seven hours in that ball turret and it wasn't too bad. From down there I could see everything, and if I saw a fighter coming in too high to get a shot at him, I'd tell the Chief [pilot Bob Morgan] to lift the wing a bit so I could take a shot at the guy’.
Sometimes from that belly gun position, Scott would see the German pilots trying the trick of hanging on their propeller, trying to get a shot at the plane from below before they stalled, and dropped away. ‘I think they were trying to hit the bombs in our bomb bay and explode them, blowing us to bits’. It was Scotty’s job to see they didn't get away with it.
Like most other gunners in the Eighth Air Force, Scott shot at a lot of enemy planes, but on the official side he only had one ‘damaged’ to his credit. A gunner had to have confirmation from other sources to get credit for a kill, even if you saw the airplane you were shooting at fall apart.