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Arthur Unruh

A B-17 Bomber Gunner's Life - A Firsthand Account


In February 1943, a lanky kid from Kansas was called up by the draft board to defend the United States against Germany during World War II. Flying Heritage Collection docent Art Unruh still has that letter along with the Silver Star and the journal he faithfully kept each day. He published the journal in 2000, a book called, The Shadow Casters, now in its third printing. When you put 1,000 B-17s in the air on a sun shiny day, said Art, you get a lot of shadows on the ground. .

But it would be nearly a year later before Art would be assigned to the 32nd Bomb Squadron of the 301st Bomb Group and leave to see action. But he did fly in 50 bombing missions out of Italy to vital targets in seven European countries. .

Most people don't know this, Art said. The chances of making it through all 50 missions was only 27%. We lost more B-17 men than all the men in the Pacific. That's because each bomber had ten men. On my last mission we had seven planes, only two came back. Five went down in the first eight minutes so 50 men gone that quick. Today, he tells his stories to children at school assemblies and as a volunteer at the Flying Heritage Collection, located at Arlington Airport. That's my candy store. The 84-year-old decorated veteran beams as he gazes at the restored WWII and Cold War-era planes and the ones awaiting parts. I'm the oldest guy out here. I'm thrilled to tell my stories as much as people are to hear them. Here, he recounts his experiences sitting in the ball turret upon a bicycle seat, with knees bent passed his shoulders for up to four hours at a time, manning the gun and shooting at enemy aircraft. What was it like? Scary&noisy. But all the time you're in the air, you're busy shooting at the enemy fighters and you don't think about things until you get back on the ground and see how butchered up your plane is. That's when you fall apart.

Art said with emotion, I was fortunate. I got to come back to the States and grow up. But for my buddies who didn't, my flag goes up for them every day of the year.


S/Sgt Arthur B. Unruh, USAAF A Staff Sgt. with the Regular Army Air Corps, 15th Air Force, 301st Bombardment Group, 32nd Bombardment Squadron. Art was a waist gunner assigned to help crew the Flying Fortresses (B-17s) of the 32nd Bombardment Squadron, stationed in the European Theatre, Foggia, Italy. Art was awarded the Silver Star for the valor he and his fellow crewmen displayed on Art's 50th ("Go Home") mission when the 301st and other squadrons were sent in mass to locate and destroy Nazi Germany's aircraft engine factory located in Weiner Neudorf, Austria. Art has compiled his diary and complete collection of records and pictures in his excellent book, "The Shadow Casters: My Journey Through War", ISBN-13: 9781929176007, ISBN: 1929176007 Art is a docent at the Flying Heritage Collection. On Father's Day 2009, his children gave a him a gift 53rd flight in a B-17.


Arthur Unruh

S/Sgt. Arthur B Unruh was assigned to the 301st BG 32nd Squadron.
Military Occupational Specialty (MOS): Ball Turret gunner.

The following information on Arthur Unruh is gathered and extracted from military records. We have many documents and copies of documents, including military award documents. It is from these documents that we have found this information on S/Sgt. Unruh. These serviceman's records are nowhere near complete and we are always looking for more material. If you can help add to Arthur Unruh's military record please contact us.

  Rank General Order Date Notes Award Ribbon & Device

Arthur Unruh






Air Medal (AM)

Arthur Unruh






Air Medal (AM) Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC)

Arthur Unruh






Air Medal (AM) Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC)

Arthur Unruh






Air Medal (AM) Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC)

Arthur Unruh






Silver Star







Air Medal (AM)

25-Feb-44 PUC 24 Aug 1944 Silver Star

Please contact us with any biographical data, pictures or other information regarding the service and life of Arthur Unruh.

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