Las Vegas Gunnery School

Several 8th AFHS-Mn members were at the Las Vegas Gunnery School, such as Vince Parker (1943), Cliff Digre (1944), Ralph Pettyjohn (1943 & 1945), Dave Dahlberg (1942), Elizabeth Strohfus (1944) and others. The school was featured in Rear Gunner (below) with Burgess Meredith and Ronald Reagan. Aerial Gunner is a Hollywood movie made about the training at the gunnery school in Harlingen, Texas. The above slide show was put together from Life Magazine photos in a 1943 cover article about the Las Vegas school.
 
Liz Strohfus (then Betty Wall) flew different aircraft including multi-engine bombers. She towed targets and dove into formations to test the gunners' skills. Sometimes color coded live ammo was used, which told them who was hitting the target and who was hitting the plane. Eventually she also became an instructor and taught instruments to pilots going to school in Las Vegas. Liz was there in 1944 according to her chapter in War Stories Volume II (pp. 40-47).
 
Cliff Digre has an excellent description in his book Into Life's School: My WW II Memories (pp. 29-38) of his impressions and memories about what it was like to go through the gunnery school.  As he recalled it: "The target we were to shoot at was supposed to be a safe distance behind, but that was not always the case. I personally never saw a tow plane hit, but we were told many, many stray bullets did hit the towing plane in spite of the instructors constantly yelling, "Hit the targets, not the tow plane!" " (p.35). Cliff was at the Las Vegas Army Air Field between January 31, 1944 to April 8, 1944.
 
(Below) Ralph Pettyjohn in Las Vegas (during the period he was at the Gunnery School) Ralph is seated second from the left.
(Below) Ralph Pettyjohn in Las Vegas during his Gunnery School period. Ralph is at the end of the table.
 
 
 
Rear Gunner with Burgess Meredith and Ronald Reagan

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