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The Rear Gunner (1943)

Not Rated | | Short, Drama, War | 10 April 1943 (USA)
A young rural enlistee is initially disappointed with his job as an air mechanic, but his great marksmanship skills make him a tail gunner in a bomber.





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Complete credited cast:
Pvt. L.A. Pee Wee Williams (as Lieutenant Burgess Meredith)
Lt. Ames (as Lieutenant Ronald Reagan)
Instructor Sergeant
Benny (as Bernard Zanville)
Commanding Officer
Knox Manning ...
Narrator (voice)


Documentary-style drama on training of aerial rear gunners in World War II. Private PeeWee Williams, a Kansas farm boy, transforms his home-grown shooting skills into those necessary to an aerial gunner in the tail turret of: an American bomber. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Short | Drama | War


Not Rated




Release Date:

10 April 1943 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Broadway Brevities (1942-1943 season) #10: The Rear Gunner  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (shortened)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Vitaphone production reel #1111A. See more »


Narrator: The gunnery schools are always on the lookout for men short on height but long on ambition.
See more »


Featured in Warner at War (2008) See more »


The Army Air Corps Song
Written by Robert Crawford
Sung by a chorus during the opening credits and played often in the score
See more »

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User Reviews

Shoot Straight.
12 February 2017 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

Interesting and informative brief war-time documentary that takes through aerial gunnery school with a Kansas boy, Burgess Meredith, who learned how to shoot by downing crows that were eating his crops. Ronald Reagan is the captain who encourages him. Tom Neal is an instructor. Classmate Dane Clark is as close as the production should get to a stereotypical New York wise guy.

It's not bad, for what it is. I believe there is a feature film floating around in the ether starring Chester Morris in "Aerial Gunner." It covers much of the same ground as this training camp film but is mucked up with an unnecessary romance and equally gratuitous conflict among the men.

You know why it's interesting? Because every young boy wants to shoot a gun. They don't necessarily want to kill anyone. They just want to hit a target with a projectile. The dynamics of baseball are identical. The bat moves; the ball moves; and you try to hit one with the other. Golf likewise involves making a projectile (the golf ball) move to its target (the little hole in the ground with the flag sticking out of it). Bocce ball and darts ditto.

There's no drama in the film. It's not like Randall Jarell's "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 its 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."

This is a flag waver from beginning to end and the viewer has to put up with a bit of corn, but the film isn't long. And it does have an educational narrative.

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