"Big Ben": Sergeant Benjamin F. Warmer III, Flying Ace.

By Air Power History

  • Release Date: 2003-09-22
  • Genre: Engineering


The secret dream of every American fighter pilot in combat was to shoot down five enemy aircraft. Any "throttle bender" accomplishing this feat was assured instant fame, a Distinguished Flying Cross, and some press officer-generated news stories to immortalize his exploits "in the vastness of the wild blue yonder." Even today the title "Ace" conjures up special images of aerial dogfights between resolute pilots performing aerial daring-do far beyond the eyes and ears of mere earthlings. Aviation writer Gene Gurney described becoming an ace as, "Five Down and Glory." The phrase aptly describes what happened to most of the more than 1,100 officer aces in the two World Wars and Korea. Among this pantheon of aerial heroes is a lone enlisted gunner who, in the decades following his exploits, has earned a twenty-three-word footnote in one history and an error-riddled account in another. History's oversight of Staff Sergeant Benjamin Franklin Warmer III is unfortunate for he was a Flying Fortress gunner of incredible skill. One memorable day, while on a bomb run at 21,000 feet over Sicily, he accomplished what no American fighter pilot has done in any war. During a frenzied fifteen-minute air battle on July 5, 1943, Warmer fired 1,200 rounds of carefully aimed 50-caliber ammunition and bagged seven of Germany's best fighter aircraft.