These 5 World War II jobs were more dangerous than being an infantryman

If you jumped into a time machine and found yourself at a recruiting office during World War II, what job would be safest to sign up for? While most people hoping to stay alive would just pick “anything but infantry,” there were actually other jobs that proved to be even more dangerous. Here are a few examples:

1. Ball turret gunners

Alan-Magee-World-War-II-bomber-ball-turret-gunner

Photo: US Army Air Force

Ball turret gunners flying over enemy targets had one of the war’s most dangerous jobs. In addition to the standard fears of being shot down, these gunners had to deal with the fact that they were dangling beneath the aircraft without any armor and were a favored target of enemy fighters.

Worse, their parachute didn’t fit in the ball and so they would have to climb into the plane and don the chute if the crew was forced to bail out. They were also more exposed to the elements than other aircrew members. Turret gunners oxygen lines could freeze from the extremely low temperatures.

2. Everyone else in the airplane

This Boeing B-17F had its left wing blown off by an Me-262 over Crantenburg, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo)

This Boeing B-17F had its left wing blown off by an Me-262 over Crantenburg, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Of course, all aircrews over enemy territory had it bad. While planes are often thought of us a safe, cush assignment these days, it was one of the most dangerous jobs in World War II. Deadly accurate flak tore through bomber formations while fighters picked apart aircraft on their own.

And crews had limited options when things went wrong. First aid was so limited that severely injured crewmembers were sometimes thrown from the plane with their parachute in the hopes that Nazi soldiers would patch them up and send them to a POW camp. Flying over enemy territory in any aircraft was so dangerous that paratroopers actually counted down until they could jump out and become safer.

3. Merchant mariners

1117px-Pennsylvania_Sun-sinking-supply-ship-torpedo

A Merchant Marine ship burns after a torpedo attack in the Atlantic. Photo: US Navy

The military branch that took the worst losses in World War II is barely considered a military branch. The Merchant Marine was tasked with moving all the needed materiel from America to Britain, Russia, and the Pacific. While U.S. papers often announced that two Merchant Marine ships were lost the previous week, the actual losses averaged 33 ships per week.

One out of every 26 mariners died in the war, a loss rate of 3.85 percent. The next closest service is the Marine Corps which lost 3.66 percent of its force to battle and noncombat deaths. If the Air Force had been a separate service in World War II, it would likely have been the only service to suffer as horrible losses as the guys who were delivering the mail.

4. Submariners

USS-squalus-rescue-salvage-SS-192-submarine-world-war-II

The USS Squalus, which sank due to mechanical failure during a test run, breaches the surface during one of the attempts to raise it. Photo: courtesy Boston Public Library

Submariners had to descend beneath the surface of the ocean in overpacked steel tubes, so how could the job be any more dangerous than you would already expect? First of all, torpedoes were prone to what is called a “circle run.” It happens when a torpedo drifts to one side and so goes in a full circle, striking the sub that fired it.

If that didn’t happen, the sailors still had to worry about diesel fumes not venting or the batteries catching fire. Both scenarios would end with the crew asphyxiating. That’s not even counting the numerous mechanical or crew failures that could suddenly sink the vessel, something the crew of the USS Squalus learned the hard way.

5. Field-telephone layers and radio teams

Pathfinder-unit-sets-up-radio

Photo: US Army

Most soldiers know you should aim for the antennas on the battlefield, and that made a common POG job one of the most dangerous on the front lines in World War II. The antennas belonged to forward observers and commanders, so snipers homed in on them.

Similarly, cable was laid so leaders could speak without fear of the enemy listening in. The “cable dogs” tasked with running the telephone wires would frequently be shot by snipers hoping to stop enemy communications. Similarly, both radio carriers and cable dogs were targeted by planes and artillery units.

TOP ARTICLES
This is what the DoD has planned for a zombie apocalypse

It does touch on many of the pop culture elements of zombie lore, but it breaks things down to become applicable to most situations that would similar to an actual outbreak.

Some dirtbags messed with an Iwo Jima memorial — and Marines caught 'em on film

Officials say an Iwo Jima memorial in Fall River was doused with the contents of a fire extinguisher last weekend. Police are investigating

Vets are going to get a new ID card, and they'll be ready for use next month

The new identification card will provide employers looking to hire veterans with an easier way to verify an employee's military service.

This is the story behind the rise and fall of the Islamic State group

The Islamic State group, responsible for some of the worst atrocities perpetrated against civilians in recent history, appears on the verge of collapse.

Now the Iraqi army is going after the Kurdish forces who helped beat ISIS

Iraqi federal and Kurdish forces exchanged fire on Oct. 20, capping a dramatic week that saw the Kurds hand over territory across Northern Iraq.

This Kurdish female militia refuses to stop its hunt for ISIS terrorists

A Kurdish female militia, after helping free the city of Raqqa, said it will continue the fight to liberate women from the extremists’ brutal rule.

The US just sent nearly 1M bombs and missiles to Guam — here's why

Hint: There's this guy a few thousand miles away who's threatening to lob a nuke in their direction.

This is what the 400 US troops in Somalia are actually up to

The US has quadrupled its military presence in Somalia after Al-Shabab killed nearly 300 civilians in two truck bombings. Half of them are special ops troops.

The war between the US Army and Magpul is heating up over ice

Magpul officials are calling foul on the Army's claim that its rifle magazines don't work in the cold — and they say they can prove it.

The real-life dictator who ruined his country and became a cannibal

In this episode, the WATM podcast team talks about Ken Burns' 'Vietnam' series, the down side of communism and Idi Amin. You won't want to miss it.