|The C.E. Daniel Collection
|As with anything the military produced during WWII, inventive soldiers and airmen always found ways to make the government
produced equipment work better for their needs. When it comes to the 16mm gun camera, many were given "field improvements"
by ambitious pilots and ground crewmen. In the two examples shown below, the 16mm gun camera was re-invented as hand held
In the book, "Aces at War", author Eric Hammel interviewed 55th Fighter Squadron ace Captain Charles "Tink" Cole, who recalled
using a similar camera during his time as a P-51 pilot in Europe. Cole and one of the squadron's photo sergeants got together and
rigged one of these 16mm gun camera to the control grip from a P-38. The unit was powered by a long cord that Cole would plug
into the 24-volt DC outlet in the cockpit of his P-51. Cole recalled taking this improvised camera with him on his last mission and
using it to take photos of his wingman and of aircraft he shot down to confirm their destruction. After being shot down later
during this same mission, Cole would be confronted and questioned by the Luftwaffe about his curious and unique camera.
Below are three such cameras in my private collection. Both are WWII period gun cameras, representing those used in both the
European theater and the Pacific theater.
|The 16mm gun sight aim point (GSAP) camera would faithfully serve pilots of the United States Armed Forces throughout WWII and
into the post-war years. These were electronically activated camera systems, designed to generally be mounted internally in the
wings of fighter and ground attack aircraft to record details of a strike, to serve as confirmation for claims of enemy aircraft damaged
or destroyed, or to scrutinize for details on new enemy equipment. Internal interval control could be manipulated to change the rate
of exposures depending on time of day or weather conditions. A 35mm lens was most commonly found attached to the front of these
The cameras would generally activate once the pilot depressed the trigger on his control stick, recording for a per-determined amount
of time before stopping automatically. The film would later be developed once the mission had ended and the details of the images
would be scrutinized for important details or confirmation of a kill. For training purposes, the cameras were used to record simulated
air combat between trainees to show success or failure without using live ammunition. If you have ever seen gun cameras footage
from the war, showing enemy aircraft being shot down, the film was most likely captured by one of these small, internally mounted
wing cameras. The cameras would generally produce motion pictures images, but still photographs could also be processed and
developed from the motion picture images.
|A U.S. Navy Bell and Howell, Type N4-A 16mm gun camera. This particular camera
has been fitted to an NAF 1173-2 control grip and wired for hand held use inside the
aircraft. While the plug for the wiring has long since been lost, this camera was
undoubtedly designed to plug into the electrical system of the aircraft and be used by
the pilot or a crewman.
The NAF 1173-2 control stick was commonly used by Navy fighter aircraft during the
war, in both the F6F Hellcat and the F4U Corsair. The top portion of this control
stick has been removed, which generally housed the additional button for toggling
bombs from wing mounted positions. The removal of this top piece allowed the
control stick to be able to be mounted flat against the camera housing.
|The most common of all the 16mm gun cameras used by the US during the war is the
AN-N6 type gun camera seen here. As with the piece above, this particular gun
camera has been mounted to the camera housing with a pistol type control grip for
use as a hand held camera. The wiring which once ran down through the bottom of
the control grip is long gone to history, but the rest of the camera remains intact. A
crude aiming sight was added to the top of this particular hand held gun camera for
use with aiming while filming. The photo on the far right shows the very crude
aiming reticle seen when looking through the aiming sight.
This particular camera came in its own WWII era storage box, which securely held
the camera and other miscellaneous camera parts. A small pad of leather had been
placed at the top of the box to protect the camera and the aiming sight during
transport. The data plate shows a production year of 1944.
|I am very interested in adding more of these unique gun cameras to my private collection. I would welcome
anyone who has one to please feel free to contact me.
Aerial Gun Camera
|Above, two original wartime prints in my collection showing German aircraft falling to rounds fired by American fighter aircraft.
These two photographs are terrific examples of the kinds of still photos that were able to be obtained from the video captured by the
16mm gun camera. Close examination of the photo on the right shows an Me-109 with pieces of the aircraft falling away as it
continues to be struck by .50 caliber machine gun fire.
|The photograph to the far left shows the rear portion of the camera, where the film cartridge is inserted prior to take-off. The middle
photograph shows the standard, Kodak produced film cartridge, used in both the AN-N6 and N4-A gun cameras (see below). The
photograph on the far right shows the Control Overrun for the 16mm gun camera. This device would be attached to the gun camera
system, allowing the crew chief or pilot to per-determine how many seconds the gun camera would record for once it was activated.
|A close-up view of the AN-N6 gun camera lens, showing the standard
35mm lens often found on the gun cameras. Various tints for the lenses
were used and tested throughout the war to attempt to improve the
video obtained or to combat various weather that would be encountered.
The gun camera shown below is missing the data plate but appears to be another N4-A version of the gun camera. This particular
gun camera has been era fitted with a makeshift box attached to its side, allowing for a small battery to be placed inside. This
would have allowed the camera to be carried and used without being tethered to an aircraft. The information that came along with
the camera was that it had been fashioned by an Officer who used the camera while stationed in England during the war. As with the
others, this camera is fitted with a pistol type control grip marked "NAF 1174-1." This particular control grip was commonly used in
TBM, US Navy Torpedo bombers.