Clark Gable's .50 Cal?

I was given this .50 Cal rd a few days ago, headstamp DM 43, it was recovered from an old World War 2 RAF base at Polebrook near Oundle, Northamptonshire, England.
On June 28, 1942, RAF Polebrook was officially turned over to the USAAF and the airbase became the base of the 97th Bombardment Group.

Captain Clark Gable flew 5 Combat Missions from there with the 351st.

Clark Gable filmed the documentary ‘Combat America’ at Polebrook between July and September 1943

So by stretching the imagination a little this round could have been handled by Clark Gable…maybe ;)

I think I’ll clean the mud off and leave it at that although my son thinks it should be polished.


You lucky dog. It certainly looks like one of the Clark Gable cartridges. My vote is for “authentic”. Label it and put it in a safe place.



While it certainly looks like it came directly from the B-17 Clark Gable was on - I can tell by the little scratch on it and with my experience with descriptions on eBay, which is always accurate,
I have to burst your bubble. Clark Gable was a Bombadier, not a gunner, so it wasn’t his. I will say that one of the little markings on it looks like he might have handled it - perhaps helped the armourer clear the jam that this round probably represents judging from the debt.

By the way, I have a very large, orange-colored bridge close by to me that I would like to sell someone. Any takers?

John Moss

The only thing he could have possibly done was walked over this. Apparently they used hundreds of feet of belts of live .50 as artificial flooring over the mud at some airfields. I am told that this can be dug up at certain places in the UK.


Very interesting application of .50 Cal. ammunition you mention. I’d seen the mats made of what looks like steel links like those used for steel conveyor belts but never heard of ammunition being used for that. Well, we did make billions of the things…I’ll keep a look out for that when watching old film clips.

John and Armourer,

Don’t kill the story yet! I think there were some models of the B-17 that had a .50 Cal. installed in the chin for the Bombardier to use when he wasn’t at the bomb sight over the target. Now we just need to see a picture of Clark in his plane and see if he was set up that way…I vote you leave it unpolished as it looks to have a lot of charactor just like it is. As Ray said, label it as being Clark Gable’s and then you can let others prove it wasn’t his…


Having googled “RAF Polebrook” I found this:

“Gable’s B-17 was nicknamed The 8 Ball MK II (s/n 41-24635). Gable fired a few rounds from a machine gun mounted in the radio room and suffered a minor case of frostbite from wearing leather gloves in the extreme cold.”

Having inspected the round with a microscope I’m sure I can see a tiny piece of leather from maybe…Oh …I don’t know …a glove ??? and the round feels very very cold…

I thought the King enlisted which would have made it a stretch for him to be a bombadier, a commisssioned MOS. I think he was always a gunner/observer.


Clark Gable did enlist as a private, but then went almost immediately to OCS and in sixty dates, emerged a Lt. He got out of the Army Air Force as a Major. All the Hollywood guys involved with the AF wanted to be pilots - glamor guys. Clark Gable wet as a bombadier and therefore was a great recruiting tool for guys to take up that specialty. At least all of that is in the last Biography I read about him. I decided to revisit this and I googled his military service. I couldn’t find quickly a real synopsis of it, but it appeared that he did attend aeriel gunnery school and actually was initially assigned to the unit in England for the purpose of making films about aerial gunnery. If that is true, than I guess that .50 caliber shell was really his! : ) I do know that he made some combat flights, and I would be surprised if as an officer that he was a gunner. My impression is that most of the gunners aboard bombers were enlisted men. He definitely was an officer by the time he got overseas. Some say he flew the combat missions, which at his age (he was in his very early 40s when he enlisted - in short, he didn’t have to go at all) - because he had a death wish due to the loss of his beloved wife, Carole Lombard. Whatever he did, he served honorably and with less fanfare than some of the Hollywood bunch, although it is not my intention to take anything away from ANY of those that served. They all ended up doing what Uncle Sam required them to do, including those that didn’t serve in actual combat.

John Moss

While it is fun and games to think the “what if’s”, lets not forget all the real heroes. While Clark did freely enlist, he did fly just 5 missions. Lets not forget those that didnt get to go home after 5 missions. Though not an actor my father-in-law hung suspended from the ball turret of a B-17, 32 times.

Caution, anyone seriously considering J.Moss’ offer for one “very large, orange-colored bridge”. While original and large, the paint was applied to hide major defects. Just watch the news and check for missing pieces. Buyer beware.

Am very interested in that Bridge.
How big is it and how much to ship to to NZ?


Vlad - you are thinking of the wrong bridge. It is grey in color - the Oakland-Bay Bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge, which has had no structural problems ever that I am aware of (built when America could still do things right) is much more prestigious!

Nick - it is one mile between the two towers. I haven’t figured out how to weight it to get the UPS Air charges for shipping it to NZ. But if you send me the check, I “promise” I will send it : )!

Remchester - On a very serious note, it is very hard to compare the service of the guys of the Eighth Army Air Force by number of missions. Many went down, KIA or to end up in years of POW captivity, on their first mission. One thing is very clear - your father-in-law is, in my mind, a hero of the highest order for even climbing into the ball turret the first time, much more so for flying 32 missions. Bless him and all who flew with him. I hope the USAAF suitably recognized his servce, and I personally salute him and thank him for it, as I am sure every real American does. My generation (born 1939) grew up in safety thanks to the service of men like your father-in-law. I fully understand what you said as well.