CAUGHT IN THE CROSSHAIRS: THE NORDEN BOMBSIGHT
What is a Bombsight?
A SYSTEM FOR HIGH ALTITUDE DAYTIME BOMBING
WITH UNPRECEDENTED ACCURACY
The Norden bombsight was a system able to measure the aircraft’s groundspeed and direction in order to control the precise location that a bomb would land. Accuracy was unprecedented for high altitude bombing and the program was highly classified. The bombsight was one of the most closely guarded military secrets of World War II. The U.S. military deemed the sight so important that it required the men who used it to take an “Oath of Secrecy.” It was a major technological advance. The contract was the 46th largest military contract awarded by the U.S. military for WWII. Carl Norden understood the value of his invention to the war effort and sold the rights to the U.S. Government for just one dollar.
How it Worked
In a complex and precise sequence, the pilot and the bombardier worked closely together. The pilot would fly the aircraft to the target and the bombardier would switch on the bombsight and the autopilot would engage. The bombardier would center the telescope’s crosshairs on the target adjusting a series of controls, and the bomb would be released. Immediately, the pilot would regain control of the aircraft. The bombsight was synchronized to calculate drift speed, wind and ground speed and by the time the bomb hit the ground, the plane was far ahead of the target.