The Norden bombsight was crucial to the success of the U.S. Army Air Forces' daylight bombing campaign during World War II.
Initially developed by Carl Norden for the U.S. Navy, the Army Air Corps acquired its first Norden bombsight in 1932.
Highly classified, it gave American forces bombing accuracy unmatched by any other nation at the time.
Oakland Aviation Museum Norden Bombsight on Display
The Norden bombsight functioned as a part of a total system. As the bomber approached the target, the bombardier entered data about wind direction, airspeed and altitude into the bombsight's analog computer, which calculated wind drift and provided the correct aim point. An internal gyroscope provided the stability necessary for using the telescopic sight at high altitudes. When connected to the Sperry C-1 Autopilot, the Norden bombsight provided unprecedented accuracy.
Although newspapers at the time claimed it was so accurate that it could "drop a bomb into a pickle barrel," the Norden bombsight appears archaic by the standards employed by today's U.S. Air Force. On the famous bombing raid against the ball-bearing factories at Schweinfurt in October 1943, the 8th Air Force sent more than 250 B-17 bombers to destroy the target. The bombardiers used Norden bombsights.
However, only one of every 10 bombs landed within 500 feet of the target. As a result, the raid failed to completely destroy the target, and additional bombing raids were needed. By contrast, modern precision guided munitions are accurate to within a few feet, making a single aircraft more effective than the hundreds of bombers of WWII.
The Norrden Bombsight
8th Air Force Bombardier Setting Up Norden Bombsight
Cadets selected for bombardier training were entrusted with one of the nation's most closely guarded military secrets, the famous Norden Bombsight.
Once a man had completed bombardier preflight training, he was sent to bombardier school where he was required to take a special oath, promising to protect the secret of the sight with his life.
For additional information on WWII Bombadiers, visit the links below:
Hell From Heaven Men
WW II Bombardiers
Bombardier school lasted up to 18 weeks. Each student dropped approximately 160 bombs, during the training. Students experienced both daytime and night bomb drops. Precise records were maintained of hits and misses. The elimination rate was 12%.
Upon graduation, a bombardier was transferred to an operational training unit to join a crew being trained for overseas duty. By war's end, more than 45,000 bombardiers had been trained.