The Norden Bombsight was touted as one of the most important U.S. secret weapons used during World War II in its bomber aircraft. The device was essentially a mechanical analog computer that enabled high altitude precision bombing by determining the exact moment bombs had to be dropped to hit their targets. The bombardier's job was to 'program' the computer with information it needed such as air speed, wind speed, wind direction, altitude, and angle of drift. As the aircraft approached the target, the pilot turned the aircraft over to the bombardier and his bombsight. The bombsight then played the part of an automatic pilot as it flew the aircraft and released the bombs over the target. It has been said that with the Norden Bombsight, a bomb could be placed inside a 100 foot circle from four miles high.
Due to its top-secret nature, bombardiers were instructed to destroy the bombsight if they were ever shot down. Each bombardier trained in its operation had to swear under oath to protect its secrecy with their lives if needed...even though its security classification had been reduced from "secret" to "confidential" in 1935 and from "confidential" to "restricted" in 1942. The bombsight was kept locked up in a safe until just before takeoff at which point the bombardier would be escorted by armed guards when carrying the bombsight to his aircraft. Upon landing, the bombsight was removed immediately under armed guard and secured.
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Last modified: June 8, 2007