In the very first photo ( left to right ) are WWII veterans
Stuart Seaton , Ryland Bailey and Ellis Cunningham. Ellis took
part in the WWII exhibit on Bon Air Victorian Day . One of the
middle photos is of his friend Stuart Seaton, VMI class of 1941,
who was a 24-year-old Major, 463rd Parachute, defending the
Bastogne area in the Battle of the Bulge, Dec.1944. With Stuart
in the photo is Del. John O'Bannon ( R-Henrico ) who is Chairman
of the Virginia War Memorial .
The very last photo is of John, his friend Ellis Cunningham
(Navy gunnery officer on LST-989), and Paul Galanti (one wing of
the War Memorial building is named for him).
The Movie "Memphis Belle", a restored WWII B-17 "flying
fortress" bomber will take to the skies over Richmond on
Monday September 9th ( Media flight September 9th at
2pm, Public flights and Ground tours available on
Sixty eight years ago these aircraft flew from bases far
from home in an attempt to bring freedom to oppressed
peoples. Our B-17 mission for today is to educate the
people of America about the courageous WWII veterans,
and remember those brave aircrew who never made it home.
"Memphis Belle" is a living museum, our heritage not in
mothballs or the pages of a dusty book, but real life,
three dimensions, here and now. You are invited to come
touch the past and fly through ageless skies.
NOTE TO THE MEDIA: MEDIA FLIGHTS & LOCAL VETERAN
Monday, September 9th at 2pm
The Liberty Foundations 2013 Salute to Veterans tour
will be arriving in Richmond at the Hanover County
Municipal Airport ( Hova Flight Servised FBO, 11152
Airpark Road) on Monday September 9th, 2013 at 2pm for
media opportunities. On display will be the famous
Boeing B-17 “Memphis Belle” celebrating this year the
70th anniversary of the Memphis Belle's historic last
mission and first visit to Richmond.
We are offering two (2) seats for your news organization
to participate in the Monday Media Flight. During the
press flight you are only in a seat for takeoff and
landing and can visit the cockpit, glass nose, and all
the crew positions to get a feel for what the B-17 was
like. The day’s media flights are closed to the general
public and only available to pre-scheduled media, seats
are limited. The aircraft will be open to the public
and available for flights and ground tours on Saturday
September 14th. We will also have local WWII B-17
veterans out to fly with you on the press flights and
available for interviews.
As our B-17 flies around town this weekend, its famous
silhouette and unique sound will draw a great deal of
attention. It is only through the news coverage and
reporting from our media patrons that allow people to
know where to come out to see and experience this
ultimate history lesson. It is only through your
efforts and the public’s support that we can continue to
keep the B-17 on tour and from being permanently
silenced to sit in a museum.
Due to seat request by other media constitutes, please
let us know if you are able to fly or attend.
A mid-air collision on February 1, 1943 between a B-17 and a German fighter over the Tunis dock area became the subject of one of the most famous photographs of World War II.
An enemy fighter attacking a 97th Bomb Group formation went out of control, probably with a wounded pilot then continued its crashing descent into the rear of the fuselage of a Fortress named All American, piloted by Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg, of the 414th Bomb Squadron.
When it struck, the fighter broke apart, but left some pieces in the B-17. The left horizontal stabilizer of the Fortress and left elevator were completely torn away. The two right engines were out and one on the left had a serious oil pump leak. The vertical fin and the rudder had been damaged, the fuselage had been cut almost completely through... connected only at two small parts of the frame and the radios, electrical and oxygen systems were damaged.
There was also a hole in the top that was over 16 feet long and 4 feet wide at its widest and the split in the fuselage went all the way to the top gunners turret.
Although the tail actually bounced and swayed in the wind and twisted when the plane turned and all the control cables were severed, except one single elevator cable still worked, and the aircraft still flew... miraculously!
The tail gunner was trapped because there was no floor connecting the tail to the rest of the plane. The waist and tail gunners used parts of the German fighter and their own parachute harnesses in an attempt to keep the tail from ripping off and the two sides of the fuselage from splitting apart.
While the crew was trying to keep the bomber from coming apart, the pilot continued on his bomb run and released his bombs over the target.
When the bomb bay doors were opened, the wind turbulence was so great that it blew one of the waist gunners into the broken tail section. It took several minutes and four crew members to pass him ropes from parachutes and haul him back into the forward part of the plane. When they tried to do the same for the tail gunner, the tail began flapping so hard that it began to break off. The weight of the gunner was adding some stability to the tail section, so he went back to his position.
The turn back toward England had to be very slow to keep the tail from twisting off. They actually covered almost 70 miles to make the turn home. The bomber was so badly damaged that it was losing altitude and speed and was soon alone in the sky. For a brief time, two more Me-109 German fighters attacked the All American. Despite the extensive damage, all of the machine gunners were able to respond to these attacks and soon drove off the fighters. The two waist gunners stood up with their heads sticking out through the hole in the top of the fuselage to aim and fire their machine guns. The tail gunner had to shoot in short bursts because the recoil was actually causing the plane to turn.
Allied P-51 fighters intercepted the All American as it crossed over the Channel and took one of the pictures shown. They also radioed to the base describing that the empennage was waving like a fish tail and that the plane would not make it and to send out boats to rescue the crew when they bailed out. The fighters stayed with the Fortress taking hand signals from Lt. Bragg and relaying them to the base. Lt. Bragg signaled that 5 parachutes and the spare had been "used" so five of the crew could not bail out. He made the decision that if they could not bail out safely, then he would stay with the plane and land it.
Two and a half hours after being hit, the aircraft made its final turn to line up with the runway while it was still over 40 miles away. It descended into an emergency landing and a normal roll-out on its landing gear.
When the ambulance pulled alongside, it was waved off because not a single member of the crew had been injured. No one could believe that the aircraft could still fly in such a condition. The Fortress sat placidly until the crew all exited through the door in the fuselage and the tail gunner had climbed down a ladder, at which time the entire rear section of the aircraft collapsed onto the ground. The rugged old bird had done its job.
Ozzie & Joyce Osborn
Good Friends - Poor Joyce has a bad head cold,
but nevertheless was up early this morning as we
drove to the Cambridge American Cemetery
together. Christmas Eve 1944 would see the
largest air armada ever assembled in the whole
history of aviation before or since, some 2,032
heavy bombers as well as nearly 1,000 fighters -
some of these fighters taking off from newly won
airfields in Belgium. The weather in the UK was
atrocious with sub zero temperatures and
freezing thick fog. The Mighty 8th AAF had been
grounded for a few days by the bad weather, and
today the orders were for every aircraft that
was available to be launched in support missions
for what we now know as 'The Battle of the
The first aircraft taking off from
Nuthampstead would crash after stalling out
with black ice on the wings. The whole crew
escaped without serious injuries. The
second aircraft to crash that day, had
Harrod and Flores in the nose. Both of these
young Americans would die this cold
Christmas Eve, Harrod some 40 minutes after
being cut free, Flores still in the stricken
ship when the bomb load exploded.
The concussion from the explosions was felt
across the airfield, but in the little
chapel at the rear of Group HQ and
Operations, now Barker's Farm, the shock
wave blew over two vases of flowers which
fell onto the altar scattering their
contents. I find that symbolism so moving,
that as a young American airman paid the
ultimate sacrifice on Christmas Eve, so
flowers were scattered on the altar of the
little 398th chapel.
So Joyce helped me raise my flag at
Madingley today - as Mike Green, the
Superintendent, played both national anthems
and stood and saluted.
Joyce and I walked to the grave of David
Flores - Harrod's body was repatriated after
the war. I careful rubbed sand into the
inscription on Flores' headstone. Not just
any sand however, this sand comes directly
from Omaha Beach, Normandy, and is brought
over especially by the ABMC for just these
type of occasions.
It was cold today, but clear, after a mild
frost during the night. I shall be going
back to the cemetery soon, to carefully
bring my flag down at 1630 as Taps is played
over the Carillon system. Mike will help me
fold it thirteen times, then it will be
proudly brought home and once again will sit
in my little bedroom study until the next
So my friends, today we remembered that
mighty mission by the world's most powerful
air force. As I gave my tours this past
year at the cemetery, especially to the
groups of visiting air cadets from the UK
Air Training Corps, I told people of this
Christmas Eve mission and asked them to
promise me that this Christmas Eve they
might pause amongst all the preparations and
just remember those young airmen who made
this peaceful time in the UK so possible.
Many of the returning crews would find their
home airfields socked in by the weather and
had to land away at other bases. These other
bases would soon run out of bed-spaces, so
men bedded down on gymnasium floors. In the
Ardennes however, shivering GIs were in
freezing foxholes. But because of men like
Flores and Harrod, the Battle of the Bulge
would fail, but for all those involved, in
the air and on the ground, it came at a
We must never forget. I will never forget.
I remember composing these four lines for
the 398th BG memorial at Nuthampstead.
'Their wings of silver touched the
from Col D.
to dig deep
this kind of
1. The first
killed in WW
the US Army
So much for
was 12 year
3. At the
top US Navy
patch of the
4. More US
died in the
there was no
an ace, or a
died while a
6. It was a
to aid in
This was a
so (at long
80% of your
enemy he was
all, it was
to load a
the end of
the belt to
you were out
to tell the
TO LOVE THIS
men did was
pee in it.
(who made a
big show of
it) and Gen.
in the act.
sunk by a
to fight for
to fight for
to fight for
the US Army.
AND THE BEST
if there had
This is worth watching... About 2.5 mins. An entire
crew of a B-29 (12 aviators) was rescued by a US
submarine after their plane was shot down in 1945, 70
miles off the coast of Japan.
The entire rescue was filmed in color film, but then sat
in a guy's closet until now.
This is a story from a Denver TV station of one of those
rescued aviators to whom the video was delivered. It
also shows their transfer to another submarine that is
likely headed back to port before the one that
accomplished the rescue."
Can you imagine 65 yrs AFTER your rescue you get to
watch it on film?
Four old B-17 pilots who met once in a while were
walking in a part of town that was not familiar to
them. They saw a sign on a building advertising that it
was a bar. In the window it stated beers were ten cents
apiece. They looked in the door and the bartender
invited them in. They ordered four beers and sure
enough the owner only charged ten cents apiece. After
three or four more rounds they asked how he could stay
in business just charging ten cents for a glass of
beer. He stated he had hit the lottery for twenty
million and always wanted to own a bar so he bought this
one. He had no problem serving beer at a loss because
he had all that money.
One of the B-17 pilots had noticed seven other guys
at the end of the bar and they were not drinking. He
asked the bartender why those guys were there if they
were not drinking. The bartender explained that they
were old B-24 pilots and they were waiting for happy
hour when beer was half price.
Reprinted with permission from the Newport News Daily Press
(20 March 2011)
Abe Firestone, a
member of the 34th bomb group of the 8th Air Force during World War
II, participated in one of the largest bombing runs of the war in a
Berlin. Firestone is
seen above at his home in
Hampton on Feb. 25
posing with a photo taken in 1945. (Sangjib
Min, Daily Press / March 19,
By Hugh Lessig
HAMPTON – Abe Firestone never flew in
an airplane before the start of
World War II, but he longed for it in the worst way. Growing up in Brooklyn, he devoured pulp magazines
with stories of adventurous pilots. Then came Hollywood icon
Jimmy Stewart - the first movie star to enter war
service - who appeared in a recruiting film for young
fliers. That sealed it. "I said, 'Wow, that's great,'" Firestone recalled.
In 1943, he left his job at the Brooklyn
Navy Yard and entered the military. After training as a
navigator, he was offered the chance to do something that
sounded a bit more mysterious. "It was so secret, they sent the
FBI around to my old neighborhood (in Brooklyn) and
asked my neighbors if I was OK, so to speak," recalled
Firestone, now 88. "It scared the heck out of my parents." The hush-hush program? Radar. It doesn't seem so high-tech today, with
U.S. armed forces employing everything from predator
drones to stealth aircraft to find and evade the enemy. But in the 1940s, radar as a tool for bombing runs
stood on the cutting edge of the Allied war effort. The idea
of using electromagnetic waves to determine the altitude,
direction, range or speed of objects, both fixed and moving,
wasn't something out of a pulp magazine. It was very real. Radar operators were known as Mickey Men because the
early equipment had circular antenna that resembled Mickey
Mouse ears. They played a key role in daylight bombing runs when
skies were overcast and bombardiers could not see their
targets. That was often the case during the bad winter of 1944 into 1945, Firestone recalled. Radar operators fed data to the bombardiers -
distance to target and other information – that was fed into
the Norden bombsight, another high-tech, super-secret piece
of equipment. The bombsight contained an analog computer
that crunched the numbers and dropped the bombs. In a formation, only the lead bomber was equipped
with radar. Firestone said he never felt any additional
pressure by constantly running at the front of the
formation. "You never thought about it," he said. "You did your
job as best you could." Firestone flew in a B-17 Flying Fortress, the
workhorse bomber of the U.S. fleet. As a first lieutenant
serving in the 34th Bomb Group of the 8th
Air force, he ended up flying 24 combat missions through
1944 and 1945. And he survived a few close calls. After a mission over Bremen, his aircraft returned
with 150 holes. In another instance, a direct hit from a
German anti-aircraft gun went through the wing, between two
engines. He also witnessed the frightening introduction of
German jet fighters, which entered the war too late to make
a real difference. On another mission, his heated suit caught fire. "Well, that was funny in retrospect," he said. The highlight of his adventures in the sky came
almost 66 years ago to the day, when more than 1,000 bombers
rumbled over Berlin in what press accounts have described as
one of the largest bombing runs of the war. It happened on March 18, 1945. "We didn't realize it until after we had taken off
and returned how big of a mission it really was," he said. He does remember the fear of not knowing what each
mission would bring. "You always wondered when you went out, is this going
to be my last mission," he said. "It was a little scary, but
when you're young and foolish I guess . . . no, it was
A 1945 photo shows the crew of the
B-17 Knockout Dropper, including Abe Firestone of
Hampton at top left. As
a navigator/bombardier in the lead plane, it was Firestone’s job to
serve as a marker for other planes and bomb drops.
Not only is "Twelve O’Clock High" regarded
as one of the best movies of all time and widely used in
both military and civilian leadership training, it is
generally considered the most realistic representation of
air combat in World War II.
The screenplay for the movie was
written by Beirne Lay, Jr. and Sy Bartlett, both 8th
Air Force veterans, who also wrote the book that was the
basis of the movie. Lay, who served in the Air Corps for
several years in the 1930s and was a qualified aviator, was
one of the original six officers who accompanied Brig. Gen,
Ira Eaker to England to establish the advanced element of
the Eighth Air Force. He flew a number of combat missions
and rose to command the 487th Bomb Group. He was
shot down over France and with the help of the underground
made his way back to England. Bartlett was an aide to Maj.
Gen, Carl Spaatz. He served as an intelligence officer in
both Europe and the Pacific.
The story and many of the
characters are loosely based on several actual incidents and
individuals. The movie’s "hard luck group," the fictional
918th Bomb Group, stationed at Archbury, was
based on the 306th Bomb Group at Thurleigh. Many
of the incidents that led to the relief of Col, Keith
Davenport by Brig. Gen. Frank Savage in the movie were based
on events viewed by Lay and Bartlett. In November 1942,
Eaker (accompanied by Bartlett), visited Thurleigh and found
that there was no MP on the gate and that they were able to
enter the base unchallenged. When he saw that was a
reflection of lax conditions elsewhere on the base, Eaker
knew that the group commander, Col. Charles B. "Chip"
Overacker, would have to be relieved. In the following six
weeks, the 306th’s record, as measured by bombs
on target, became the worst in the 8th Air Force.
Eaker, accompanied by Col. Frank Armstrong and Beirne Lay,
returned to Thurleigh. Conditions on the base were largely
unchanged and Eaker replaced Overacker with Armstrong on the
spot. This mirrors the scene in the movie. Clearly, Maj.
Gen. Pritchard is based on Ira Eaker, Frank Savage is
Armstrong, and Keith Davenport is Overacker.
Other characters in the movie are
also based on actual people. Maj. Joe Cobb, who became Air
Exec, is based on Paul Tibbetts. Tibbetts, who was in the 97th
BG with Frank Armstrong, is better known as the pilot of the
Enola Gay. Lt. Jesse Bishop’s Medal of Honor mission
is based on the actions of Flight Officer John Morgan. In
fact, the description of Bishop’s actions is taken almost
verbatim from Morgan’s Medal of Honor citation. Sergeant
McIllhenny, Savage’s clerk and driver who kept losing (and
regaining) his stripes, was based on Sgt. Donald Bevan, a
driver in the 306th when Armstrong was there.
Although Bevan got some notoriety as a "stowaway gunner" in
1943, he was a qualified aerial gunner and flew 17 missions.
The targets for the "big mission"
aren’t named in the movie but the novel specifies that the
targets are the ball bearing plants in "Hambrueken"
(actually Schweinfurt) and the Messerschmidt plant in "Bonhofen"
(Regensburg). The movie’s "big mission" was actually a
composite of the first B-17 mission into Germany (on 27
January 1943) and the double mission against Schweinfurt and
Regensburg on 17 August 1943. Lay and Bartlett took
liberties with the chronology. Armstrong commanded the 306th
for six weeks starting in January 1943. He led in the 27
January mission into Germany but he was not there for the 17
August mission. Bartlett flew with Armstrong on the mission
to Germany. Lay was co-pilot of the Picadilly Lily on
the Schweinfurt-Regensburg missions. You may remember that
Frank Savage flew a B-17 with the same name in the movie.
There were some differences as
well. The biggest difference is that Frank Armstrong did not
have a breakdown. In fact, he finished his tour in England,
returned to the United States to transition to B-29s, and
later commanded a B-29 wing in the Pacific. He retired from
the Air Force as a lieutenant general in 1962. It is said
that the breakdown happened to another commander after four
rough missions. Col. Overacker was assigned to the Proving
Ground Command in Florida and, unlike Keith Davenport, had
no further role in the story. He retired from the Air Force
as colonel in 1956.
The basic story was recycled
twice. The television series Twelve O’Clock High ran
for three seasons, 1964-67. It was also the basis for the
1963 movie A Gathering of Eagles that starred Rock
Hudson. In that movie, Col. Jim Caldwell (Rock Hudson)
relieves a Strategic Air Command wing commander after the
wing fails an operational readiness inspection.
Beginning on page 16 of the December 2010 issue of the
8TH AF NEWS is an article authored by our own Bob
Gates. We all know that Bob is the Editor, Publisher,
Copy Boy and Circulation Manager of our own Virginia
Chapter news letter, "PLANE TALK."
The Norden Bombsight and the Army Air Force are forever linked in
public memory. Less well remembered, however, is the fact that the
bombsight was developed by Carl Norden for the U.S. Navy.
Prior to World War I, military theorists thought of aircraft,
when they thought of them at all, in scout or reconnaissance roles.
More thought was given to their utility as bombers during the war.
Bombing missions were attempted from low altitudes by aircraft
carrying only small loads of bombs. Bombs were dropped by the pilot
or observer without the benefit of an aiming device, or bombsight.
Needless to say, bombing was hit or miss – mostly miss.
Later in the war more attention was given to the development of
aircraft that were capable of carrying larger bomb loads. The
British began experimenting with bombsights in 1916. The most
promising, developed by Lt. Cdr. Harry E. Wimperis of the Royal
Naval Service’s Imperial College of Science, was described as
“little more than a board fitted with a bubble level and two
adjustable rifle sights.” Predetermined bombing tables and levers
to adjust for altitude and speed were used to achieve an accuracy of
“hundreds of feet.” A primary source of inaccuracy was the random
pitch and roll of the aircraft during the bombing run.
The U.S. Navy considered ships to be the primary targets of its
bombardment missions. In its search for an effective means of
accomplishing this mission it considered level bombing, dive
bombing, glide bombing, and aerial torpedo attack. In June and July
of 1921 Army airmen and Navy aviators dropped bombs on a variety of
targets including the anchored German battleship Ostfriesland. The
Navy pilots dropped bombs from an altitude of less than 2500 feet
and achieved hits with only 19 percent of them. Brig. Gen. Billy
Mitchell’s Army pilots did somewhat better – 30 percent of their
bombs hit the Ostfriesland.
A 1924 report for the Secretary of the Navy concluded that “it
is absurd to think that either the aerial bomb or the submarine
torpedo have furnished the effectual answer to the capital ship.”
The Army came to the same conclusion.
The Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd) had the responsibility for
developing bombsights for the Navy. In January 1920 BuOrd
contracted with Carl L. Norden to improve the Navy Mark III
bombsight, a modified Wimperis device.
Norden, born in Semarang, Java to Dutch parents, studied
mechanical engineering at the Federal Polytechnic Institute in
Zurich and immigrated to the United States in 1904. He worked for
Elmer Sperry for two years developing ship gyrostabilizers. Their
relationship was a rocky one – Sperry disliked Norden’s appetite for
“vile black cigars” and Norden resented Sperry’s proposal that
Norden sign over his future gyrostabilizer patents to the Sperry
Gyroscope Company. They parted ways in 1913 although they worked
together on various projects during World War I.
Norden’s first efforts included adding gyro-stabilization to the
bombsight along with a telescope to better sight the target and a
means for providing flight directions to the pilot. When the
results were unsatisfactory, Norden used Navy funding for three
pilot direction indicators (PDI) for the Mark III bombsight and
family funds to continue work on a better bombsight. In June 1922,
impressed with his progress, the Navy contracted with him for three
experimental bombsights designated the Mark XI.
A year later the Navy was concerned that the project was too big
for one man, especially the man they knew as “Old Man Dynamite”
because he was so difficult to work with due to his generally
unsociable and reclusive nature. They sent him a collaborator,
Theodore Barth, who was known as a practical engineer and a man who
could get things done. This successful relationship lasted until
both men retired after World War II.
Norden worked out of his home and Barth’s apartment, and, using
the equipment and skilled labor of the Witteman-Lewis Aircraft
Company delivered the three PDIs and three experimental Mark XI
bombsights – all handmade – to the Navy in the winter of 1923 and
spring of 1924. Bench and flight testing of the Mark XI was
conducted at the U.S. Naval Proving Ground in Dahlgren, Virginia in
1924. Neither Norden nor the Navy was pleased with the performance
of the bombsights as test bombs fell with “alarming irregularity.”
The Navy also believed that the sight was too complicated.
Many changes were identified during the initial testing and
BuOrd contracted with Norden for modifications to two of the Mark XI
bombsights. The modified bombsights were delivered to Dahlgren for
flight testing in 1925. Tests during the summer and fall of 1925
showed that the changes were worthwhile. The eighteen bombs that
were dropped from an altitude of 3000 feet in the final test
achieved a mean impact point that was nine feet short in range but
187 feet to the right of the flight path.
The Navy test bombardier was impressed but reported that the
sight was too complex and required “both hands, both feet, and the
teeth” to operate. In an open cockpit, the wind and cold made fine
adjustments to the sight nearly impossible. Norden viewed the basic
design as good and the problems correctable. He left Barth in New
York to consult with the Navy and went to Zurich for a year to work
on design changes.
The Navy completed testing of the Mark XI in October 1927 and,
despite continuing problems with leveling, vibration, and the PDI,
began negotiations with Norden and Barth for the purchase of eight
Mark XI bombsights and PDIs. Norden and Barth balked at the
proposal because they considered themselves consulting engineers not
production contractors. In 1928, after additional encouragement
from the Navy and some unwritten agreements, they agreed to form
Carl L. Norden, Incorporated. They agreed to produce and deliver
eighty Mark XI sights with spare parts and toolkits for $384,000.
They also agreed to transfer all patents, models, and designs to the
government two years later. Norden said he was paid $1 for these
rights although Navy records show he was paid $250. A very low
price in either case.
Bureau of Ordnance testing related to the development of the
Mark XI bombsight at the Naval Proving Ground in Dahlgren, Virginia
began in 1922. In the five and a half year period leading up to the
production contract, Norden and Barth visited Dahlgren 51 times.
The bench and flight testing at Dahlgren are credited with
uncovering numerous design and performance issues. Dahlgren was
also the site of the first school to teach mechanics how to maintain
the Mark XI bombsight.
Production of the Mark XI began slowly and Norden and the Navy
tested and improved each sight as it was produced. Norden shipped
the first three Mark XI bombsights to Dahlgren for testing in early
1929. The bombsights were essentially handmade and production
continued at three units per month. With all of its shortcomings
and complexity, the Mark XI represented a significant improvement
over other bombsights. However, it did not resolve the limitations
of high altitude horizontal bombing.
After signing the contract with the Navy Norden went to his
mother’s Zurich home to work on his next design, the Mark XV. This
was the bombsight (known as the M-series by the Army Air Force) that
was used by both the Army and the Navy during World War II. Two
prototypes of the Mark XV, a timing sight and a synchronous sight,
were delivered to Dahlgren in February 1931 for evaluation.
Bombsights are of two types: timing and synchronous. A timing
sight uses a telescope and a timer to measure the movement of a
point on the ground relative to the aircraft. The time and aircraft
altitude are used with a ballistics table to determine the angle at
which the telescope should be set. If the pilot keeps the aircraft
at the same altitude and speed, then the bombs should be released
when the target appears in the telescope. Variations in aircraft
altitude and speed, as well as wind, are the major causes of
inaccuracy. The Mark XI was perhaps the best of the timing
In synchronous bombsights, the bombardier adjusted the speed of
a wheel or gear in the bombsight mechanism to match the movement of
the aircraft over a point on the ground. This synchronized the
bombsight with the aircraft’s ground speed. Norden described his
Mark XV sight as being able to provide ground speed, angles of
drift, and true air speed. It could also hold a true compass course
and compensate for earth rotation.
The timing method required a long bombing run at a fixed speed
and altitude. Conversely, the synchronous sight precluded a long
bombing run since ground speed was computed as an instantaneous
rate. Navy bombardiers at Dahlgren found that they could adjust the
Mark XV sight in 6 seconds compared to 50 seconds for the Mark XI.
Testing at Dahlgren was intended to identify deficiencies in a
new concept not as acceptance tests. For this reason, the Naval
Proving Ground conducted extensive bench tests of the components of
the sight as well as intensive flight testing. Dahlgren provided a
final report to BuOrd containing 33 pages of deficiencies and
suggested corrective actions. Flight tests showed that the Mark XV
was twice as accurate as the Mark XI (i.e., the percentage of hits
was twice as high). Testing ended in August 1931 when BuOrd issued
a production contract for the Mark XV bombsight.
The Mark XV was given more tests than any other sight ever
developed by BuOrd. Life tests of various components and analytical
studies continued into 1932. On April 18, 1932 the first order for
the new sight was placed – thirty-two for the Navy and twenty-three
for the Army. The Navy received its first production unit in
September 1932 and the Army received its in April 1933. The sights
continued to be nearly handmade and every unit went to Dahlgren for
calibration and acceptance testing.
The Naval Proving Ground received Norden’s next improvement –
the Stabilized Bombing Approach Equipment (SBAE) – in February
1935. The SBAE, an automatic flight control system, transferred
adjustments of the bombsight’s controls through mechanical linkages
to the azimuth gyro and allowed the bombardier to fly the aircraft
in roll and yaw. Testing revealed both the strengths and weaknesses
of the prototype. Flight tests showed a 30 percent improvement in
Mark XV accuracy in smooth air and 39 percent improvement in rough
air. The first production models were available in late 1936 and
production began in June 1937 at the rate of seven to ten per month.
The Army Air Corps had long worked with the Sperry Corporation
to equip its aircraft with autopilots. Carl Norden, who continued
to compete with Sperry, preferred to work with the Navy rather than
the Army. (He once told an Army Colonel “No man can serve the Lord
and the Devil at the same time – and I work for the Navy.”) He
argued that it was a duplication of effort for the Army to equip its
aircraft with both Sperry autopilots and Norden SBAEs.
The tests at Dahlgren compared the Norden SBAE with the Sperry
autopilot and concluded that the SBAE “… is at least the equal of if
not superior to the Sperry gyro-pilot.” The Army continued to try
to connect the Norden bombsight and the Sperry A-2 autopilot –
When the Air Corps continued to pursue an SBAE replacement, the
Navy responded by developing an adapter that allowed the Norden
bombsight to be connected to the Sperry A-3 autopilot. Dahlgren
completed tests of the adapter in August 1941 and forty units were
produced between September and December.
The Army Air Force asked Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator to
develop new automatic flight control equipment (AFCE) with
electronic parts to link the A-3 autopilot and the Norden bombsight
without the Navy’s adapter. This system (designated the C-1),
ordered into production in October 1941, was the standard autopilot/AFCE/SBAE
for the remainder of World War II.
Procurement became a major headache because the Navy refused to
share production with the Army. Between 1932 and 1938, the Norden
Company produced only 121 bombsights per year. Even after Norden
added additional production sources to meet Army Air Force needs,
shortages of materials, specialized machine tools, and skilled labor
kept production below required levels. There was a major shortage
of bombsights that extended to late 1943.
All bombsights continued to go to Dahlgren for bench and flight
testing. It was estimated that this process delayed delivery for
four to five weeks. Although BuOrd refused to eliminate the
Dahlgren testing, they did make some concessions – one bombsight of
every ten produced would be sent to Dahlgren for testing. They also
agreed that bench testing would be completed on the day that the
sight was received. Further, Dahlgren would only flight test the
number of sights that could be completed within 15 days of bench
As the war went on, it became clear that Army Air Force
performance requirements exceeded those of the Navy and that the
Navy had little interest in modifying the sight since it had chosen
dive bombing as its preferred means of attacking moving targets.
Thus, improvements to the bombsight were motivated by the Army and,
by late in the war, were being developed by someone other than the
Between 1932 and the end of World War II, nearly 90,000 Mark XV
(or M-9) bombsights – 81,537 for the Army Air Force and 8,353 for
the Navy – were produced at a total cost of $1.1 billion.
Production began to catch up with demand by late 1943, but mass
production techniques also led to declining quality. The Norden
Company was not interested in helping to solve the problem and in
late 1944, 75 to 80 percent of all sights produced failed to meet
The accuracy achieved at Dahlgren was never duplicated in
combat. The Navy specification was for 2.5 mils (or 2.5 feet mean
miss for every 1000 feet of altitude). The inherent accuracy of the
1944 Norden sights was 14 mils. By some reports, the accuracy
achieved in combat was more than 50 mils.
While some used the discrepancy between design and operational
accuracy to question the effectiveness of high altitude bombing, the
performance of the Eighth Air Force in Europe refutes this. In the
end, seven and a half million bombs were dropped from an average
altitude of 21,000 feet with 31.8 percent of them falling within
1,000 feet of the aiming point. While this did not meet prewar
expectations for precision, it did stop German oil production and
destroyed 20 percent of German war production in the last 16 months
of the conflict.
This article began by noting that the Navy’s role in the
development of the Norden bombsight is less well known than is its
use by the Army Air Force in World War II. Even less known is the
role that the Naval Proving Ground in Dahlgren, Virginia played in
the development, testing, and acceptance of the Norden bombsights
beginning soon after World War I. It’s clear that both deserve
credit for their significant contributions to the breakthrough
capability represented by the Norden bombsight.
The pictures are of Madingley Cemetery. Madingley is where
some 3,800 + airmen are buried. They are represented by the
crosses which you can see in the edge of one of the
pictures. These represent mostly just those U.S. 8th AF
personnel who were either killed in England from crashes on
take off or landings, mid-air collisions or returning as
part of a crew killed in an aircraft that return to
England. Some were bodies recovered from the North Sea.
This does not represent all the fatalities in the 8th since
over fifty thousand were either killed or missing in action
during the time the 8th served in Europe.
Let me suggest that you "Google Madingley Cemetery" and read
the impressive write up.
I paid one of my regular visits to
American Military Cemetery, Madingley.
A bright early Autumn day, the first of
the autumn colours appearing in the
trees, leaves gently drifting down
amongst the crosses beneath the trees.
Rest in peace my friends.
WE FORGET Ozzie (Malcolm Osborn)
Floyd Richmond, a member of the crew
#13, of the 4th Squadron, 34th
Bomb Group was recently portrayed in the
8th Air Force Magazine. Click
here for the article.
Provided by Abe Firestone.
Shifty volunteered for the
airborne in WWII and served with
Easy Company of the 506th Parachute
Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st
Airborne Infantry. If you've seen
Band of Brothers on HBO or the
History Channel, you know Shifty.
His character appears in all 10
episodes, and Shifty himself is
interviewed in several of them.
I met Shifty in the Philadelphia
airport several years ago. I didn't
know who he was at the time. I just
saw an elderly gentleman having
trouble reading his ticket. I
offered to help, assured him that he
was at the right gate, and noticed
the "Screaming Eagle", the symbol of
the 101st Airborne, on his hat.
Making conversation, I asked him if
he'd been in the 101st Airborne or
if his son was serving. He said
quietly that he had been in the
101st. I thanked him for his
service, then asked him when he
served, and how many jumps he made.
Quietly and humbly, he said "Well, I
guess I signed up in 1941 or so, and
was in until sometime in 1945 . . .
" at which point my heart skipped.
At that point, again, very humbly,
he said "I made the 5 training jumps
at Toccoa, and then jumped into
Normandy . . . . do you know where
Normandy is?" At this point my heart
I told him yes, I know exactly where
Normandy was, and I know what D-Day
was. At that point he said "I also
made a second jump into Holland,
into Arnhem" I was standing with a
genuine war hero . . . . and then I
realized that it was June, just
after the anniversary of D-Day.
(At 'Operation Market Garden' in
September of 1944, arrogant,
swaggering fool and limey bastard
Field Marshall Montgomery got 7000
men killed in one weekend by
ignoring the Dutch underground's
warning not to come to the Rhine
Bridge in Arnhem because the Second
SS Panzer Division had hunkered down
in the forest.) Failed Operation
Market Garden put the 2000 surviving
allied soldiers in Nazi prison
camps, and later became a book and
movie called 'One Bridge Too Far'.
I wish I could piss on Montgomery's
I asked Shifty if he was on his way
back from France, and he said "Yes.
And it's real sad because these days
so few of the guys are left, and
those that are, lots of them can't
make the trip." My heart was in my
throat and I didn't know what to
I helped Shifty get onto the plane
and then realized he was back in
Coach, while I was in First Class. I
sent the flight attendant back to
get him and said that I wanted to
switch seats. When Shifty came
forward, I got up out of the seat
and told him I wanted him to have
it, that I'd take his in coach.
He said "No, son, you enjoy that
seat. Just knowing that there are
still some who remember what we did
and still care is enough to make an
old man very happy." His eyes were
filling up as he said it. And mine
are brimming up now as I write this.
Shifty died on June 17 after
fighting cancer. There was no
parade. No big event in Staples
Center. No wall-to-wall
back-to-back 24x7 news coverage.
No weeping fans on television.
Let's give Shifty his own Memorial
Service online, in our own quiet
way. Please forward this email to
everyone you know. Especially to the
Rest in peace, Shifty. May God
Bless and keep you always. Thank
you for giving America your youth.
Maybe it's best you don't see what
comes of your sacrifice now we have
a Trojan Horse in the Whitehouse.
These heroes are dead. They died for liberty - they died for us.
They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the
flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad
hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines. They sleep
beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of
storm, each in the windowless Place of Rest. Earth may run red with
other wars - they are at peace. In the midst of battle, in the roar
of conflict, they found the serenity of death. I have one sentiment
for soldiers living and dead: cheers for the living; tears for the
dead. ~Robert G. Ingersoll
B-17 Crew. Bob Noziglia is 2nd from the left, front row.
Jean Knaub Hughes sent us a portion of an interview her mother
did with her dad simply called:
MY WWII EXPERIENCES
Interview with James R. Knaub
by Catherine A. Knaub
Provided by Jean Knaub Hughes
Daddy had such a hard time talking about what he did and his
missions, etc., that I suggested to Mama that she use a tape
recorder and then she could start and stop the interview when
Daddy got too emotional. Then they could start it again later.
Believe it or not, over a long period of time, she was able to
get him to tell her about ALL of his missions and explain a
little more detail about what he remembered too.
I think it is a fascinating account and everyone in our family
truly treasures our own personal edition of the interview that
my sister, Sandra K. Armstrong, was kind enough to transcribe
into a written format. Here is part of that interview and I used
a picture of Mama and Daddy during that time and added it at the
beginning of the pages I am sharing. I hope everyone enjoys my
father's personal account of his part in our nation's history!
It is one of the things about my parents that makes my heart
swell with pride and I feel it is truly a family treasure!
I also am including an
exert from the 91st BG about the Komet attack on
Daddy's plane in which you will be able to
tell that the author got some of the "language" about the
mission through my father's account. The author, Lowell L. Getz
had written to my mother and my sister for information about the
Komet attack and Daddy's personal account.
In a B-17 in World War II
the 91st Bomb Group is with whom he flew.
He flew 30 missions with 7 in the lead plane
and prayed for peace for our country again.
An honorable man who never patted himself on the
he fought a Me163B Rocket Fighter attack.
He treated a wounded comrade then turned to his
And fought bravely as the Mustangs finished what he
and his crew had begun.
There were many brave missions, and more stories to
about the love of his country, and devotion to
family as well.
He believed in our nation, our flag and her glory,
I am only beginning to tell of a hero and his story.
The honors, awards and the medals he wore,
are a fitting tribute to the man I adore.
His Distinguished Flying Cross was among many
yet he had a quiet dignity about all he achieved.
Now he is resting with "folded wings"
but I won't be silent about my pride in him.
Just look through the clouds in the far away sky,
for to protect us again, my Hero flies.
Lovingly by: Jean Knaub Hughes
James R. Knaub (passed away, Presidents' Day, 2.17.1997)
91st BG (H)
Radio Operator and Waist Gunner
"Outhouse Mouse," "Betty Lou's Buggy" and "Ramblin'
Sitting in her armchair in the
living room, this aged grandmother is expected to be watching the
“Food Channel” or the Lifetime tear jerker movie. But – NO – she’s
tuned in the “Memphis Belle.” Her teas cools on the table beside
her as her thoughts stroll back to World War II and the dramas
unfolding over England’s green countryside.
Yes, I was there. First in
London during the Blitz when the Luftwaffe pounded England’s cities
in rubble. The later, in Bury St. Edmunds, East Anglia as a member
of the ATS, the women’s section of the British Army.
We were stationed in Gibraltar Barracks, a huge training
center for British Troops. Our platoon consisted largely of refugee
girls from Hitler’s Nazi occupied Europe. At dawn, we were awakened
by the roar of the Fortresses taking off on missions over the
Continent. At night we jitterbugged at the local “Corn Exchange” to
the popular tunes of the times.
The winters were long and hard. But the cold we felt in
our hearts was not due to the ice and snow on the parade ground
outside. We trembled at the thought of what would happen if the
Nazis would be able to invade England after all. And our families
back home were constantly on our minds. Were they still alive?
Were they hungry, cold, sick?
But the Royal Air Force boys by night and the Eighth Air
Force boys by day kept the enemy at bay. And finally turned the
My own way gradually led back to Vienna, my former
hometown. I crossed a continent in shambles, with cities reduced to
rubble, and displaced persons everywhere. In Vienna I stood outside
the house where I was born and grew up, and felt the emptiness all
around. My family was gone, their last resting places known to
But life went for us went on and the years passed.
There were children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren.
Yet, clear as crystal, the memories remained. We think of the many
thousands of fine young men who gave their lives to defeat the EVIL
that threatened to engulf the world.
In April 1945 I was a navigator
on a B-17 in the 457th
Bomb Group at Glatton, England. On April 5, my co-pilot, Jack
Taifer, was killed during take-off on a mission. Our crew had the
day off but Jack had been called out to fly the tail gunner position
in a lead B-17, Miss Ida. When his plane was just about leaving the
ground, the tower advised the pilot that flames could be seen coming
from #2 engine. About a mile off the runway, the plane went into
the ground and exploded. Only the navigator survived.
My crew was flying it’s second
mission after that crash. During take-off, I was standing in the
nose looking out the astrodome. I just happened to glance around to
my left and out the window, and saw flames shooting out of #2
engine. I immediately notified the pilot, Jerry Sharrock, by
intercom and he did a swift job of feathering that engine. We were
at about 100 feet, and had to circle while the rest of the planes
took off before we could land.
After landing we taxied to a
spare B-17 where we transferred to it, then overtook the formation
to complete the mission.
I have returned to England seven
times in recent years to attend the 457th Association reunions. We
attend the Memorial Day ceremony at the American Military Cemetery
at Madingly at which time I visit Jack’s grave.
To this day, I am convinced that
the disaster that happened to Jack Taifer and crew may have happened
to us if Jerry Sharrock had not been so quick and skillful in
feathering the engine. In fact, in some discussions with some other
457th members at reunions in recent years, they suspected that a
saboteur was at work on the base while the planes were parked at