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World War II Aerial Bombardment Strategy & Technology

In association with ESAM’s November breakfast, the museum was pleased to have Art Harvey deliver a most interesting presentation on World War II Bombardment Strategy & Technology.

Art began by recalling Billy Mitchell’s 1921 demonstration of the effectiveness of aerial bombardment on shipping.

By the beginning of World War II Germany had developed the use of tactical aerial bombardment to support Blitzkrieg operations, using ME-109s, Stukas and 14 variants of the JU-88. Once the battle lines stabilized and the British and Americans started their campaign of strategic bombing, Germany’s doctrine of using aircraft to support ground attacks had to be modified to provide protection against the Allies strategic bombing. Although the Allies strategic bombing was not successful in demoralizing the civilian population, once the Allies developed fighter aircraft that could protect the strategic bombers throughout their attacks and once the Allied bombers reached the German’s oil fields, the end of the war was in sight.

On display during the presentation were one of ESAM’s Norden Bomb Sights and Art’s JU-88 German bomb sight. The Norden Bomb Sight was developed at great cost and was equipped with a self-destruct mechanism to keep the technology from falling into enemy hands. During a bombing run, the Norden Bomb Sight would fly the aircraft using input such as wind drift and aerial drag to crab the aircraft so that the bombs could be put on target. While the sight proved to be very accurate during test and development, in actual combat its accuracy was only around 1,200 feet. As a result, strategic bombing shifted to larger targets (for example, cities), saturation bombing and tactics in which the lead aircraft was crewed by the most skilled pilots, navigators and bombardiers and the other aircraft in the formation dropped their bombs upon the direction of the lead aircraft.

Art told the story of how during World War II his father’s family had owned a farm near Sola, Norway. When the Germans occupied Norway they built an airfield at Sola and installed antiaircraft guns on the family’s farm. The Germans primarily flew JU-88s from the field on anti-convoy and anti-shipping missions. At the end of the war, Art’s father as a child scavenged a JU-88 bombing system from airplanes left at the airfield. The German sight included an automatic dive controller and sensor that measured air pressure, g-force, altitude, automatic release and automatic pullout. ESAM is pleased that

Art intends to loan his German bombing sight to ESAM for display in an updated World War II exhibit, and thanks him for his very well-received presentation.

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