A Brief Overview of the War in Afghanistan

After the September 11th attack on the United States, President George W. Bush issued an ultimatum to the rulers of Afghanistan.  He demanded they hand over to the terrorists responsible for the attack.  Afghanistan’s Taliban – Islamic fundamentalists ruling the area – refused to surrender terrorist leader Osama bin-Laden.  As a result, within a month of the assault on the US, air-strikes commenced.

The goal of the United States was to extricate the Taliban from power, locate Osama bin-Laden and destroy his organization known as Al-Qaeda.  The US received additional support from British forces, other soldiers and Afghans who opposed the Taliban.

The Taliban Fleas Kabul

Hamid KarzaiIn November of 2001, Taliban forces left the capital city of Kabul and fled to the mountainous area on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  As a result, the United States was able to assist Afghanistan in installing a new government with Hamid Karzai as President.

The Taliban slowly gained strength and forces found it difficult to fight them given the remote caves and mountainous regions they inhabited.  Many felt their efforts were futile.  As a result, in December of 2009 President Obama unveiled a new strategy – rapidly deploy 30,000 additional troops in an effort to break the momentum of the Taliban.

Progress was slow and additional obstacles remained.  The support of the Afghan government was being slowly eroded by fraudulent accusations against the followers of the re-elected President Karzai.  In addition, efforts to uproot the Taliban appeared futile.  However, in May of 2011, after the assassination of Osama bin-Laden by US Navy SEAL Team 6, President Obama announced his intentions to hasten the withdrawal of American troops.

Pressure Mounts to Withdraw US Troops

Pressure to pull US troops out of Afghanistan mounted as the result of three separate incidents in early 2012.  The Afghans first became enraged with the discovery of a video tape showing four US Marines urinating on Taliban insurgent corpses.  Next, it was discovered that copies of the Koran, the central religious text of Islam, had been burned in a trash incinerator on a US base.  Despite a spokesperson declaring it an accident, the incident sparked violent riots, leaving 30 people dead.  Among the dead were two American officers.

The third incident involved a US soldier who reportedly went from house to house murdering 16 Afghans and burning some of the bodies – many of whom were women and children.  As a result, President Karzai ordered the US troops to withdraw from Afghan villages and return to military bases.

Final Plans for Withdrawal

A number of Americans are in favor of the President hastening the withdrawal of US troops.  Currently, military and political leaders are against any changes being made to the schedule, which targets December, 2014 for the last of the current 90,000 US troops to leave Afghanistan, a date which will mark the end of the US involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

Youngest Serviceman in World War II – Calvin Graham

GrahamCalvin Graham – the youngest serviceman in World War II – was only 12 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  He did not wait a year or two before joining the service; no by May of 1942, he had enlisted in the US Navy.   Some speculate the deaths of his cousins inspired him to join.  He began shaving at the age of 11 to assist with passing himself off as older and had some friends of his parents forge his parent’s signature.

Due to the need for enlisted men, the petty officers at boot camp were not concerned with anyone’s age.  Graham was therefore able to successfully complete the course.  A fellow seaman later told the Chicago Tribune that the Navy had already suffered a high number of casualties and were desperate to build up its crew.

Uss_south_dakota_bbGraham first served on the USS South Dakota (BB-57) where he experienced the intense fighting first hand.  He assisted in fire control during the Battle of Guadalcanal.  During that time, he suffered a number of wounds, including burns and having his front teeth were knocked out.  However, Graham didn’t let his injuries stop him.  The New York Times later reported that despite his injuries, he continued to assist the wounded.  The Smithsonian Magazine wrote that according to Graham, he would remove belts from the dead and use them as tourniquets for the wounded.  He is also reported to have given the wounded cigarettes and stayed up all night encouraging them.  As a result of his actions during this time, he received both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

However, within the year, Graham’s mother would reveal his age.  He was sent to the brig for three months and all his medals were revoked.  He would have served remained in the brig longer, but was released when his sister threatened to contact the newspapers.  In May of 1943, one year after he enlisted, he received a dishonorable discharge.  This caused him to also lose his disability benefits.

At age 17, Graham enlisted with the US Marine Corps.  Three years later though he broke his back when he fell from a pier, thus ending his service career.  Even though his service as a Marine would qualify him as a veteran, Calvin Graham still spent the balance of his life fighting for both medical benefits and a clean service record.  It wasn’t until 1978 that he finally received his honorable discharge.  At this time, all his medals – with the exception of the Purple Heart – were reinstated.

In 1988, his story was brought to the public via the television movie, Too Young the Hero.  This prompted President Reagan to grant Graham full disability benefits.  As a result, he received $4,917 increase in his back pay, $18,000 to cover past medical bills  (though he was required to provide medical receipts).  Unfortunately so much time had passed that many of the doctors he had seen had already passed away and many of the bills had been lost.  As a result, he only received $2,100 of the original $18,000.

Purple HeartDespite his rights to the movie amounting to $50,000, after ½ the money went to two agents and another 20% went to a writer of an unpublished book about him, his total – before taxes – only amounted to $15,000.

Graham died of heart failure in November of 1992.  Two years later, his Purple Heart was reinstated and presented to his widow.  And with the intervention of both President Carter and then President Clinton, Calvin Leon Graham, the youngest serviceman in World War II, was recognized as receiving not only the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, but also the National Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with bronze Battle Star device and the WWII Victory Medal.

Top Ten Military Pistols

When assembling a list of top ten military pistols throughout history, a number of combinations could be compiled based on design, cartridge, performance, reliability and/or practicality.  Since so many aspects can be taken into account, a definitive top ten list is difficult;  however, a number of the pistols listed below would appear on just about anyone’s top ten list of military pistols.

10.  H & K UPS – Heckler & Koch’s UPS (Universal Self-loading Pistol) made this top ten list because of its accuracy and reliability.  The pistol’s design was influenced by the Model 1911 pistol.  The H&K UPS has a modified Browning-type action and a patented recoil reduction system, which not only lowers the recoil effects on the pistol but also the forces experienced by the shooter.

The control level function on the USP can be moved so either a left or right handed shooter can use the pistol.   The trigger firing mode can be easily converted from double-action and single-action modes and double action only mode.

A number of features such as a fiber-reinforced polymer frame, conversion capability to nine trigger firing modes, oversized trigger guard for use with gloves and patented lock-out safety device add to the weapon’s overall appeal.

9.  Colt Single Action – The Colt Single Action was in-service from 1873 to 1892.  This pistol is a single action revolver designed for the US Government service revolver trials in 1872.

This particular revolver was available in over 30 different calibers and several barrel lengths.  The overall appearance of the Colt, however, has remained consistent.  Production on this revolver was halted twice, but brought back to meet demands.  Though popular with ranchers, lawmen, outlaws, etc., today the models are mainly sought after by collectors and re-enactors.

After three generations and several variants, the Colt Single Action has more than earned its place on the list of top ten pistols.

8.  C96 Mauser Broomhandle – The C96 Mauser Broomhandle is a weapon that proved the viability of the semi-automatic pistol in both commercial and military use.  The C96 has an integral box magazine located in front of the pistol’s trigger and other design features include its long barrel, the wooden shoulder stock – which can also double as a holster – and its broom handle shaped grip, which is how the pistol earned its nickname ‘Broomhandle’.  The C96 had a high-velocity cartridge (7.63 x 25mm) which, when combined with its long barrel and shoulder stock, aided in in the Mauser’s superior range and penetration.  The C96 Mauser was produced from 1896 to 1937 and remained in service from 1899 through 1961.  After its introduction, the C96 quickly became a favorite among British officers and was used as a military sidearm in a number of conflicts.  A number of variants have evolved from the C96, and they have been used in over a dozen countries.

7.  Luger 9 mm – A semi-automatic pistol, the Luger 9mm was produced from 1900 to 1945.  The Luger’s patented toggle-lock re-coil operation that was widely utilized by the Germans in both WWI and WWII.  Though originally introduced with a 7.65 x 21mm Parabellum, the Luger is most noted as being the pistol for which the 9 x 19mm Parabellum cartridge – aka:  the 9mm Luger – was developed. The Luger 9mm is still highly prized and sought after by collectors who admire it for its design and its known accuracy.  Many of the Lugers from WWI and WWII were taken home by the Allied soldiers and remain in circulation to this day.

 6.  SIG P226 – This semi-automatic pistol is manufactured in Switzerland and can be chambered for a 9 x 19mm Parabellum, a .40 S&W, .357 SIG and a .22 Long Rifle.  It utilizes John Browning’s locked breech, short recoil.  A safety design feature of the P226 prevents the firing pin from making contact with a loaded round until the trigger is pulled.  This pistol also features a double-action, firing mode which can be attained by simply pulling back the trigger.  The P226 also utilizes a higher capacity magazine.  The SIG P226 is used by many special operation units throughout the world.

 

5.  Beretta 92F – This Italian designed semi-automatic pistol fires a 9 x 19mm Parabellum.  Manufacturing began in 1975 and continues to present day.   The original model was produced from 1975 to 1976, but current day production consists of four different designs using four different calibers:  9 x 19mm Parabellum (92 Series), .40 S&W (96 series), 9 x 21mm IMI (98 series) and 7.65mm Luger (98 and 99 series).

The Beretta 92F has been the primary side pistol for the American forces for the past 25 years.  This pistol has low recoil, an open slide design – which permits even feeding and discharge of bullets – and is easy to use.

 

4.  Browning Hi-Power – The Browning Hi-Power first went into production in 1935, but manufacturing of this single-action, 9mm semi-automatic pistol continues to present day.  This pistol is one of the most widely used military pistols in history.  The pistol was based on a design vision of the infamous John M. Browning, who passed away before it was finalized.  The Hi-Power is considered by many to be the best single-action 9mm pistol.  The Browning Hi-Power is still being used today by many military forces throughout the world.  In all, it has been used in over 50 countries.

3.  CZ75 – The CZ 75 is a semi-automatic pistol made in the Czech Republic. Introduced in 1975, production on the CZ 75 began in 1976 and has continued since.  This all-steel construction pistol features a staggered-column magazine and hammer forged barrel.  While it is the most common gun in the Czech Republic, the CZ 75 is admired and used by many due to its quality and versatility.  The patent on this CZ 75 protected the pistol’s design in the Czech only.  But since the pistol was exported to a number of countries, manufacturer’s abroad who began producing their own version of the CZ 75 pistol.

The CZ-75 is used by law enforcement agencies around the world and is noted for being easy to use, reliable and well-balanced.

2.  Glock-17 – This Austrian design, semi-automatic pistol has been in service since 1982.  The design took advantage of the previous H&K polymer construction and though first thought of as an odd handgun, the Glock 17 has since become the dominant handgun used by the Austrian and US law enforcement.  Glock pistols make up for 65% of the market share of hand guns in the United States.  The Glock changed the world of pistols and has become the defining gun of the past 25 years.

 

1.  Colt 1911 A1 – In the 100 years following its introduction, the Colt 1911 has served as a inspiration for most pistol designs.  Currently, there are more manufacturers of the M1911 pistol than any other cartridge handgun design at any given time.   This single-action and semi-automatic pistol was designed by John Moses Browning.  The M1911 and its variants were used in the United States Army from 1911 through 1985.  This pistol saw combat in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.  The Colt M1911 introduced the .45 ACP cartridge and remains a popular choice today among competitive shooters.

A number of exceptional pistols have graced the market since they were first modernized and introduced over 100 years ago.   This particular list will undoubtedly be refuted by some, but it would be difficult to dispute the Colt M1911 as the number one choice on this list of top ten military pistols.

Special Gear of the Special Ops

The Special Ops of the US Military are trained using special gear which allows them to properly execute their extraordinary task(s).  These specially trained units are the best of the best, and they use the best of the best.    Below is a brief overview of some of the special gear used by the Special Ops forces.

 

Eotech Sighting Systems – This system combines range and aim in a single holographic image.  The wide field of view is advantageous to maintain awareness within the broader field.  Combine the above with the Eotech Sighting System’s unmatched speed in target acquisition and it is easy to see why it is a top choice for US Special Forces.

 

 

Surefire Millennium Universal Weapons Lights – This light features is consistently reliable in combat situations due to its high degree of shock-isolation.   The components for this modular unit are interchangeable allowing rapid field conversion.

 

Protech Delta 4 Ballistic Helmets – The Protech Delta ballistic helmet is chosen for its light weight structure and its ability to meet the demands of a special ops team.  This helmet was designed to provide ballistic protection to the extreme – threat level IIIA protection.

 

 

Benchmade Knives – The quality, craftsmanship and dependability make Benchmade Knives a top choice for Special Forces.  One such knife is the 9050SBK.  The automatic opening mechanism on this knife makes it reliable for rapid deployment, yet can still be easily closed using one hand.  The knife is used by US Coast Guard rescue swimmers, and is used in US Air Force survival kits and vests and is also used by other US armed forces including special operations.

 

Blackhawk Commando Chest Harness – This extremely comfortable chest harness has a number of pouches to carry various types of munitions ordnances and other items like compasses, radios and rations.  The ¼” closed cell foam in the back doubles as an flotation device for river and stream crossing.

 

Blackhawk Serpha Level 3 Tactical Holster – This patented level 3 tactical holster provides a high level of function, retention and security.  The holster allows for even weight distribution.  In addition, the swivel buckles allow for quick-disconnect while delivering maximum mobility.

 

 

Invisio Q7 Communication Device – This device uses bone conduction technology and is a top choice for SWAT Teams and military Special Forces alike.  The device operates well in windy, noisy or even quiet environments.

 

 

AN/PVS-17 Night Vision Scope – This high scope intensifies images for night vision sight and fits easily on a variety of weapons.  The PVS-17 operates submerged in depths up to 66 ft.  It is currently used by the Special Forces of the US Marine Corps.

 

The above equipment represents only a small sample of the extensive list of special gear used by the US Military’s Special Ops.

Pakistan’s Special Ops Forces – Special Service Group

Pakistan’s Special Ops Forces is known as the Special Service Group and is considered on of the top Special Forces in the world.  They are also known as the Black Storks and the Maroon Berets and go by the codename SSG.  This group has been active since March of 1956 and is authorized in ten different types of missions:

  • Unconventional Warfare
  • Foreign Internal Defense
  • Special Recon Missions
  • Direct Action
  • Hostage Rescue
  • Personnel recovery
  • Counter-terrorism
  • Counter-proliferation
  • Special Operations
  • Asymmetric Warfare

This elite force closely resembles the US Army’s Special Forces and the British Army’s SAS.  Roughly 7,000 men are on active duty in Pakistan’s Special Services Group.  The actual number of combat battalions is thought to be ten.  However, due to their top secret operative scope, the actual number is kept highly classified.

Training for the SSG

SSG PakistanOfficers for the SSG are required to have served at least three years in the military.  They also must volunteer from other formations within the SSG for a minimum of three years.  The non-commissioned officers, as well as the enlisted men, must volunteer from other formations and are required to serve permanently with the SSG.

Those training for the SSG must first successfully complete an eight month program consisting of a series of physically challenging courses.  Next, they are required to complete a four week airborne training course.  Once the course is completed and the trainees have completed five day-jumps and three night-jumps, they are issued their commando wings.  In addition, trainees are instructed in hand-to-hand combat.

Additional Information on the SSG

The battalions of the SSG are always on rotation throughout noted “hot spots” or when involved in UN peace keeping operations.  They also provide security to vital areas such as nuclear facilities located in Pakistan.  Any other information on their “covert” operations remains highly classified.

The motto for Pakistan’s Special Ops Forces – Special Service Group – is “Fear is no policy and surrender is no option.”

US Army Delta Force

From what is known, the force is divided into three squadrons – Squadron, A, B and C.  Each squadron is made up of three troops – one recon / sniper troop and two direct action / assault groups.  Delta Force falls under the command of the Joint Special Operations Command.

Selection

The selection process for the US Army Delta Force is rigid with most of the recruits coming from the Special Forces Groups and the 75th Ranger Regiment.   The recruits must undergo a number of physically challenging tests which increase in difficulty throughout this portion of the program.  Next they will undergo a series of mental challenges. It is only then a recruit is told whether he has been selected to enter into the 6-month Operator Training Course.

This intense phase of training consists of a number of courses.  Students are first trained to be excellent marksman first with stationery targets and then moving targets.  Once they have become proficient, they are challenged in what is known as a “shooting house” where they are assigned to clear the rooms inside of all enemy targets.  Students are challenged individually and then perform the task again and again, each time adding a team member (up to a total of four).  Once the group(s) has successfully cleared the house, hostages are added among the enemy targets.

Students are also taught to break various types of locks and how to build bombs from easily accessed common materials.  They are also taught espionage skills and specialized driving techniques using advanced driving courses and a variety of vehicles.  They are further instructed on how to use the vehicle(s) as both a defensive and an offensive weapon.

Delta Force units  cross-train with similar units from other Allied countries.  They have also assisted in the training of other US counter-terrorism groups such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Hostage Rescue Team.  The US Army Delta Force is an extremely versatile organization and is said to remain on standby in order for immediate response to any terrorist threat situation.

AK-47 Assault Rifle

One of the most well-known, highly recognized assault rifles of current day is the AK-47.  This infamous rifle was developed by the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Kalashnikov.  Its official Russian name was Avtomat Kalashnikova but it was also referred to as Kalashnikov, or AK.  Russian’s also used the slang word ‘Kalash’ when referencing this weapon.  Many consider it the number one rifle in the military.

The development of this weapon began in 1945 and by 1946 (just after the end of WWII) a prototype – AK-46 – was produced for a military trial.  The following year, a newer version with a fixed-stock was received by selected units within the Soviet Army.  The AK-47 was formally accepted into the Soviet Armed Forces in 1949.

Design History

The concept of an assault rifle was first recognized by the Germans during WWII.  Statistics showed that the majority of fire fights incurred during the war occurred within a 400 meter range.  Contemporary rifles available at that time proved to be overpowering for these small arms combat situations.  The design included the need for the power of a submachine gun combined with the range and accuracy of a rifle.  The first design vision resulted in the Sturmgewehr 44.

The Russians were consistently outgunned by the German military throughout WWII and was definitely impressed with their Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle.  Desiring their own assault rifle, the Russian’s held a design competition and the AK-47 surfaced.

Features of the AK-47

The AK-47s design is simple making it easy to produce.  The weapon is relatively compact and is easy to clean and maintain.  The gun’s reliability, however, comes at the sacrifice of its accuracy.  The rifle is not intended for long-range engagements.  The service life of the AK-47 Assault Rifle averages 6,000 – 15,000 rounds.

Specifications

  • Type:  Assault Rifle
  • Service History:  1949 to Present Day
  • Produced:  1949 to 1959
  • Total Number Produced:  75 million (estimate)
  • Weight:  10.5 lbs.
  • Barrel Length:  16.3 inches
  • Cartridge:  7.62×39 mm M43/M67
  • Rate of Fire:  600 rounds per minute
  • Effective Range:  440 yards

Over a dozen different variants of the AK-47 assault rifle have been produced since its inception; they are used by over 60 nations throughout the world.

Austria’s Semi-Automatic Glock Pistol

Austria’s Semi-automatic Glock is a series of pistols designed and produced in Austria.  Though the founder Gaston Glock was inexperienced in both the designing and manufacturing of firearm, he was an engineer with extensive knowledge of newer advanced synthetic polymers.  His knowledge proved to be instrumental in developing the successful development of the company’s initial line of polymer framed pistols -with the Glock-17 becoming known by some as one of the top pistols ever manufactured.  Glock is also credited for introducing the firearms industry to ferritic nitrocarburizing – an anti-corrosion treatment for surface parts of metal guns.

A variety of pistols from around the world are on display in the Firearms and Ordnance Gallery at the Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, FL.  Step into this gallery and witness the power that is housed within. 

Though the market initially resisted Glock’s ‘plastic gun’ concept, the company’s pistols are one of their more profitable product lines.  Glock pistols command 65% of the US handgun market for law enforcement agencies.  Glock also supplies a number of national armed forces and security agencies throughout the world.

Development of the Glock Pistols

The Austrian military made an announcement in 1980 that it would be replacing the Walther P38 handgun – a WWII era weapon.  Their Ministry of Defense outlined the basic criteria for this new service pistol.  In 1982, Glock learned Austrian Army’s plan to procure a new weapon and begin assembling a team of European experts in the handgun field.  He chose a variety of people – including some from the military, some from the police force and he even chose civilians involved in sport shooting.

It wasn’t long before Glock had his first working prototype.  Between Glock’s use of synthetic materials and the newer production technology, the design was very cost effective, making it a viable candidate.  The Glock 17 (so-named as it was the company’s 17th patent) passed every endurance and abuse test and was chosen over a number of pistol designs from well-known manufacturers to be the official replacement of the Walther P38.  Both military and police forces in Austria adopted the Glock 17 (aka:  P80 – Pistole 80) into service in 1982.   Many consider the Glock-17 one of the top pistols of all time.

Interest in the Glock 17 Spreads

As news of the Austrian trial results spread, interest not only grew in Western Europe, but overseas as well.  This was particularly true in the United States where the US military were also seeking a replacement for their military issue M1911.  Though invited to participate in the US trials, Glock declined as providing the US with this weapon would have required extensive changes in their production equipment.   Shortly after though, this pistol was accepted into service by the armed forces of Norway and Sweden.  Because the weapon surpassed all previous durability standards set by NATO, it was given status as the standard NATO-classified sidearm.

Specifications

  • Service History:  1982 to present day
  • Production History:  1982 to present day
  • Total number built:  2.5 million
  • Glock 17 cartridge:  9 x 19mm Parabellum
  • Action:
    • Short recoil
    • Locked Breech
    • Tilting Barrel
    • Muzzle Velocity:  1,230 feet per second
    • Effective Range:  55 yards

A number of variants emerged within the 9x19mm Parabellum design.  Other variants included the 10mm Auto (Glock 20 and 29), the .45 ACP (Glock 21, 30 and 36), the .40 S&W (Glock 22, 23, 24, 27 and 35), the .380 ACP (Glock 25 and 28), the .357 SIG (Glock 31, 32 and 33) and the .45 GAP (Glock 37, 38 and 39).

Within its first 10 years, this pistol reached sales in excess of 350,000 in over 45 countries; the U.S. alone accounting for 250,000 of that total.  To date, more than 50 countries worldwide have utilized Austria’s Semi-Automatic Glock pistol.

John Moses Browning

John Moses Browning was born in Ogden, Utah on January 23, 1855.  He is one of the most prominent firearm designers in US history.  John worked in his father’s gunsmith shop where he learned the basic principles of both engineering and manufacturing.  His father – Johnathan Browning – encouraged him to experiment with new ideas.

First Rifle Design

The first weapon John Browning developed was a single-shot rifle with a falling block action design.  Soon after, Browning began to produce this firearm at a manufacturing operations plant he opened.  As rifle samples rolled off the line, Winchester Repeating Arms Company – seeing Browning as possible competition -took an interest and sent someone to assess the rifle.  Impressed with what they discovered, Winchester purchased the rifle design.

Browning and Winchester Collaborate

Beginning in 1883, Browning and Winchester worked together on a number of rifles and shotguns.  Their partnership proved to be successful, but ended when Browning designed and proposed a semi-automatic shotgun.  When Browning presented this to Winchester, he proposed a change to the customary ‘single fee payment’ with licensing being given exclusively to Winchester.  Instead, Browning was asking for royalty fees which would be based on unit sales, in lieu of the single upfront fee payment.  The offer was rejected.

Browning began looking outside Winchester, but when the president of Remington Arms died prior to Browning offering them a proposal for this newly designed gun, he began looking overseas manufacturers to produce his shotgun.  He turned to Belgium’s Fabrique Nationale de Herstal, with whom he had previously negotiated firearms licenses.  The Belgium company accepted his proposal and production began.  The shotgun was named the Browning Auto-5.  The Browning Auto-5 became a very popular 20th Century shotgun.  Shortly after the success of the Browning Auto-5, Winchester began to shift their reliance on Browning, which later proved to be the beginning of the end of their relationship.

Other Noted Accomplishments

Though Browning influenced just about every firearm category with his various designs, his most famous was no doubt the M1911 pistol.   Some additional noted accomplishments include the Browning. 50cal machine gun, the Browning Automatic rifle and the aforementioned Browning Auto-5.

Nearly a decade later, most of Browning’s designs remain relatively unchanged.  The first of his 128 gun patents came at the age of 24.  He continued to design products up until his death in 1926.  In fact, John Moses Browning died of a heart attack as he worked on a self-loading pistol design idea for Fabrique Nationale de Herstal, a design which was eventually completed in 1935 by a Belgium designer named Dieudonne Saive.

Norden Bombsight

The Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, FL has an original, full-size Norden Bombsight on display in the museum. 

Development

Development of the Norden Bombisight began with the U.S. Navy’s desire to secure a system was capable of bombing ships that would fall outside the range of their defensive guns.   About the same time, the U.S. Army had undertaken a similar project.  The Bombsight became one of the military’s top secret and closely guarded projects of WW II.  The intricacy of this instrument allowed a more accurate timing as to when it was necessary to drop a bomb in order to accurately hit the target below.

The B-17 Flying Fortress was the aircraft the Army chose for the Norden, feeling it was the most capable aircraft to insure the success of this top secret bombsight.  Later variations of the B-17 were designed to allow the Norden Bombsight to take over the controls of the plane and actually fly the aircraft.   The known accuracy of the Norden was said to have been successful enough to hit a 100 foot circle at 21,000 feet – which is approximately 4 miles high.  However, test results proved to be more successful than actual bombing missions.

Top Secret Device

The secrecy of the Norden Bombsight meant the sight would not be loaded into the aircraft until just prior to take-off.  Before loading, the sight would be covered from view and brought to the plane using armed guards.  Once the mission was completed and the plane returned, the sight would once again be covered and armed guards would safely escort it back to “the Bomb Vault”.  All bombardiers using the Norden had to take an oath to protect this highly classified instrument, even if it meant their life.  In the event of an emergency landing in enemy territory, they were instructed to shoot the sight’s most critical instruments in order to disable it.  The military felt this did not destroy the sight enough should it fall into enemy hands, which lead to the installation of a thermite grenade making it possible to create a heat reaction capable of melting the Norden into a useless pile of metal.

By the end of the war, the secrecy of the sight was downgraded with the first public display occurring in 1944.  The most famous mission for the Norden Bombsight occurred on August 6, 1945, when the sight was used in the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.   The legacy of the Norden bombsight did not end there.  At the onset of the Korean War, aircraft from WWII that had been left intact were once again called into service.   At the onset of the Vietnam War, the USAF once again would turn to the Norden Bombsight, but this time, WWII technicians were needed to bring them back to operational status.