"Trusting that I shall be considered a willing servant, capable of impartial advice and detached from any private interest...".
To get bombs on target with acceptable accuracy requires an aircraft to correct for drift while maintaining a constant altitude and airspeed. Even minor fluctuations can cause a miss, and the greater the altitude, the greater the chance for error. To overcome this problem, Norden devised a gyrostabilized automatic pilot. On...
To get bombs on target with acceptable accuracy requires an aircraft to correct for drift while maintaining a constant altitude and airspeed. Even minor fluctuations can cause a miss, and the greater the altitude, the greater the chance for error. To overcome this problem, Norden devised a gyrostabilized automatic pilot. On the approach to the target, the autopilot would be turned on to reduce turbulence and "overcontrolling" by the pilot. The bombardier would take over and keep the cross hairs of the sight centered on the target. At the critical moment, the bombs were released and a green light in the cockpit would flash to tell the pilot that the bombs were gone and he could resume control of the aircraft.
The Norden bombsight was first installed in a U.S. Air Corps plane in 1935, and by 1941 it had been perfected. With 43,000 produced during World War II, it became a key factor and one of the most closely guarded military secrets of the war. So valuable were the secrets of the sight's manufacture that Norden was accompanied everywhere by two bodyguards.
Such an important technological breakthrough would normally earn its creator sizeable financial gains. This was not true for Carl Norden, however. Sensing how important his invention would be to the U.S. war effort, he sold the rights to the government for just one dollar. Earlier in his career, Norden not only worked on bomb-sights, but designed and furnished other instruments and devices for U.S. Navy bureaus, including robot flying bombs and radio-controlled target planes.
In 1921, with Norden actively pioneering in these areas at the Navy’s request, he was naturally in touch with Lieut. Commander Olaf Hustvedt, a senior official in the Navy Department’s Bureau of Ordnance, who was responsible for investigating and reporting upon the feasibility of the remote control of aircraft by radio and of flying bombs. Hustvedt, later a rear admiral, battleship commander and member of the Navy Board in World War II, was also in communication with Robert Goddard about his rocketry work. In the following letter, it is useful to know that the Naval Proving Ground (weapons-testing facility) was then at Dahlgren, Va.; the Witteman-Lewis, manufactured by the Witteman Co., was a type of aircraft in which Norden gyroscopes were being tested; F.B.’s were Boeing aircraft; and J.N.’s were Jenny aircraft. In an extraordinarily important letter to Hustvedt in the midst of their 1921 work, Norden goes out of official channels to level with him about some key issues. The Navy was using corporate engineering consultants in addition to Norden.
Here he suggests that they can dispense with outside assistance and that he will take over the bomb-sight work himself. He also complains about the obstruction he was facing from entrenched bureaucrats, not in fact dissimilar to the problems Billy Mitchell was having convincing the Army of the central role to be played by air power in the future. He also stresses that he is an impartial and willing servant, with no private motives, thus foreshadowing the gift of his bomb-sight to the U.S. Government.
Autograph Letter Signed on his office letterhead, one page 4to, Brooklyn, August 23 , to Lieut. Commander O.M. Hustvedt. “I have sent a condensed report of the trial of F.B.#2, with recommendations to the Bureau, as requested by you. Some matters not suited to the nature of that report I wish to note in these non-official lines. Witteman's man will be at Dahlgren today, to continue as long as the present arrangements last. There will be no further material needed from the factory. If you want to retain him as heretofore, I cannot see why the Bureau should not propose a definite understanding in regard to the overhead from Aug. 1st on, or altogether drop or close the contract and try to do without the Witteman's man after the 1st of September. Mr. Bates has several J.N.4's in perfect condition and two F.B.'s adjusted and in good shape. If I can do future F.B. work as a side issue to bomb-sight work, the old F.B. contract is not needed. If the bomb-sight contract is terminated as soon as the main part of the apparatus is built, I can take over the remaining work in and experiments on a personal service understanding. The only reasons for the bomb-sight contract are, 1st- patents and protection, 2nd- inability to secure payments directly from the Department for time and expenses. On account of the 1st reason, the Witteman's Co. is entitled to consideration, lacking in case of the F.B. contract. Except for red tape, or legal difficulties, the bureau could do all this work for 1/4 the present cost, and I am entirely powerless to save expenses, any share being only a small fraction of the whole. Mr. Bates has about 4-5 good men at Dahlgren. If someone could prevail upon him to stop useless explosions and fights at the expense of these men and other parties, the work would proceed smoothly and efficiently. I am afraid the effort to push progress will be useless unless I, or some other one qualified, keeps the ship in deep water and on course, which cannot be done from here. I have asked Mr. Bates to put double control in one G.N.4 so that he could take me up and so that I can become familiar with control action in the air, but I do not know whether he will do it. A copy of the flying permit has arrived. If unsurmountable difficulties develop in connection with land plane flying, I would set off #5. This leaves three F.B.'s with full automatic control, and nothing as yet spoiled. F.B. expenses can meanwhile be cut to a minimum. You realize that, as a civilian I am handicapped in many ways. I cannot get Mr. Bates to study and take an interest in automatic control, or even to keep his mind on any one particular subject for more than a couple of minutes at a time, or to try anything, or to stick to any line of work. Flying with him may solve a lot of difficulties. I hope that my report and these lines will enable the powers that be to decide upon a definite proceeding, and that I shall be advised of it. Trusting that I shall be considered a willing servant, capable of impartial advice and detached from any private interest, I hope that these remarks will not be misunderstood. If Commander Stott is willing to wade through this letter, read it to him.”
The bomb-sight Norden became renowned for inventing was a mechanical analog computer made up of gyros, motors, gears, mirrors, levers and a telescope. It was used to determine the exact moment bombs had to be dropped to hit the target accurately. It could even actually fly the plane through the bomb run while coupled to the airplanes controls. Thus it was also, in a sense, a very early computer. This is the only letter of Norden we have seen, and its importance is evident. It comes from Adm. Hustvedt’s family and has never before been offered for sale.
Frame, Display, Preserve
Each frame is custom constructed, using only proper museum archival materials. This includes:The finest frames, tailored to match the document you have chosen. These can period style, antiqued, gilded, wood, etc. Fabric mats, including silk and satin, as well as museum mat board with hand painted bevels. Attachment of the document to the matting to ensure its protection. This "hinging" is done according to archival standards. Protective "glass," or Tru Vue Optium Acrylic glazing, which is shatter resistant, 99% UV protective, and anti-reflective. You benefit from our decades of experience in designing and creating beautiful, compelling, and protective framed historical documents.Learn more about our Framing Services