Deconstructing the myth of the Norden Bombsight




Tremblay, Michael

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The Norden Bombsight was a complex, 2000-piece mechanical computer. It was designed to solve the mathematical problem of dropping bombs from high altitude bombers in order to hit specific ground targets. Originally developed under the supervision of the U.S. Navy, the device was picked up by the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1935, and quickly became the Air Corps’ most important military technology. For the Air Corps, the device not only defined its institutional relevance, but also enabled air power proponents to appeal to the American public’s predilection for technology in order to gain popular support. By the time America entered the Second World War, the device was famous and it captured the hearts of many Americans due to its touted pinpoint accuracy and ability to make war more humane. The belief that the device would make war less brutal reinforced American notions of the link between progress and technology. During the war, the device proved to be a failure, yet the rhetoric and altruistic belief in the bombsight’s ability to save lives persisted. This thesis deconstructs this enduring myth by investigating the language the mass media used to discuss it before and during the war.



Bombing, Aerial, United States, World War, 1939-1945