Aviation historian restores WWII bombsights

- In the workshop behind his home in Tampa, Dennis Cole pieces together a device with quite a story.

"This was very secret," he said as he peered down at the black metal device on his workbench. 

He's an aviation historian who's restored dozens of World War II-era Norden bombsight. The devices were the computers of their day with gears instead of circuit boards.

"It had gear ratios that you put in -- different inputs based on your weapons, airspeed and altitude," he explained. 

When U.S. bombers like the famous B-17's arrived near their targets, the pilot turned it over to the bombardier.

"He would actually take control of the aircraft and fly the plane simply by moving the bomb sight and keeping the crosshairs on the target," Cole continued.

And even though a crewman might say, "bombs away," no one was pushing a button.

"The bombsight decided when to release the bombs," said Cole. "When it decided everything was right, it dropped them."

Cole says the Norden sights were so valuable and secret that crewmen were ordered to destroy the sights rather than allow them to fall into enemy hands. 

The bombsights are part of a history exhibit Cole is putting together for the MacDill Air Force Base Airfest  this weekend.

Up Next:

Up Next

  • Aviation historian restores WWII bombsights
  • Withlacoochee expected to crest Wednesday
  • Neo-Nazi takes plea deal on explosives charges
  • Polk to use early release days as hurricane make-up days
  • Puerto Ricans on the mainland watch, wait after Maria devastates U.S. territory
  • Polk rejects plan to light road where teen was killed
  • After Dunedin school serves as shelter, 80 books missing from classroom
  • Time drags for those waiting for news from Puerto Rico
  • AMBER ALERT: 4 children missing from Manatee Co.
  • Wisconsin logger helps clear debris after Irma