This is a typical account of Ferebee dropping the bomb on Hiroshima:
When the eye-stabbing flash penetrated the goggles intended to shield him, the tail gunner thought he had been blinded. At the signal nearly two minutes earlier, Technical Sergeant George Robert Caron had lowered the dense Polaroids over his eyes and tested them. The bright morning sun had been reduced to an odd, faint purple blob. Nothing more.
Major Tom Ferebee spotted his aiming point, the Aioi Bridge, pressed the trigger on his Norden bomb sight and calmly, but deliberately, announced 'bomb away."
At that moment "Little Boy" tumbled from the belly of the Enola Gay on its six-mile plummet earthward. Isolated by the blackness of his goggles, Caron counted the seconds after the bomb bay doors burst open.
FIRE OF A THOUSAND SUNS The Tail Gunner's Story
For A-bomb Crewman, It Was `Part Of The Job`August 06, 1985|By Katie Springer, Staff Writer SunSentinel.com
Bombardier Ferebee: just doing his job
Thomas Ferebee remembers that the flight to Hiroshima began in pitch dark at 2 a.m. Bombadier Ferebee was perched in "the glasshouse," the bubble in the nose of the B-29. Clouds were building in the distance by the time the Enola Gay reached Hiroshima. Ferebee centered the crosshairs of his bombsight on the bridge that marked ground zero and squeezed the release trigger.
"I'm not proud of killing a lot of people," says Ferebee today, "but I think we saved many by what we did. I was hoping, with everybody, it would get things over with. If people had seen how the Japs had things set up for our invasion, they wouldn't feel bad at all."
http://www.people.com/people/archive/ar ... 37,00.html
August 11, 1975 Vol. 4 No. 6
Memories of Hiroshima, 1945, from Men Who Were There
The problem with these accounts is that there was no button, lever, trigger, or whatever on a Norden bombsight, that was pressed, pushed, or pulled to release the bombs. The Norden bombsight was an analog computer that calculated when the bombs were to be released, and an internal switch connected at the calculated moment to release the bomb.
I was talking to a high school pal today and I happened to remember this question. He was bombardier so I asked him.
For each mission the bombardier entered a bunch constants into the bomb sight. Such things as altitude, airspeed, type of bomb, etc. The type of bomb was important because the lag, or trail, of the bomb behind the dropping aircraft was different for different bombs.
The bomb sight then computed how much the lag would be as a function of the altitude and type of bomb.
The sight also compensated for head-tail wind and cross wind at the bomber's altitude. The optics of the sight were driven in a direction opposite the planes direction at an adjustable rate. You put the range cross hair on the target and then adjusted the rate until the cross hair tracked the target. At the same time the azimuth cross hair was lined up with the target and when it drifted off the bombsight was swiveled until the target tracked right down the crosshair. Swiveling the sight turned the plane via the autopilot so that by the time of release the bomsight had computed the correct release point for the wind, altitude and bomb aerodynamics.
All of this was done within 60-90 seconds.
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/sho ... p?t=438659
More than a dozen schools were set up solely to teach bombardiers. Young men by the tens of thousands mastered the skill.
Missions settled into a familiar routine. Half an hour from target, the bombardier would switch on his sight and the formation would turn toward the target. Bomb bays opened, and the bombardier fixed his cross hairs on the target. If they drifted to the right or left, he brought them back into line with one knob and turned another until they held steady. With another set of knobs, he synchronized the sight's tracking speed with the ground speed of the plane. Near the target, corrections became minute, almost undetectable. The plane held course, then gave a gentle lurch as the bombs fell away. The bomb bay doors closed, and the plane swung away from the target for the long flight home.
http://www.airforce-magazine.com/Magazi ... rdier.aspx
December 1990 Bombardier By Bruce D. Callander airforce-magazine.com
Once the bombsight was readied and the aircraft was on final approach, the bombardier selected the primary target in the sight, turned on the system, and took control of the aircraft's autopilot. From that point on, the bombsight actually flew the aircraft, attempting to keep it on the chosen path and correcting for any last-minute adjustments provided by the bombardier. At the proper moment it automatically dropped the bombs; the aircraft was moving over 350 feet per second (110 m/s), so even minor interruptions in timing could dramatically affect aim.
The point is, Ferebee had no special ability that 'tens of thousands' of other bombardiers didn't have. There's nothing he could have done to improve the accuracy of the Norden bombsight over what bombardiers were achieving. The Norden bombsight was an analog computer that automatically dropped the bomb.