For this week’s World War II veteran highlight I’m going back to my first book, We Fought to Win: American WWII Veterans Share Their Stories. It is available in print and Kindle.
I met Roger Myers at the Fort Wayne Airport in 2013. We had made an appointment for his interview at the airport.
At that time he still seemed to be ‘The Man’ around the airport, even though he had been retired. Everyone knew him and he led me through doors that the average person could not go through.
Our destination was the Fort Wayne Aviation Museum. It was in the airport behind security so our roundabout path had circumvented the security stop points.
Roger wanted to show me the various items in the museum, including the Norden bombsight which he used to operate as a bombardier.
He was the first bombardier I ever met – and I think the only one (that just occurred to me) of the 260 World War II veterans I’ve interviewed.
Sadly, the museum is no longer in the airport.
This is an excerpt of Roger’s story with extra information at the end about Carl Norden’s bombsight.
During World War II, Roger Myers worked on one top secret weapon and was nearly involved with another.
After graduating from Coldwater High School in Coldwater, Ohio, Myers enlisted in the Army Air Corps in December 1942. He was sent to Miami Beach for basic training, but, due to the need for replacements of soldiers, training that was supposed to last six weeks was reduced to a few lectures.
At Scott Field near Belleville, Illinois, Myers received training as a radio operator. Seven weeks later, he was back in Florida at Tyndall Field in Panama City to attend aerial gunnery school.
“We started with BB guns because some guys had never shot a gun,” he said. “We worked up to guns with 50-cal bullets and a projectile the size of my thumb that could shoot two miles.”
They also shot machine guns that fired six rounds a second.
When Myers was done at Tyndall, he completed flight training at Denver, Salt Lake City, Santa Ana, California, and Washington State College.
Two months later, he was assigned the position of bombardier. “The military made the choices for us between pilots, navigators or bombardiers,” he said.
He spent four months at ground school for the Norden bombsight. This was a top secret weapon designed to ensure accuracy in dropping bombs.
In August 1945, 2nd Lieutenant Myers was sent to Las Vegas Army Air Field where he flew B-29s until he was discharged in December 1945. Upon arriving home in Coldwater, he was delighted to discover he outranked his three older brothers. “I was the only one with a commission,” he said.
After the war, Myers worked 44 years for Chicago & Southern Airlines (today Delta Airlines) at Fort Wayne International Airport (then called Baer Field Airport).
In 1984 Myers helped establish the Greater Fort Wayne Aviation Museum, Inc. He co-authored a book about the history of aviation in Fort Wayne.
The Norden Bombsight developed between WWI & World War II was a top secret weapon of the second war. Manufactured by the Carl Norden Company and named after its owner, it permitted Allied bombers to precision-bomb from various altitudes to destroy enemy industrial sites.
The device calculated a bomb’s drop point based on the aircraft’s speed, range to target, wind, and other variables. It was touted to be accurate from 20,000 feet.
But it did come at a cost, although the operator was apparently worth more than the weapon. According to 1940 costs, each sight was worth $18,000. An additional $60,000 was set aside to train its bombardier.
The United States military spent $1.1 billion in 1940s dollars to build 90,000 Nordens.
Each bombardier and others associated with the ‘sight’ were required to take an oath to defend this top secret device with their life.
If an aircraft was fatally hit, its bombardier was under orders to destroy the secret machine rather than allow it to be captured.
But the United States was not the only nation with a similar top secret weapon
By the time that country entered the war, Germany had copied the Norden’s design. An employee-turned-spy at Norden’s factory named Hermann Lang had shared the design details.