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'Relic' mystery solved


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#1 Martin Bull

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Posted 25 December 2006 - 09:28 PM

Old Forum hands may remember my finding an unidentified piece of alloy at the site of Rattlesden Airfield ( 447th BG ) over a year ago.

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I spent ages hunting down every photo of a B-17 bomb-aimers position and controls, convinced that it had something to do with the bomb-release. With no success, I'd given up. Browsing through another book today - there is the answer. The radio operator on a B-17 was responsible for the on-board strike camera which recorded the fall of the bombs. This had two settings, 'salvo' if the bombs were released simultaneously, or 'intervalometer' if the bombs were spaced.

This little panel, located in the radio-operators compartment, was fitted with lights to warn him when the camera was in operation.

Mystery solved. It's just that, as so often with any kind of research, time, patience - and chance - is needed. :cool:
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#2 Peppy

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Posted 26 December 2006 - 08:11 AM

Nice follow up here Martin! It's great to see another of your great photos and a nice resolution to your research. Cheers!

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#3 TA152

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Posted 26 December 2006 - 09:53 PM

I remember you finding the piece but I am still confused. Why do they want pictures of the bombs falling out of the aircraft ? I can understand pictures of what the bomb aimer aimed at and the bombs hitting the target but the radio man could not do that in the middle of the aircraft, he could just look in the bomb bay and see that all the bombs emptied out before they close the doors. :confused: Can you elaborate for the mentally challenged. :rolleyes:
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#4 Martin Bull

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 08:31 AM

Those are good questions, Ta.

The camera triggered at regular intervals and - I assume - followed the bombs down to the target.

The pic bottom right is the sort of thing....

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As to exctly how the system worked, and why, etc - I have still to find out.

It's interesting, isn't it, that in all the 8th AF / B-17 reading I've done ( and that's a LOT :eek: ) the tiny reference I found recently is the only one I've come across about this process.

If only I'd known about this when I met 100th BG radioman Earl Benham in 2002 ; I could have asked a sensible question instead of 'Er, um - what was it like up there ?' redface.gif
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#5 Kai-Petri

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 08:42 AM

Do you know Martin if they also caught any of those "friendly bombs" situations where another own bomber was hit by the falling bombs by the footage?
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#6 Martin Bull

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 09:00 AM

Yes, Kai - they most certainly did. There is a famous photo of a B-17 losing it's tail surfaces to bombs from an aircraft above ( over Berlin, if I remember correctly ); no 'chutes were seen....
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#7 TA152

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Posted 28 December 2006 - 09:38 PM

I have been searching for why they wanted to photograph the bombs going down but all I have found so far is this site that has some nice pictures but the information has errors such as .35 cal ammo. :rolleyes:

http://nhs.needham.k..._B-17_Hero.html
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#8 Stefan

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 01:39 PM

I quite like that site, it was written by a high school kid as part of a project (http://nhs.needham.k12.ma.us/cur/wwii/) and despite it's flaws it's nice to know the kid learned something about the experiences of a vet.

TA, hope you don't mind, I'm going to post that site in the WW2 today section as it's pretty interesting.
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#9 TA152

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 02:53 AM

No I don't mind at all. I would still like to know why they would bother carrying a heavy camera around just to photograph bombs leaving the bomb bay. There must be a reason, but I can't think of any.
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#10 Mussolini

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 03:09 AM

Now, i dont know much about this, but perhaps it was to see how the cluster of bombs fell? They could compare the pattern of how the bombs fell (as i am sure they could change it up) and based on the damage, determing which type of pattern was best used for certain targets? And perhaps the design of the bombs too - not sure if they were much altered over the course of the war, but it could be possible to use the pictures for that sort of manner too...

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#11 TA152

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 03:20 AM

That's the best idea I have seen so far. graemlins/salute.gif
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#12 Martin Bull

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 06:25 PM

I'm only finding brief snippets of information about this subject....Roger Freeman in 'Mighty Eighth War Manual' mentions that the bombardier would signal the radio operator to switch on the camera when the Norden bombsight was set up ; the camera was then automatically triggered upon release and took five or six shots at six- to ten-second intervals to gauge accuracy of drop and ultimate strike on target.
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#13 Von Poop

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 06:49 PM

Wasn't there also an element of proving that the crew had actually dropped their bombs over the target area and at the right height?
Not done much aeronautical reading when compared to the land war but I'm sure this was mentioned somewhere.
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#14 Mussolini

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 08:01 PM

Well i know they took pictures of the bombing. My grandfater was an RAF Bombardier in a Lancaster. Lead plane of his flight, so he also got to fly back over and take pictures of the resulting damage. Though, bombing at night didnt leave the clearest pictures. I still cant figure out if its a cloud or smoke i'm looking at in one of his pictures!

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