This month’s featured artifact is the K-11 compensating gunsight, part #655441 serial # 1611 made by the Sperry Gyroscope Company of Brooklyn, New York.
The K-11 was used primarily in the nose turret of the Consolidated B-24 Heavy Bomber during WW2. The K-11 Compensating Gun Sight was a late war innovation that used the aircraft’s altitude and speed with the direct correlation of where the weapon was pointed to calculate the reticle. The aircraft altitude and speed was programmed into the dial shown on the rear of the sight. The correlation was determined by drive lines that connected the K-11 Sight to the turret.
A compensating sight offsets the line of sight only to compensate for the speed of the firing aircraft. These sights did not take into account target range, but based their calculation on the angle between the gun line and the aircraft axis, using two dimensional cams.
The museum’s piece is a nice clean example and shows the bore sighting instructions on the side as well as front and rear folding sights. It also features the rear sun shield, which you don’t find on many surviving examples. This could also be folded down rearward and out of the way when not required. Note the placard that states that it can only be used in the nose cone position only. The K-11’s sister sight, the K-13 was another compensating gun sight that could be used in the side and waist gun positions and was mounted directly on the rear housing of the .50 caliber machine guns in those positions.
Recently the local Home Depot Store in Inver Grove Heights donated two Milwaukee battery operated Jobsite light systems to our wing. It was a fantastic donation that will help us improve safety by reducing extension cord clutter on the floor of our WW2 hangar. This was one of the many donations we have received over the years from individuals and companies.
Their donations help us keep our museum open, airplanes flying and WW2 vehicles at local events and parades.
During this season of giving we would like to thank a few of our generous corporate donors.
Lucus Oil Products, Inc
Advance Auto Parts
From all of us at the Commemorative Air Force Minnesota wing, a big thank you!! Our mission to inspire, honor and educate could not continue without their generous support.
The Honeywell C-1 Autopilot was an electronic-mechanical system designed to reduce the amount of fatigue that pilots felt while hand flying the aircraft for long periods by automatically flying an airplane in straight and level flight. It could also be used to fly the aircraft through gentle maneuvers such as banks, turns and slight altitude changes. When coupled with the Norden bombsight, it created a stable platform that was necessary to bomb targets accurately from high altitude.
This autopilot consisted of two spinning gyroscopes located in cases attached to the airplane. One gyroscope, called the Flight Gyro, was located near the aircraft’s center of gravity and detected changes in roll and pitch. The Directional Gyro, located in the bombsight stabilizer, detected changes in yaw. Using a series of electrical signals, the C-1 Autopilot controlled the aircraft with servos connected to the control surfaces of the aircraft. Either the pilot or the bombardier could control the aircraft.
The C-1 Autopilot system was used extensively in WW2-era bomber aircraft of the US Army Air Forces, including the B-17 Flying Fortress, the Consolidated B-24 Liberator and the B-29 Superfortress. The control panel would typically be installed at the pedestal between the pilot and co-pilot. The C-1 revolutionized precision bombing in the war effort, and was ultimately used on the Enola Gay and Bockscar B-29 bombers that dropped atomic bombs on Japan in 1945, bringing the end of hostilities of WW2.
We have a proud local connection in that these panels were manufactured by Honeywell here in the Twin Cities. Prior to WWII, Honeywell had gone through a successful period of growth and global expansion in the technology sector. With the outbreak of war, Minneapolis-Honeywell was approached by the US military for engineering and manufacturing products and included the C-1 autopilot, the turbo supercharger along with tank periscopes, camera stabilizers and more accurate fuel gauges, among other things. During the war and post-war years, Honeywell manufactured over 35,000 autopilots and thousands of the Norden bombsights under contract.
This rifle was used by Japan in World War II from 1939 to 1945. It is a bolt-action rifle firing a 7.7mm caliber bullet, and was designed by Japanese Army Colonel Nariakira Arisaka. It is called the type 99 because it was introduced into service in the Japanese calendar year of 2599, which corresponds to the year 1939.
The Type 99 was produced in several versions, and the original standard rifle came with a folding wire monopod intended to improve accuracy in the prone position. It also had a folding rear sight that featured folding horizontal extensions intended for greater accuracy when shooting at aircraft. The monopod and antiaircraft sight extensions were not very effective during the war, so they were eliminated on later rifles. As the war progressed, the quality of manufacture and of the materials it was made of steadily diminished. Despite this, rifles made near the end of the war still shot just as well as the early war rifles.
Another feature of the Type 99 was an engraving of the imperial chrysanthemum on top of the rifle receiver. An image of the chrysanthemum flower is a national seal and a crest used by the Emperor of Japan and members of the Imperial Family. It was placed on an item of military equipment to show that it belonged to the emperor, and was used under his authority. When Japanese weapons were surrendered at the end of the war, Japanese soldiers would deface or remove the chrysanthemum. This was done to indicate that the rifle no longer belonged to the Emperor, and also to preserve his honor.
U.S. Marines and U.S. Army soldiers returning from the Pacific theater brought these rifles home with them as trophies and souvenirs at the end of the war, so there are many Type 99 rifles available in America. As luck would have it, an early version of this rifle is owned by the Minnesota Wing of the CAF. Our rifle is an early version, complete with monopod, antiaircraft sight, and defaced chrysanthemum.
Mickey Nelson worked for the US Defense Dept in 1942-1943 building the Alcan Highway through British Columbia to Alaska and was a US Army Private First Class at Ft Knox in the motor pool in 1944-1945. He maintained tanks in an armored division during WWII.
Mickey Nelson made headlines as he walked 100 miles the Summer of his 100th birthday and raised $100,000 for the Salvation Army food shelf! During the Depression his family always had enough food to eat but he remembers the breadlines in those days and people lining up for something to eat. It left a mark on him and he wanted the money to go to food. During the COVID-19 pandemic the requests for food assistance from the Salvation Army had risen greatly so the fundraiser came at just the right time.
Mickey and his family (4 generations) came for a tour and enjoyed seeing the displays, planes and motor pool vehicles. He was thrilled to get a ride in one of the vehicles. Mickey is an inspiration and we were so glad we could show him and his family around.
This months spotlight is on Fleming Field and the original hangars that were built by the Navy in 1942. One of the original hangars is home to the Commemorative Air Force and the museum which couldn't be more fitting.
Fleming Field was established on July 20th, 1943 to provide support for NAS Minneapolis. In 1942, the Navy announced the opening of an naval auxiliary air facility (NAAF) and purchased McInnis Field, a small airfield at South St. Paul, for its B-Base. Fleming Field was planned by Navy Lt. H.K. Laing, and the Navy invested considerably into developing the airfield.
Before the war, it was known first as Hook-Em-Cow Field and used by a local flying club. In 1939, the airfield was little more than a mowed landing strip surrounded by farms. Adrian C. McInnis bought the airfield in 1940 and he started a flight school under the federally funded Civilian Pilot Training Program. McInnis Field had only one hangar up when it was officially dedicated on September 29, 1940. Plans were announced that included building larger hangars, but the onset of World War II curbed those plans.
In September 1942, construction started on the naval auxiliary airfield, which was all designed at the Navy Field Office in Minneapolis. The airfield was quickly transformed into an auxiliary Primary flight school for NAS Minneapolis' Training Squadron 1B. Four wooden hangars went up immediately on the north side of the concrete apron as it was being poured.
Two wooden barracks and ship's services were also constructed immediately east of the four hangars on Airport Road. The barracks only housed ground support personnel assigned to Fleming Field. One of the barracks housed WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), which was the
Navy's Reserve unit for women during World War II.
Early additions to Fleming Field (B-Base) included two more hangars and assembly/maintenance shop built on the east side of the apron. A wooden platform tower, and storage facilities for water and gasoline were also added on the apron's north side. The control/signal tower was constructed using wood timber posts and dimensional lumber. A concrete apron was also built and measured approximately 780 ft. x 260 ft., and provided space for one-hundred U.S. Navy primary training aircraft.
Two diagonal taxi strips led from the apron to both the north and south landing pads. Each circle measured 1,500 feet in diameter. Student fliers simply taxied out to the center of the landing circle, revved up, and took off. The take-offs were in all directions taken as fast as students reached the center of the circle. Landings were the reverse of take-offs. Planes landed after lining up over the pylons.
Fleming's north land circle was a grass pad, and it could become packed with dirt, or snow in the winter months. Often the plane's propellers churned up clouds of dust causing visibility problems for cadets.
The south landing circle was situated on very sandy soil that gradually turned into a marsh with a small lake to its south. The circle was paved and received 200,000 square yards of a soil cement mix, but severe weather prevented its completion in the fall of 1942. A local farmer recalled how the south landing pad was built. Preparation for surfacing the field began with clearing and smoothing out the 1,500 foot diameter pad. After removing boulders and large stones, the entire circle was dusted with a layer of dry Portland cement. The top layer of sand and cement was dragged or mixed before the final step of wetting down the surface. When the mix cured it became known as the "earth cement" landing surface. The strength of the rough hardened surface was questionable but the Navy's Primary planes only weighed about 1,900 pounds.
The Navy built six Quonset-style hangars in all, numbered 2-7 (in addition to an existing hangar) and used them to house their N2S and older N3N "Yellow Peril" biplanes. The familiar barrel shaped hangars were constructed of glued laminated wood arch beams and made by Rilco Laminated Products, Inc., of Blue Earth, MN. Wood planks were used for roof decking and green tarpaper was used for roofing. The Navy constructed a total of six hangars, two barracks, a boiler room, power house and storage facilities.
In May 1943, the new Naval Auxiliary Air Field (McInnis Field) opened at South St. Paul, and it began operating as the B-Base for NAS Minneapolis. On July 20, 1943, McInnis Field was renamed Fleming Field in honor of Captain Richard E. Fleming (USMCR), a local aviator who died in the Battle of Midway on June 5, 1942. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Fleming Field was
officially dedicated on January 3, 1944.
The Link trainer was the first flight simulator created by Edwin Link. Link was an engineer at his father’s organ building business. In 1928 he left the family business to begin work on a “pilot trainer” and in 1931 he received a patent. Most of his first sales were to amusement parks. In the beginning there was very little interest by the flying community in Link’s trainer. In 1934 the Army Air Corps bought six Link trainers to assist in training pilots to fly at night and in bad weather, relying on instruments. By the 1940’s Link sold approximately 10,000 trainers to the military.
An instructor sat at the desk and transmitted radio messages which the student heard through his earphones. The student relied on his instruments to fly the Link through various maneuvers while his navigational course was traced on a map on the desk.
The Link trainer holds a significant place in history, it was the first true flight simulator. It provided safe training to student pilots during the 1930’s and 40’s.
We are excited to announce that the museum will be opening on Saturday, July 11, 2020.
We will only be open on Saturday's from 11am to 5pm to allow time for the museum, aircraft, and vehicles to be cleaned. A donation of $5 per person is suggested to help us through this difficult time.
All patrons visiting the museum must wear a mask upon entering. If you do not have one, you can purchase one in our PX. Hand sanitizer will be placed throughout the museum for use.
The museum gift shop will be open, but only 2 people will be allowed in at one time.
In order to keep a safe distance for people, aircraft and vehicles will be on the ramp during open hours. If weather is a factor, we will limit the number of people in the museum at one time.
We thank you for your patience and understanding during this time and we look forward to seeing you all.
The 30th Reconnaissance Squadron was established on 1 May 1943 as a Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, initially trained under Second Air Force in Colorado; reassigned to Third Air Force in Oklahoma where the squadron received P-38E/F-4 Lightning reconnaissance aircraft.
Deployed to the European Theater of Operations (ETO) in England, being assigned to Ninth Air Force. Initially stationed at the Royal Air Force reconnaissance training school at RAF Chalgrove, later moved to RAF Middle Wallop where the squadron became operational in the ETO. The squadron arrived in Chalgrove in late February 1944 and began operations in March. Engaged in unarmed and extremely hazardous combat operations over Occupied Europe, mapping 6,000 square miles (16,000 km2) of the Netherlands and flew bomb-damage assessment missions over marshalling yards and gun emplacements in Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, in April 1944.
Earned DUC for participation with 10th Photographic Group, 7–20 May 1944, in photo reconnaissance of Utah beach for Normandy invasion. The citation read, in part: "Employing specially modified equipment installed in unarmed P-38 type aircraft, the intrepid pilots of the 10th Photographic Reconnaissance Group undertook the most hazardous missions. Flying unarmed and unescorted and at altitudes as low as twenty-five feet, they fearlessly piloted their aircraft over the difficult photographic runs in the face of intense fire from some of the strongest anti-aircraft installations in western Europe." Dicing, was the term used when referring to these extremely low-altitude flights over Utah Beach.
Flew sorties over France on D-Day making visual and photographic reconnaissance of bridges, artillery, road and rail junctions, traffic centers, airfields, and other targets. Moved into liberated area of France in early July, flying weather missions, made visual reconnaissance for ground forces, and photographed enemy positions to assist the First and Third Armies; Twelfth Army Group, and other Allied forces in the drive to Germany. Flew its first mission over Germany on 24 August 1944. Took part in the offensive against the Siegfried Line, Sep–Dec 1944, and in the Battle of the Bulge (Ardennes-Alsace), Dec 1944 – Jan 1945.
From then until the close of the war in Europe, the squadron photographed dams and bridges on the Roer River in preparation for the ground offensive to cross the river, and aided the Allied assault across the Rhine River and into Germany. Flew its 2,000th operational mission on 22 March 1945. Flew missions to Berlin on 8 April and to Dresden on 10 April 1945. Returned to the United States in July 1945, being assigned to Third Air Force, Continental Air Command at Drew Field, Florida. Squadron demobilized without becoming fully operational during the fall of 1945, inactivating on 7 November
The Birmingham Small Arms Company has a long history as a firearms manufacturer and was also well-known as the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer during WWII. In 1939, BSA began production of a military version of their M20 commercial motorcycle that was fitted with a Lucas light which is a military signaling lamp and other additional equipment.
It was powered by a 12hp single-cylinder 500cc side-valve engine and offered superb reliability and ease of maintenance. Modifications were made during the course of the production and late-war motorcycles featured an air filter fitted onto the fuel tank. Over 126,000 units were produced during the war and most of them were deployed with the British Army. They saw service on every front for a wide range of duties including liaison and supply convoy escort. Some were also used by the RAF and British Navy.
BSA workers employed making the M20 were killed in an air raid on the BSA factory in Armoury Road, Small Heath, Birmingham on the night of Tuesday 19 November 1940. The factory was one of the main targets for the Luftwaffe and at 9.25pm a low flying aircraft dropped two bombs which destroyed the southern end of the BSA building in Armoury Road. Rescuers included BSA's own fire brigade who pumped the Birmingham and Warwick canal dry putting out the fire. As well as 53 workers killed and 89 were injured. Much of the factory and equipment was destroyed or damaged but BSA had 67 factories so work was transferred elsewhere and production of the BSA M20 continued.
After the war, the M20 continued to serve throughout 1950s and some were even used until the end of the 1960s.
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