B-17 Concrete Ordinance? The Disney Bomb

By Scott Spangler on February 15th, 2021

220px-Victory_Through_Air_Power_posterYouTube is a good weekend destination when the wind chill is in double digits because it usually inspires a curiosity quest. It started with The Doc Furness War, a 96-minute aggregation of 16-mm color motion pictures taken by the flight surgeon of the 92nd Bomb Group based at Paddington, UK. If you’re curious about life at a World War II B-17 base, this one covers all aspects of life, from passes to London to flying combat missions (with none of the Memphis Belle film you see in so many other productions).

The narrator does an excellent job of expanding the moving images with detailed words. He explained, for example, that the long, pointy cylinders the crews were mounting below the B-17’s wings, one on either side of the bomb bay were “Disney Bombs.” A US Army Air Pictorial Service film said General Doolittle’s men called it the “Disney Swish.” The B-17s dropped the 18-foot bombs on hardened targets like submarine pens and rocket sites.

So what’s the connection to Disney? And is that Mickey Mouse’s Disney? Apparently, the weapon was inspired by the bomb that took out a Nazi sub pen in a propaganda film, Victory Through Air Power, made by Walt Disney.

400px-Disney_Bomb_DiagramBut wait, the story is even more unexpected. A Royal Navy officer, Captain Edward Terrell, who served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Service with the Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapons Development, imagined the weapon, officially known as the “4500-pound Concrete Piercing/Rocket Assisted” bomb. The solid-fuel rocket boosters gave it the added Swish to penetrate 16 feet of solid concrete. Gravity alone accelerated the Britain’s 10,000-pound Tallboy bomb to 750 mph. The Disney hit at 990 mph.

Built in three sections, the thick armor piercing steel warhead was 11 inches in diameter and filled with 500 pounds of explosive. The center section, 19 inches in diameter, held 19 3-inch rocket motors. The tail section held the necessary electrical circuits and wind-powered generator fan blades. A time delay or barometric sensor ignited the rocket motors, and the bombers had to drop the rocket-accelerated weapons precisely from predetermined altitudes.

In other words, the Disney Bomb rarely hit its intended targets. And this explains why the British bomber command, which usually practiced area bombing at night, never launched a Disney bomb. Believing the Army Air Forces claims of its daylight bombing accuracy, founded on the Norden bombsight, the British joined forces with Doc Furness’ outfit, the 92nd Bombardment Group.

220px-Disney_Bomb_LoadingDuring a March 1945 raid on submarine pens under construction at the port of Farge, not far from Bremen, 30 B-17s launched 60 Disney Bombs. One of them hit the target. Given this success rate, Disney development ended not long after the war. Clearly, all it needed was the GPS guidance system used on today’s Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs). In 2009, the 8th Air Force scored another hit when the body of a Disney Bomb, and its 500-pound warhead, were extracted from the thick concrete roof of a bunker in Watten, a V-2 launch bunker, now a private museum.

If you enjoyed this story, why not SUBSCRIBE to JetWhine, if you haven’t already, and please share it with anyone who might find it interesting. – Scott Spangler, Editor

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