Secret World War II bombsight wanted for 'Spiderwoman of Yucaipa' display
By JENNIFER IYER | Redlands Daily Facts, Calif. | Published: August 22, 2019
(Tribune News Service) — Webs from a Yucaipa woman’s spider farm helped make a secret piece of World War II bombing equipment a legend, and now local historians want one of the slowly disappearing gadgets for their museum.
Nan Songer, a chemist assistant and naturalist, established a spidery in Yucaipa in 1939 and supplied webs to make crosshairs for equipment such as scopes and sights, including the Norden Bombsight.
The bombsight “was crucial in conducting … high-altitude precision strategic bombing by the U.S. Army Air Force and an essential factor in defining air war strategy,” according to the National Park Service. The equipment, according to the park service’s website, was a closely guarded secret.
Claire Marie Teeters, president of the Yucaipa Valley Historical Society, said when the government would send an agent for the silk, “they chained a satchel to their arm” to secure the black widow webbing on its journey to a factory.
Songer had discovered the best type of web to carry illumination, and the spider silk stood up to cold weather better than the previous crosshair material: human hair.
“Right here in Yucaipa, Nan Songer helped win the war,” Teeters said.
The society wants to purchase a Norden Bombsight for its “Spiderwoman of Yucaipa” display at the Mousley Museum of Yucaipa History, but at about $3,000 to $5,000, the equipment is outside the group’s budget.
Teeters said the society has found a few bombsights for sale, but “there aren’t that many left around.”
The society is partnering with the Yucaipa Rotary to hold a local art auction fundraiser to raise money for the bombsight on Saturday, Aug. 24. The event will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. at the museum, 35308 Panorama Drive, Yuciapa.