Norden Retirees Club


The original article is presented in four chapters recounting aspects of Norden Systems' history.  They were first published in the company newspaper The Norden Times, during the period April through December 1978 and is based on interviews of individuals that were involved with the company in one way or another.  All reference to time should consider the original 1978 publication date.  Minor editorial changes were made for the republication and a fifth chapter added in 2014.

Chapter 1.  Norden Described As An Artist by His Son

This chapter is based on an interview with Carl F. Norden, son of the late Carl L. Norden, founder of the firm. The younger Norden, retired from the U.S. Diplomatic corps, resided in Washington.  He passed away in 2002.  From the Norden Times April 1978.


WASHINGTON, D.C. The Norden bombsight was said to be the most closely guarded secret of World War II, yet more was known about the bombsight than about its designer, Carl L. Norden.

"You cannot understand my father without considering his religious and moral beliefs," Carl F. Norden, son of Norden Systems' founder, explained in an interview at his home in Washington, D.C.

Carl L. Norden was born on April 23, 1880, in Semarang, Java which was at that time a Dutch possession. When he was five, his father died. Shortly thereafter, his mother moved her five children back to Holland where Mr. Norden began his formal education.

When he was old enough, Mr. Norden applied for admission to the Dutch naval academy. He attended a preparatory school where, while participating in a sporting event, he broke a rib. This injury disqualified him from entering the academy, but Mr. Norden stayed close to naval activities all his life.

Disappointed, Mr. Norden turned to what his son called his second love — art — and attended art school in Munich, Germany "He was an artist at heart, and that accounted for much of his later work," the son said.

Any hopes he may have had for becoming a professional artist ended for Mr. Norden when the family moved to Zürich, Switzerland, where an older brother was already attempting to make a living as an artist.

Always practical, Mr. Norden saw that it was impossible for the family to be economically secure with two artists, so he apprenticed himself to an instrument maker for two years while attending the Federal Polytechnic School.

After graduation from this institution, Mr. Norden immigrated to the United States where two uncles offered him a position with their cotton business. He refused, preferring to seek his own fortune.

Mr. Norden began this search with a mine hoist manufacturer. One assignment for this company carried him to Cincinnati, Ohio, which, according to his son, Mr. Norden considered to be a frontier town, at least to a European.

After approximately two years, Mr. Norden returned to the east coast to work with Sperry Gyroscope Company. He took their gyroscope, which at that time was embryonic, and added gears and other refinements. Sperry rewarded him with a $25 a week raise which Mr. Norden considered insulting, so he quit, claiming the company had no future. Instead, Mr. Norden founded his own consulting company and worked with the United States Navy and Coast Guard on stable firing platforms for ships.

When the United States entered World War I, Mr. Norden became involved in a Navy plan for a drone airplane to be used as a flying bomb. This plane, designated FB-1, was to be launched by a catapult, shed its wings in flight and become a radio directed flying bomb, an early guided missile.  Photos are shown at the end of the chapter.

"First, my father never considered himself an inventor — he was a designer," Mr. Norden explained, and added "he deeply believed that anything worthwhile was divine given — the individual could take no credit. Finally, he never considered a project completed until he had designed something better."

While the device was never used in combat, the radio controls that Mr. Norden designed were to become the forerunner of the autopilot feature of the bombsight.

The FB-1 was test flown at the Dalhgren test area. Many years later, the younger Norden attended a party just after the Soviet Union launched its first Sputnik satellite. After listening to several military people bemoan the Russian space victory, Mr. Norden pointed out that the Navy had flown the FB­1 guided missile in the early 1920's. A commemorative plaque was instantly placed at Dalhgren.

In the 1920's the Navy shifted emphasis from the short range FB-1 to a device that would be capable of directing bombs from an airplane onto moving ships. Several designers had refused to even attempt a bombsight, but after thinking about the project for over a year, Mr. Norden presented the Navy with a massive volume of hand prepared math calculations for a bombsight. Neither the Navy nor the Bureau of Standards had any idea whether or not Mr. Norden's calculations were correct, but he got the go ahead to build a prototype, and, after several refinements, the Norden bombsight was born.

Mr. Norden never liked to take development contracts, his son said, because of the temptation to prolong a project already under contract. The early Norden bombsight was developed by Mr. Norden using his own money, the son said.

In the late 1923's, Mr. Norden joined with Theodore H. Barth to form the C. L. Norden Company, but the company had no offices or laboratories. All the development work for the bombsight was done in the front room of Mr. Barth's apartment in New York.

Mr. Norden remembers his father as a terrific worker who would work all day and several hours in the evening, but the elder Norden would always come home to have dinner with the family.

“One of my father's major principles was to never turn a project over to the government until he had already thought of some way to improve it," Mr. Norden said. "For the bombsight, he had over 30 variations computed, but selected the simplest and most harmonious. That was the artist coming out of him."

Mr. Norden also described his father as a tense man with high personal standards. "He never took a shortcut. He was a perfectionist, but most of all, he was practical. He didn't like to hire engineers straight out of school because they were too theory oriented, not practical enough."

The bombsight designer was never satisfied with his device — he was constantly looking for ways to improve it. The Navy was more than happy with the Mark XV and wanted to go into production but Mr. Norden is quoted by his son as telling the Navy "We've designed one, built one, and it works — now we should go on to something else." The outbreak of the Second World War ended the debate and the famous bombsight went into full production.

While the bombsight is why Carl L. Norden is remembered, his son claimed that his father was more proud of the designs he created for aircraft carrier arresting gear, designs that were actually used on the carriers Lexington and Saratoga. "My father always felt the war could have been fought and won without the bombsight, but not without the carriers. You must remember his love was for the sea and he was very close to all the carrier admirals, Halsey and all of them.  It's ironic that the bombsight was developed for the Navy, but they never made much use of it. The Army Air Corps made it famous."

Mr. Norden was always very loyal to the Navy. "Once an Army officer came to see my father, trying to persuade him to come to work for that service. My father quoted him scripture and said 'Man cannot work for God and the devil, and I already work for the Navy!"

Mr. Norden was deeply religious and believed everything worthwhile was divine given — the individual could take no credit. "My father would often say 'Providence (he never said the Lord) demanded that I do this." Moreover, Mr. Norden would never tackle a job if he thought someone else was capable of doing it.

According to his son, Mr. Norden had Extra Sensory Perception (ESP). "He would tell us about something happening across town — we would go there and it would be happening." Mr. Norden was very proud of his Dutch heritage and never became an American citizen. He felt that people did not have the right to change nationalities.

Mr. Norden retired immediately after World War II and moved to Switzerland to avoid the publicity surrounding the bombsight. He remained very religiously active and supported efforts to free clerics held behind the iron curtain.

"My father was never 'proud' of the bombsight as an end product. He believed the United States was the last hope of the Western World against fascism and the bombsight was just a device to win the war. He would not have liked the fuss being made about it."

FIRST AUTOPILOT - Carl L. Norden in 1930, shown here next to the FB-1, an early attempt to develop a guided missile. The guidance system for the craft can be seen in the open hatchway. This guidance system was the forerunner of the auto-pilot used in conjunction with the Norden bombsight in World War II. Below is a close-up shot of the mechanism.

GUIDED MISSILE   This photo, supplied by Carl F. Norden, shows the FB-2 ready for launch. This guided missile was one of the first projects Mr. Norden's father worked on for the Navy. It was launched by catapult, shed its wings and used a Norden designed guidance system to hit enemy targets.

IDENTIFICATION CARD - When Mr. Norden was employed by Sperry Gyroscope Company about 1910 he carried this identification card. The photo on the front of the card (above) shows Mr. Norden at age 38. His signature appears on the back of the card (below).

Chapter 2.  The Beginning Was Two Men, $12,000 and One Floor in NYC

Material for this chapter was obtained largely from interviews with Albert Parker, first general counsel for Carl I Norden, Inc.; and two employees now retired from the company, Carl F. Schaefer, an engineering executive, and Ned M. Laurence, contracts administrator.  From the Norden Times May 1978


It was the year before the stock market crash. Two men, in their middle years, with about $12,000 in a New York bank, asked the bank to recommend a lawyer.  The men were both engineers and had been partners since 1923. Now that they had a whopping order from the U. S. Navy for two "precision bombsights (that would be "one of the most closely guarded secrets of World War II"), they wanted to incorporate.  Their names were (the first comes as no surprise) Carl L. Norden and Theodore H. Barth. Both were listed on the Mark XV patent released in 1947, as co-inventors of the bombsight.

The bank recommended that they engage a successful young attorney with seven years of experience, who was to become a lifelong friend of both parties.  This is why and how Carl L. Norden, Inc. came into being on January 9, 1928. The name was the common decision of the founders. Mr. Norden owned one-half the stock and was an official. Mr. Barth was president.

The location of the new company was one floor of a building at 80 Lafayette Street. New York City With the help of another firm in the building (Manufacturers Machine & Tool Company) Carl L. Norden, Inc. was able to meet ensuing orders for the bombsight prior to World War II.

It was the start of the company family tree that, with all concomitant genealogical permutations that attend a 50-year span — proliferous growth (especially during World War II), changes in appellation, die-offs, marriages — stands flourishing today as Norden Systems.

But the roots extend far below the incorporation date — and span an ocean in distance.

Though the momentous initial meeting of the founders is lost to memory, the circumstances that surround their union are happily recorded. The U. S. Navy was inter-agent.

Mr. Norden, who was a consulting engineer way back in 1921, had been entrusted by the Navy with the study of precision bombing. (Ironically, he was an alien whose genius even then must have been recognized.)

He was "the mind" behind the wartime device that placed his name in the nation's history books — the Norden bombsight. This was later called "a mechanical marvel", "way ahead of its time", and more.

(At the risk of pedestal-tipping, what must be told is that Mr. Norden was adamantly a "mechanical" engineer. He had no use for electronics. It was his refusal to "add electronics" at the suggestion of the U. S. Army to the automatic pilot, a companion device to the bombsight, that caused the loss of a contract during the war years to Minneapolis Honeywell.)

"The mind" needed "the hands" to go with it. So two years later, the Navy hired another consulting engineer, Mr. Barth, to put Mr. Norden's ideas into metal. Mr. Barth was "the hands".

Together they worked on what was affectionately called by the nation's World War II bombardiers "the football" and "the blue ox" (from Paul Bunyan tales — the blue ox was Bunyan's constant companion).

Mr. Norden, who constantly complained that it was "too noisy to work here" (in the United States), did most of his designing from his home on a lake in Zürich, Switzerland. He then shipped his blueprints to Mr. Barth, who put the bombsight together in the basement of his Gramercy Park apartment.

His drawings, described as "works of art" by engineers, were done on Bristol board (white heavy cardboard). They were inordinately complete to the minutest detail.

His handwriting was as fine and neat as his drawings — he was a meticulous man in every respect, with a penchant for exactitude.

(Years later, when he was about to receive the Holley award for an act of mechanical engineering genius, he was asked to write an autobiography of "about 400 words". Upon receipt of the story, the editor played a hunch and counted the words. They numbered exactly 400.)

This was an important element of his particular genius — a striving for perfection. It was to the nation's benefit that his special brilliance coincided with the need for a "precision bombsight".

Simplicity was another characteristic of his mental creed. He eliminated all trimmings in his work.

(The pedestal totters again . . . Years later, when the firm had become Norden Laboratories and was situated in White Plains, New York, Mr. Norden visited the plant and inspected the ASB-1 bomb director, then in early development. "The computer is too complicated," he told the engineer present. "It won't work.")

If an ocean separated them in their work, there was an ocean of difference in the personalities of the men who together developed the war's famous weapon.

Formal, publicity shy and temperamental, Mr. Norden was known to be difficult to work with. (In earlier days, while he was designing gyro stabilizing equipment for Navy ships at Sperry Gyroscope, he would habitually argue with Elmer Sperry and quit — only to return the next day as if nothing had happened.)

During the years of Carl L. Norden, Inc., he worked with a single minded intensity and rarely left the drawing board in his office. Newspaper clippings of the late war years euphemistically called him a "private person." Today he'd be labeled "a loner".

And so, it was Mr. Barth who ran the corporation, which was no easy task. From one floor of the Lafayette Street building, the company mushroomed during World War II to include the entire Lafayette Street building, another whole building at 34 Varick Street in New York City, plus plants in Indianapolis, Indiana, Easthampton, Massachusetts, Danbury, Connecticut, Elmira, New York and various subcontractors.

At the suggestion of their lawyer, both founders were represented in the names of three peripheral facilities. The Indianapolis plant was called "Lukas-Harold" Corp. (the middle names of both parties). An appendage to the Indianapolis facility — an agricultural venture intended to provide all the "Norden Family of Precision Instrument Plants" with fresh produce and meat — was designated "Barnor Farms" (the beginning of both men's last names). The Danbury facility, established to provide ball bearings for the bombsight, was called "Barden" Corp. (first syllable of Barth, last of Norden).

Mr. Barth was a colorful figure. As great a leader, in the estimation of those privileged to be employees, as Mr. Norden was an inventor.

Fun loving, magnanimous and stable, he was a "Prince of Light" during the difficult days of prodigious production.  He delighted in distributing tickets to the World Series at random to the personnel. He gave Tiffany candlesticks as wedding gifts to employees who married. He sent packages to those who were called into service. He even rented Madison Square Garden, with the Ringling Bros, circus, for a whole evening, to reward the plant workers for their effort.

And it happened, that the polarized qualities of the firm's founders meshed as perfectly as* the threads of a zipper during the critical years of bombsight production.

As Mr. Norden's (he died in 1965) name is recorded in history books, Mr. Barth's (he died in 1967) is in humanitarianism. He is still giving to his fellow man through his estate, which includes such charitable agencies as the Barth Foundation, scholarship funds, hospital funds, and other worthwhile causes.

At the very start of those long ago years, the lawyer who incorporated the firm visited Mr. Norden and saw the number "400", written large and clear on a wall. He asked what the figure stood for.  "That's the number of bombsights we hope to make eventually," he was told. "It's our goal."  By the end of the war production figures were available. The total number of Norden bombsights produced was roughly 25,000.

ORIGINAL PATENT - This patent is for the Mark XV, the bombsight that was used during World War II for high level bombing accuracy. Application for the patent was made by Carl L. Norden and Theodore H. Barth in 1930, but for security reasons, the patent was not issued until after the end of the war.

THEODORE H. BARTH - listens to famed clown Emmett Kelly explain his own plans for a bombsight. Surrounded by military personnel, Mr. Barth (right, foreground) was attending a celebration at which the company received its third consecutive Army and Navy "E" award given to recognize the outstanding war effort being made.

FIRST HOME - This building on 80 Lafayette Street, New York City, was the first home of Carl L. Norden Inc. The company occupied one floor of the building.  Until the Second World War increased demand, Carl L. Norden and Theodore H. Barth produced bombsights here.

Chapter 3.  Norden 1945-1958: The Reluctant Contractor

This chapter is based on an interview with Paul V. Adams who acquired Norden Laboratories in 1949 and served as president of the firm until the company merged with United Aircraft in 1958. During these years, the company expanded into new business areas, operated from plants in several locations and began development of the radar system for the A-6 aircraft, a program still being conducted by Norden Systems (in 1978).  From the Norden Times November 1978


Paul W. Adams is a tall man of distinguished bearing. He has short cropped white hair and a ruddy sun tanned face, the face of a man whose ardent avocation for many years has been sailing. Mr. Adams conducts a successful law practice from 170 Mason Street, Greenwich, Connecticut.  He once owned Norden. He came into this ownership almost by accident and somewhat to his own surprise.

After World War II, during which he served as an officer in the U.S. Navy, Mr. Adams set up law practice in Hartford, Connecticut. Among his clients were several firms which had suffered financially during the war because they made only commercial products.

Many military equipment production companies have sought commercial endeavors, but in somewhat of a reverse situation, Mr. Adam's clients were interested in establishing a foothold in the military supply business. Their objective was to have a base for production in the event of another war.

Mr. Adams undertook the search for a small research and development company, or a laboratory, which could spring to life with military products if the need arose.

Among the names that came to his attention was Norden Laboratories, located at 121 Westmoreland Avenue, White Plains, New York. Norden Laboratories had been formed in 1943 as an affiliate of Carl L. Norden Inc., the company whose founding on January 9, 1928, marked the beginning of Norden Systems, which this year is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Norden Laboratories was formed to conduct research in high technology precision equipment, freeing Carl L. Norden, Inc., to concentrate fully on production of the famed World War II bombsight. The Laboratories was one of many affiliates formed by Carl L. Norden and his associates during the war, either to produce components for the bombsight or, in the case of Norden Laboratories, to conduct research on advanced concepts.

Production of the bombsight ended in 1945 with the end of the war. The machinery in the many acres of floor space in numerous factories devoted to its production were temporarily silenced, but were soon turned to peacetime work.

Norden Laboratories survived, the chief thread of continuity in Norden's history for that period. Carl L. Norden, Inc., was dissolved as a corporation on December 22, 1949. But the Laboratories remained.

To Paul Adams, Norden Laboratories seemed to be perfect match for his specifications. Carl L. Norden, founder of the firm, wanted to retire in Switzerland. His partner, Theodore H. Barth, wanted to retire on Cape Cod.

So Mr. Adams set about to negotiate a deal. However, getting four companies to agree on terms to buy Norden Laboratories proved to be an insurmountable task.

But Mr. Adams was entranced with the little company and its personnel. The precision work it did was most unusual to him. And Carl L. Norden was a most impressive individual.

The company was later described in a financial document:

"Since its organization in 1943, Norden Laboratories has secured the services of and expanded and trained its staff of highly skilled scientists, physicists, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, instrument makers, machinists and technicians, qualified not only to conduct, in its own laboratories, its own research and development programs but also to produce in the shops operated and maintained by its prototypes of the instruments and systems developed by it."

That 68-word sentence, written in stilted legalese was certainly descriptive of the type of personnel employed by the firm.

Paul Adams' consortium idea fell through, but he still wanted Norden. He describes what happened;

"I made them an offer and much to my amazement they accepted it."  Thus did Paul Adams become sole owner and president of Norden Laboratories in 1949.

It was Mr. Adams' intent to continue his law practice and operate Norden Laboratories as an R & D organization, with other companies manufacturing products that were developed. The Laboratories would provide engineering advice to these manufacturers as needed.

Some of the products in development were of great interest to the Navy. These products would require an extremely high order of precision manufacture. For then, as now, such equipment, despite all the "data packages", "information transfers" and the like, still required an element of "black art" to produce with reasonable efficiency. This was certainly true with the startup of production of a new item.

'The Navy pressured me to at least set up a pilot plant," said Mr. Adams. Such a plant would enable Norden to develop the necessary precision manufacturing information needed to produce the equipment, which was the AN/ASB-1 the first Norden developed bombing system that used radar.

The problem with setting up even a pilot manufacturing operation was lack of capital. But government pressure continued.  So, in 1951, Mr. Adams decided to go public with Norden and raise money for a pilot plant. His offering was successful: he raised $2-million.

With this money, he leased space in Milford, Connecticut, and established an operation designed to produce six ASB-l’s a year. The operation took on the name Norden Instruments, a previously formed affiliate set up as a manufacturing arm of Norden Laboratories. The factory was equipped with government machinery.

These events occurred in the midst of trouble in Asia. The Korean conflict was erupting. The ASB-1 enabled Navy aircraft for the first time to bomb accurately at night and in inclement weather. The old bombsight, a mechanical marvel, was unable to "see" in these conditions. But radar penetrated the darkness and rain.

"I still wanted Norden to be backup for other manufacturers," said Mr. Adams. "We could solve problems that arose, trouble shoot, perhaps produce the gyros and so forth. But the government said scrap that idea and go prime. They had in the offing a $50-million contract. And we were just a tiny little company."

A good description of the size of the company appears in the 1951 public offering statement:

"Norden Laboratories at present employs approximately 225 persons of whom approximately 60 are scientists, physicists, mechanical engineers and electrical engineers, approximately 70 are draftsmen and technical assistants, approximately 50 are shop personnel including production engineers, machinists and precision instrument makers, approximately 20 are maintenance, service and security personnel, and approximately 25 are accounting, purchasing, clerical and administrative personnel."

Mr. Adams began at that time to think of a merger but he still held hopes of developing a Norden that would be the finest in advanced R&D technology, but with a limited manufacturing operation.

As the Korean Conflict worsened, Mr. Adams in 1952 was heavily pressured by the government to assume full time command of his little company. He did so.

Paul Adams, the lawyer, suddenly found himself in day-to-day charge of a very advanced technical operation. His efforts to find a merger partner greatly intensified.

During the next few years, in the course of business, he came into contact with high level officials of many large defense companies. These included some from United Aircraft, among them "Erie Martin and William R. Robbins. These two men, now retired, were for many years chief technical officer and chief financial officer, respectively, of the firm.

It was in 1954 that Mr. Adams found the answer to his merger plans. It was the Ketay Instrument Corporation which traced its genesis back to 1886. Ketay, like Norden, was almost totally oriented toward government business. Ketay was looking at several small companies with acquisition and merger in mind.

In February, 1955, Ketay acquired the assets of Norden Laboratories Corporation for 200,000 shares of common stock. The new organization was named Norden-Ketay Corporation. In the following months, other small firms joined Norden-Ketay. Among them were Frohman Manufacturing Company, Inc. (April, 1955), Scientific Specialties Corporation (June), and Gyro mechanisms, Inc. (December). There were some partly owned subsidiaries also: Nuclear Science and Engineering Corporation, Vari-Ohm Corporation, and Ketay Limited. Total employment was at about 2,000 persons. The company had a number of high technology contracts for military hardware and the promise of the future seemed good.

Operations were conducted in several leased plants around the country. Included was a 70,000 square foot building in White Plains, New York, for research and development; 6,000 square foot in Stamford, Connecticut, for environmental testing; a 16,000 square foot electronic data processing research and development facility in Gardena, California; an electronic component manufacturing facility in Commack, New York (75,000 square feet), and a similar facility in Hawthorne, California (18,000); 7,500 square feet in Huntington, New York, were utilized for engineering, design and manufacturing of gyro mechanisms.

Precision gears were made in a 43,000 square foot facility in Miami, Florida. The Milford, Connecticut, operation had grown to two leased plants, one 116,000 square feet and the other 40,000 square feet. And plans for further expansion were being made.

But hard times struck again. The situation was described later in a proxy statement to Norden-Ketay shareholders:

"During the corporation's fiscal year ending December 28. 1957, its business was seriously affected by changes in the government's defense procurement program. During the last six months the substantial stretch outs of existing programs, limitations imposed on rates of expenditure for defense, cancellation of programs and major changes in planned aircraft procurement necessitated severe readjustments throughout the corporation's operations. A sharply reduced volume of new business was a key factor in the corporation's inability to manufacture at a planned volume level and to control its product mix, key factors in the profitability of the operation. Total personnel was reduced by 20 percent. With the lower level of activity over which to distribute fixed costs, overhead costs per product increased materially and resulted in, losses on marginal contracts and substantially reduced profits on others. These factors in turn materially impaired the ability of the corporation to compete for and obtain new orders for its products and services."

Paul W. Adams went on the merger road again. He found United Aircraft receptive. Norden-Ketay, despite its reverses, had on its books at that time a backlog of government business of more than $18-million. And delivery of a new bomb director system, the ASB-7, was just beginning.

All the necessary approvals from boards of directors and shareholders were completed by mid-June for United to acquire Norden-Ketay. Norden-Ketay became the Norden division of United Aircraft Corporation (now United Technologies Corporation) on July 1. 1958.

On that date, Norden had 1,796 employees. By the following December, employment level had grown to 2.002. And plans were being made to build a big new plant for Norden. It would be company owned, ultramodern, fully air conditioned and located in Norwalk, Connecticut, a convenient, central spot for employees to commute to and from the leased facilities in both White Plains and Milford. Along with the ASB-7, Norden was a producer of components for a number of missiles at that time. And, in the embryonic stage, was a new technology air-to-ground radar for a U. S. Navy attack aircraft to be built by Grumman. The airplane later was known as the A-6.

The nine years he spent with Norden were "among the most interesting and the most fascinating" of his life, muses Paul W. Adams His memories of Carl L. Norden are still vivid.

"He was an absolute genius." said Mr. Adams. "He believed in metaphysics and was convinced that his role was to impart knowledge from a higher power to humans. He often had ideas out of the blue that proved to be very sound, and he could not trace their origin. I remember a discussion about the Polaris submarine missile system. The question was: How do you operate a submarine under water for months and know where you are? He said, 'Hitch it to a star.' He picked up a gyroscope and said, 'This is a little star." Then he outlined his theory of inertial guidance."

Henry L. Shenier of the New York law firm of Shenier & O'Connor, in a recent letter to Andrew J. Carlotto of Norden Systems' personnel department confirmed this:

"While I was a partner of Moore. Olsen & Trexler in Chicago, in 1946,"wrote Mr. Shenier, "I prepared and filed an application for Carl L. Norden and another for a 'Master Gyroscope System' which became patent 2,606,448. This system is the father of all inertial guidance systems now in use on Polaris submarines. ICBMs, and the like."

 Both Mr. Adams and Mr. Shenier, along with others who knew Mr. Norden recall his unusually precise handwriting.

"I corresponded with Carl L. Norden until his death in Switzerland in 1965)," said Mr. Shenier. "Even in his eighties, he wrote with an unwavering, fine, copperplate engraved script which was meticulously correct in every detail. His drawings were made by himself, and the engineers told me that one could take them and actually build the equipment from them. He seemed to have a three dimensional sense which enabled him to specify clearances and tolerances in mechanical apparatus. . ."

Mr. Adams said. "Carl Norden sketched his idea for the ASB-1 on an eight and one-half by eleven Inch sheet of paper. His writing was so small that Yehuda to use a magnifying glass to read it. But it was perfectly clear under magnification. That was the kind of perception he had: precise and perfect." P.W.B.

NORDEN INSTRUMENTS - In this leased space in Milford, Connecticut, Norden Instruments produced several AN/ASB-1 bomb director systems a year. The ASB-1 updated the old Norden bombsight with radar that allowed targeting in darkness and poor weather.

KETAY INSTRUMENT COMPANY - During the Korean War, Mr. Adams assumed full time command of his little company and sought a merger candidate. In 1954, he found Ketay Instrument Corporation and the two merged into Norden-Ketay in 1955. This photo shows the production floor at the Commack, New York location.

Chapter 4.   The Creation of Today’s Norden Systems

The parallel development of Norden and Dynell from 1960 is detailed in this chapter.  From the Norden Times December 1978.


In the 50-year history of Norden Systems, three dates stand out, 1928, 1958 and 1975.

1928 is the date of incorporation, though Carl L. Norden and Theodore Barth had been partners for several years.

Through World War II and beyond, Carl L. Norden, Inc., Norden Laboratories and Norden Instruments were first one product (the bombsight) companies or research and development/limited production firms.

1958, therefore, marked a major change, for in that year, United Aircraft acquired Norden-Ketay and merged it into the corporation as the Norden Division.

Norden now had major support and strong financial backing and, in 1961, a new, consolidated facility in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Drawing on this foundation, Norden, over the next several years, developed a number of significant military electronics products. One was the combined search and track radar for the Navy's A-6 attack aircraft, a program that remains a mainstay of the company's business.

Another was the integrated display system for the Air Force's F111D fighter/bomber. This system combines two heads up displays, a multi-sensor display and vertical situation display. Also for the Air Force, the company developed the world's largest forward looking radar for the huge C-5A transport.

For the Navy, Norden designed and built the system that still guides Polaris submarines undersea. It feeds data to a 19 inch television like screen so the helmsman and the commander can steer the ship manually or automatically from a single pictorial display.

In this same time period, a new company was emerging on New York's Long Island. Dynell Electronics Corporation first opened its doors in 1960 in a rented facility in Farmingdale.

During these early days, Dynell provided consulting services for the Department of the Navy and manufactured transistor equipment for a private firm. The company's first substantial contract was awarded by the U. S. Navy in May, 1961 for development of prototype radar signal processing equipment

Charles Doherty, now financial manager of Long Island operations, joined the fledgling organization in 1962. "We had 2,000 square feet of floor space in Farmingdale in what was really a big garage. There were nine other employees; a week after I joined the company, we moved," Mr. Doherty said.

The move was to Plainview and was made necessary after the company received its first contract to manufacture and assemble electronic components. The building had 10,000 square feet of floor space, but initially half was leased to another company.

"Everybody likes to remember the 'good old days', but the early years were not always so good. The company was vulnerable to changes in cash flow and we often lived from job to job. We had some cliff hangers Mr. Doherty remembers.

"We .were in a learning process with a small group doing many functions. I did accounting, purchasing, pricing, contracts administration and interfaced with the auditors. But we had a good time."

Mr. Doherty had joined Dynell from a retail food chain doing $90 million a year in sales. The change to a small company with sales of less than $1 million through 1965 took some adjustments.

"'I was constantly kidded about crinkle cut resistors and the like, but the process of financial control was the same. I learned the products pretty quickly."

Helping to meet this challenge was the awarding of a $18.6 million contract in 1970 for the AN/SPS-40B radar, the major surface surveillance radar still used by ships of the U. S. Navy.

When the SPS-4G contract was awarded, the company employed approximately 200 persons. With this contract in house, other programs followed, employment grew to over 700. The Maxess Road plant was expanded to its current 107.000 square feet, a second plant was acquired and Dynell began to be recognized for its excellence as a small company.

In 1971, for example, the Small Business Administration selected Dynell as the first winner of the Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year Award for the New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico region. More than 2,000 companies were eligible for this award which recognized "integrity, reliability, initiative and capability in meeting significant Government requirements and complying with exacting standards of Government prime contracting."

Then, in 1973, Dynell received the James S. Cogswell Award for "sustained excellence during the Fiscal Year 1973 in implementation of the Department of defense Industrial Security Program, thereby contributing significantly to the National Security of the United States'' (Norden Systems Norwalk has also won this award.)

"It was exciting working at Dynell in those years," Mr. Leahy said. "There were few procedures. Because of the size of the operation most communication was by word of mouth. There wasn't much time available for report writing.

Dynell continued to win important contracts: the underwater acoustic receivers. AN/BPS-15 submarine surface search radar, fire control systems and others "It was hard to get a job at Dynell," Mr. Leahy said. "We demanded excellent technical skills, and screened our new employees very carefully. They had to be capable of performing several tasks well."

1975 was a milestone year for both Norden and Dynell. On Long Island, Dynell celebrated its 15th anniversary with sales approaching $25 million and Norden had a new president — Peter L. Scott.

Mr. Scott saw that Norden needed to be aimed at two well defined objectives. The first of these had become virtually self evident. Over the years, Norden had made some efforts in the commercial arena, but they had not accumulated the momentum that indicates vigorous growth prospects. On the other hand, a series of military electronics programs had established the company's reputation in this area. From that point. Norden would build on the military foundation.

The other objective was to emphasize systems instead of products and components. Once this was determined, five distinct market areas were defined and business units established for: data processing, command and control, weapons delivery, shipboard systems and navigation systems.

The move was immediately successful. The company began to compete in new areas and won a contract to develop the U. S. Army's Battery Computer System. In data processing, Norden was licensed to militarize Digital Equipment Corporation's family of PDP-11 minicomputers. Norden, applying its skill and experience in military electronics, adapted the PDF 11 computers to work with systems used in the military field.

Norden also began its expansion into shipboard systems. On December 27, 1977, Norden's parent, United Technologies Corporation, acquired Dynell and merged it into Norden. In early 1978, the combination took the name Norden Systems and now functions as a subsidiary of UTC.

Norden. a leading producer of high technology airborne radar, and Dynell, which held the same position in shipboard systems, have now merged into a cohesive organization and is one of America's most significant defense contractors.

EARLY DYNELL FACILITIES - The building shown in the photo above was the first home of Dynell Electronics Corporation. The company was located there for nearly two years before demand for its products enabled the firm to move into the facility (shown below) in Plainview. The original plant had about 2000 square feet and less than 20 employees.


Robert Leahy                                                                                         Charles Doherty

"BOMBSIGHT" -  Jacquime (Jack) A. Melli, production supervisor, checks the status of this U. S. Navy Radar Signal Processing Equipment unit, in the Melville plant for refurbishing and updating. "This was Dynell's 'Norden Bombsight'," Mr. Melli explained. The contract to build the Radar Signal Processing Equipment was the first substantial award Dynell received after its founding in I960 and provided a springboard for future growth.

MERGER - Norden President Peter L. Scott (left) and Dynell President Paul DiMatteo sign the agreement making Dynell part of United Technologies Corporation and merging that company into Norden. Shortly after the merger, the subsidiary took the name Norden Systems.

MICROELECTRONICS -  Typical of today's Norden Systems is the microelectronics facility in Norwalk. The company now has full capability in every step of microelectronic production, giving Norden the ability to explore, refine, and adapt for military use the newest discoveries and developments in this field.

Chapter 5.  1979-2013 Norden’s Final Chapter

This chapter is an addition to the original chapters published in 1978.  It was written in 2014 by a collaboration of former employees


Cutting edge technology continued to evolve at Norden Systems during the 1979-2013 period after the first four chapters were written.  The company grew from under 1,000 employees to almost 5,000.  It then diminished in size starting in the early 1990’s; down to approximately 500 employees at the time of the closure announcement in June of 2012.

Norden Systems was acquired by the Westinghouse Corporation in 1994, and became a Division of the Electronic Systems Sector of Westinghouse.  Westinghouse acquired just the business and not the building.  United Technologies sold the building, and the approximately 87 acres of land to the real estate division of MetLife.  In 1995, Westinghouse announced that it would move the bulk of the work from Norwalk to Baltimore; leaving only an Engineering Center in Norwalk of approximately 100 people.  This move was opposed by the entire Connecticut Congressional delegation and this opposition was led by Senators Lieberman, Dodd and Congressman Shays.  The Aerospace Workers Union was also vociferous in its opposition of this move and was heavily involved in promoting the anti-move campaign.

Northrop Grumman acquired Westinghouse’s Electronic Systems in March of 1996.  The Connecticut Congressional delegation met with the new leadership and the move to Baltimore was canceled.  Norden Systems became part of Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems Sector in 1996 and remained intact in Norwalk for the next 16 years.

The period from 1978 to 1994 was very robust in terms of contracts won and new facilities opened or acquired.  The substantial increase in employment from less than 1,000 to almost 5,000 was spread over numerous locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Alabama, California and New Jersey.  Five facilities were in Connecticut alone.

The major contracts won during this period included the Navy A6-F and A-12 coherent airborne radars; the IAF MMRS radar; the Air Force/Army Joint STARS radar; the Navy MP-RTIP (Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program) radar; BAMS (Broad Area Maritime Surveillance) radar and the FAA ASDE-3 ground radar; which was installed in all major airports across the country.

About the Norwalk Facility:  When Westinghouse acquired Norden Systems in 1994, they bought the business but not the building or the 87 acres of land.  United Technologies sold the facility and the land to the real estate division of MetLife.  In 2000, Spinnaker Real Estate partners bought the facility and the land.  They made many upgrades and modifications to the facility and created Norden Park.  At this time, with the business shrinking, Norden Systems was only occupying/leasing 50% of the building.  The rest of the facility space was leased to other tenants.  In 2005, Spinnaker sold the building and the rear parking lot to the Fortis Group.  A few years later, Spinnaker sold the remainder of the property, approximately 37 acres, to Avalon Real Estate which in turn built 240 housing units with the address now known as 8 Norden Place.  Norden Systems resided at 10 Norden Place.

It was Paul Burton, Vice President of Communications, that brought forth the idea of changing the name of the street from “Helen” to Norden Place and he got all the homeowners on the street to agree.

In 2013, the Fortis Group built a facility in the back parking lot for their newest tenant Cervalis.

Thousands of employees have passed through the doors of Norden.  Their contributions to national security, the men and women in uniform, their sacrifices, work ethic, pride for their work in helping to sustain the defense base of Connecticut and the country, cannot be erased.  The Norden facility will house other tenants, but “Norden’s” long lasting heritage lives on at Norden Park on Norden Place.

The final home of Norden Systems