This document from the Paul Garber papers appears to be a summary of the Target Kite project prepared immediately after the war. It includes not only a history of the kite's invention, but also how it was introduced into service and total production numbers.
Editor: I did not come across any of the supplements, photographs or drawings mentioned in the text.
18 September 1945
1. Device Number and Name:
U.S. NAVY TARGET KITE
2. Request for Authorization
Authority to proceed with development of a Target Kite was requested verbally by Lieut. Comdr. Garber. (then a civilian on loan status from the Smithsonian Institution to the Navy Department, and assigned basically to the production and manufacture of model airplanes for use in teaching recognition and gunnery.) The day after Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941) Commander Hibbard, (then Lieutenant) had sent two officers to the Smithsonian to determine whether assistance could be given in obtaining models of certain airplanes. The aeronautical collection there includes numerous models, and much experience had been gained in their construction and procurement. In view of the national emergency, the Smithsonian loaned Garber, who was in charge of the collection, to the Navy, to assist in the model program. One of his first assignments was the making of a model of a Japanese "Zero", based on preliminary reports from Pearl Harbor. The model was made by Garber in his home workshop over the week of 21 December, and delivered to Captain (then Commander) de Flores, Monday the 22nd. The Captain wished to show the model to the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, and took Garber with him for this meeting. It was while waiting for the interview with Admiral John Towers that a discussion of gunnery targets, between the Admiral and another officer was overheard. Captain de Flores frequently encouraged all of his personnel to apply all of their knowledge and abilities to any relative military purpose, and from the conversation overheard, Garber conceived the idea that a kite might be made to serve as an aerial target. He realized that it would be of utility as practical mark if it could be made maneuverable. That evening, at home he commenced the construction of a controllable kite using two bridles which served for connection of the two steering lines which functioned also as flying lines. This kite (no photograph taken) was of wing-like ????ine, very similar to Supplement 4 of this report. Flight tests were not conclusive but were sufficiently encouraging so that Garber reported to Commander Hibbard that he thought a target kite might be developed.
In presenting the idea of a target kite it was realized that other forms of targets were available, each with unique advantages, but many of them are expensive and require special equipment. The Target Kite was conceived with the thought of providing an efficient mark which could be cheap and simple.
Verbal approval was given by Commander Hibbard, but with the suggestion that, because of the urgent need for airplane models, Garber should endeavor to locate someone else who could carry on the kite project.
Verbal approval attested:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4. Assignment of Project Engineer in cognizant Section:
Mr. Garber, (then a civilian) was assigned as Project Engineer, during the period of preliminary work on this project he was commissioned Lieutenant, 6 May 1942.
His background of experience and education relative to this project, and which formed the basis for considering that a kite might be adapted for this purpose is as follows: He had flown kites during boyhood and had become familiar with the construction and operation of the basic forms. He studied aeronautical engineering in college and was in the Army during the first World War, transferring to the Air Service shortly before the Armistice. Soon after his honorable discharge he joined the Post Office Department, Aerial Mail Service, then operating the first scheduled air mail line in the world, New York to Washington. This practical experience was another factor in his selection for a position at the Smithsonian Institution where his duties included preparation and maintenance of exhibits illustrating the history and development of aeronautics. His research revealed numerous instances where kites had been used by the pioneers of flight to test their ideas, and also for such other practical applications as the elevation of weather-forecasting instruments, radio antennas, signaling, supporting military observers and other purposes. The exhibit which he prepared included historic kite specimens, reproductions and models of various types, illustrations, and texts, all of which proved to be of interest to the general public visiting the Museum, and was particularly admired by an official of the
Boy Scout organization, who asked him to write a booklet on kites for the Scouts. In
order ?????????? properly, Garber felt it necessary to actually build and fly a large
number of kite designs, both elementary and advanced, in order to describe their construction
and operation properly. He had the enthusiastic cooperation of his two sons
who are now in the Armed Forces. The resultant publication, "Kites", Boy Scouts of
America Service Library No. 3146, 58 pages, 32 illustrations, 1931, $.35,- had wide
distribution and was well received. A chapter on kites and other elementary aircraft
was also included in his book, "Building and Flying Model Aircraft", Ronald Aeronautic
Press, 300 pages, 194 illustrations, 1928, $2.35.
In keeping with the suggestion of Commander Hibbard that another person be
assigned to work on the target kite project, Garber wrote to a friend who was
not only a kite enthusiast but also of assured patriotic fidelity,- Mr. D. Lloyd
Reichard, who operates extensive orchards in the vicinity of Waynesboro, Pa., and
flies kites as a hobby. (Supplement #1.) Mr. Reichard was then planning a vacation
in Florida, and arranged to stop over in Washington to discuss the idea. (Supplement
#2.) In this interview he agreed to undertake it on a voluntary basis, and inasmuch
as he expected to be at Opalocka it was suggested that he use the facilities of the
adjacent Naval Air Station. A letter (Supplement #3.) was written to the Commanding
Officer of that Station asking his cooperation.
In Section 5 of this report it will be detailed that two others were associated with this project. They were Mr. Paul K. Gwillow, New Salem St., Wakefield, Massachusetts, who sent, at no cost, two examples of his airplane kites, and Mr. Stanley Potter, 201 Masonic View Avenue, Alexandria, Va., whose services were contracted for under Contract Nps. 145, as assistant to Lt. Garber.
5. Prototype (or development engineering) completed: Description and Photographs.
Mr. Reichard remained in Florida until the end of March and tested five kites. The first was a development of the wing-like kite which Garber had made. A photograph of the kite of this form is attached as Supplement #4. It was rather awkward to handle and gave place to a modified version with a longitudinal extension illustrated in Supplement #5. This also was erratic, and influenced Reichard to change to four-vaned tandem form illustrated in Supplement #6. It will be noted that two of the adjacent vanes are curved outward slightly from each other. This was flown with two bridles which operated to pull either of the curved vanes downward, this positioning it as a curved keel which steered the kite to the direction of its curvature. Some maneuverability was thus achieved. Mr. Reichard made frequent reports to Garber of his work. These letters were addressed to the Smithsonian because Garber was handling this matter from that office, to which he frequently went of an evening in the endeavor to maintain some of his Museum interests. All of that correspondence is not attached to this report because the form of the kites described did not develop into the final prototype; but a representative letter is attached herewith at Supplement #7, and the remaining letters are available for consultation in the scrapbook with Garber has maintained to illustrate all of his kite activities. Meanwhile the airplane kites donated by Mr. Gwillow were forwarded to Mr. Reichard and furnished the material for his next test. It was decided that the arc of movement traced by these Gwillow kites was rather limited for target purposes. They flew on a single line and oscillated in a small figure-eight path. The influence of their design is apparent in Reichard's next construction, illustrated in Supplement #8. A summation of his work in Florida is attached as Supplement #9.
Returning about the first of April 1942 to his home in Waynesboro, Pa., Mr. Reichard continued his kite studies, and within a few weeks delivered to Lt. Garber at Special Devices Division, the completed kite which he designated "???-DT" (Reichard, 1st of
its design, Diving, Target) and which was photographed after receipt. (Supplement #11.)
This was controlled by an auxiliary line, but was considered rather cumbersome. His
final effort was sent toward the latter part of the summer, - the hinged box kite
illustrated in Supplement #12. This was definitely controllable, and has some merit
as a target, but in comparison with the final prototype it is less portable, not as
fast, and somewhat erratic to handle.
All of these experiments were made at Mr. Reichard's own expense, as a patriotic contribution to the war effort, although they did not impart any characteristics directly to the final form of the target kite, they nevertheless kept the idea energetically alive during the period when the project engineer was completely unable, through pressure of assigned work, to conduct personal experiments. Mr. Reichard is entitled to the sincere thanks of the Department for his efforts.
By the Fall of 1942, the assigned work on model airplanes had progressed to the extent that the Project Engineer could devote some time also to the Target Kite. As assistant he secured the part time services of Mr. Potter. Garber's first construction was of airplane outline, flown by a single line, and with an auxiliary control line feeding through a sleeve at the bridle apex, pulling a tiller cord against the opposite pull of a spring. This flew and was controllable but was erratic. It is now realized that much of its supposed fault was really due to use of cotton flying line. It was later learned that linen line must be used because of its reduced tendency to stretch. No photograph was made but sketches in Garber's scrapbook are dated 31 August.
The experiences gained to this date influenced the project engineer to decide that better progress could be made testing an elementary form of kite as the basis, instead of trying to evolve an airplane kite. After some tests of the Conyne type (Silas J. Conyne, Chicago, patented???? two triangular cells in tandem with ??????????ngs, and vari-colored for visibility (Supplement #13) the Eddy type was ????????????? the Conyne type flew ????????????
6. Delivery of a Prototype for Test.
As the result of flight tests of the prototype the attached letter, Supplement #15, was written, The Captain approved of the idea of testing it under fire and arrangements were made by phone to Lt. Comdr. Gibson Gardner, Aerial Free Gunnery Unit, Dam Neck, Va., whereby the project engineer and assistant could proceed there on temporary additional orders. The costs estimated in paragraph 5 of the attached supplement proved to be about half of the production prices. The "special reel" referred to is described under Device Jacket 3C-29b.
7. Report on tests of Prototype.
In accord with orders the Project Engineer, with assistant, Stanley Potter, left Washington, D.C. 21 January 1943 and proceeded via Norfolk & Washington steamer, and jeep to the A.F.G.U., Dam Neck, Va. where they reported on 22 January to Lt. Comdr. Gardner. In preparation for the tests under fire, six target kites had been made, five of which had airplanes painted thereon, and the sixth embellished with a portrait of Hitler.
The 22nd was devoted to flight tests and the making of motion pictures by Lt. Comdr Gardner showing the kite being launched, flown, and maneuvered. It was learned that not only could the kite be operated from a fixed position in a natural wind, but that it also could be towed about the oval railroad target course and maintained aloft when pulled against the wind, across the wind, and down wind. Several of the station personnel were instructed in operation of the kites and tests under fire were arranged for the following day.
In the morning the kite operators took their position behind the large butt 1200 feet distant from the firing line, the wind being toward the firing line and the direction of fire being seaward. Kites were flown at a line range of about 150 yards which carried them to within about 300 yards of the gunners. With our kite operators operating in rotation, and assisting each other in repairs and launchings, the gunners were given good service with prompt replacement targets.
In the afternoon the wind shifted seaward and the operators took position adjacent to the firing line. Lt. Comdr. Gardner himself mounted the twin fifty calibre turret truck, and the Hitler portrait kite was flown for his special evaluation. Others on the range, however, joined in the firing with every available weapon in the endeavor to knock down the leering countenance which was dancing derisively about the sky. Finally after about three minutes of intensive firing the Commander scored a stick-breaking hit right in der Fuerher's face and the kite came down. The Commander climbed out of the turret, slapped the project engineer on the back and said, "That's the best damn target I ever saw."
The Project Engineer and assistant departed Dam Neck the next morning and returned to
Washington that afternoon, resuming regular duties.
Attached herewith as Supplement #16 is a report written the evening of the 23rd while at Dam Neck, which describes the use of equipment left there for further test.
Lt. Comdr. Gardner had stated that he would like to see larger kites of the same type tested, and accordingly several seven-foot target kites and one of ten foot size were developed, together with a large reel operated by a Ford electric starter motor powered by the Jeep's battery. (See supplement #1 of 3C-29c). Successful flight tests were made April 2 and 9 at Suitland, Md., and tests under fire at Dam Neck were conducted 15-17 April, and although Lt. Comdr. Gardner preferred the seven foot kite as a target it was finally decided by the Director of Special Devices to proceed with production of the five-foot kite because it was more portable, easier to manufacture, and could be handled without the special field equipment. Subsequent development of a seven foot target kite is detailed in Device Jacket 3C-38.
Following the first production of the five-foot kite, Lieut. Garber left Washington, DC 21 August 1943 on a trip to various Navy, Army, Marine, and Coast Guard units and gunnery stations in order to demonstrate the kite and secure evaluations under different conditions. He returned on 16 September 1943 having satisfactorily accomplished this mission. A report of this trip is appended as Supplement #17. Frequent demonstrations of the device have been made at other stations, and aboard ships of various types. There are mentioned here because they served to verify the utility of the target kite but are not described in detail because they were more in the nature of evaluations by different units rather than in the same category as the original basic tests of the kite's performance and utility. Accounts of the principal demonstrations given by the Project Engineer are available in the Target Kite file.
8. Approval of Quantity for Production.
On 28 January 1945 in an interview with the Director of Special Devices it was decided that 1000 kites would be manufactured as a trial order. Soon thereafter, being in Chicago on other matters the Project Engineer took the opportunity to discuss manufacture of the kites with the Comet Model Airplane & Supply Co., 129 West 29th Street. Details of construction of the kites and reels were gone over and they entered a bid, which was accepted. The kites were to be issued in lots of 25 with two reels, a kit of spares, and a manual, and, in order to contract for an even quantity it was decided to order 50 issues, totaling 1,250 kites with the accompanying equipment.
In the meanwhile word had spread about this interesting device and several requests were received for samples. In order to fill them, orders through Anacostia were placed with the Alexandria Awning Co., for 100 kite covers, and with the Collins Lumber Co., also of Alexandria for 200 kite sticks. The required hardware and assembly lines were purchased personally by Lt. Garber, and he, with Mr. Potter and Special Devices shop personnel assembled the 100 kites in about three days. Directions were typed, flying bars with lines were assembled, and spares supplied to meet the following requests:
The remainder of these kites were left at various stations during the tour of 21 August - 16 September, 1943, previously mentioned.
The first hundred of the Comet Company's production kites were received in Washington 20 August and carried by Lt. Garber on the trip to gunnery stations of the Eastern U.S. Area. All of this hundred were absorbed on that trip. The remaining 1150 were quickly allocated to the stations visited, and to other units which had learned of the kite.
Responses to these introductory steps was such that it was decided by the Director to enter negotiations for quantity of about 50,000 kites, with accessory equipment. Several companies entered bids but the contract was awarded to A.G. Spalding & Brothers of
Chicopee, Mass. The quantity was 51,025 kites, 800 reels and 2000 spare parts sets.
Under date of 6 December 1943 a number of this manufacture were allocated, according to
attached Supplement #18.
The Army had become interested in the Navy's Target Kite. Several demonstrations were given to Army personnel in the vicinity of the Pentagon Building, and also at the Anti-Aircraft station, Manituck, L.I.. During this demonstration it was suggested by an officer present that the Army's Anti-Aircraft Training Base at Camp Davis, N.C. would be interested, and accordingly that station, as well as the Army base at Panama City, Fla. was visited during the tour of Eastern U.S. Area gunnery stations, in August and September, 1943. As a result, the Army placed an order with the Navy, through this Division for 187,500 kites, and equipment. Contracts were made with the A.G. Spalding Company, and the Ballard Aircraft Co., Arthurdale West Va..
Until the date when victory over Japan was accomplished the Army had used about 30,000 of the amount ordered. It was then arranged to transfer the remainder to the Bureau of Ordnance, Navy Department, inasmuch as the Target Kite has been approved as a peacetime training device.
9. Memorandum on Negotiation of Contracts.
12. Copy of Training Bulletin:
Herewith as Supplement #22.
Copies of the Manuals which contain additional data are filed in Device Jackets 3C-29a and 3C-29c.
Appendix to Device Jacket 3C-29.
Because this device went through several changes in the course of manufacture by three contractors, it is felt there should be prepared for this permanent record a set of specifications and drawings which would embody the preferred details of each previous manufacturer, so that future orders may be based in the best procedure.
Such specifications and drawings are attached herewith.