A Piece of History at Wood’s Powr-Grip

by Jake Knaub

In the year 1955, the United States announced a plan to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles; rockets able to deliver nuclear warheads across the globe. That same year, the Warsaw Pact was signed as the Soviet reply to NATO, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were born, and the Vietnam War began. 1955 was also the date of manufacture for a Hardinge lathe used on the Wood’s Powr-Grip production floor.

Purchased as military surplus, this lathe was originally used at the Naval Ordnance Plant in Indianapolis. The ordnance plant was commissioned in 1942, completed in ’43, and was used to manufacture the famous Norden bombsight, as well as gunnery fire control systems.

Although vital to the war effort and a fiercely-guarded secret, the Nazis were able to steal the technology before hostilities broke out as part of an infamous spy ring. The Germans used the information to help manufacture the “Lotfe 7” bombsight, which was used on the world’s first jet-powered bomber late in the war.

After the end of World War 2, tensions continued to grow between the Communist dictatorships and the US-led democracies. The tension eventually erupted into the Korean War, when a Chinese and Soviet-backed North Korea invaded the South. In this proxy war, the Norden bombsight enjoyed continued use.

The bombsight would be used again in the next proxy war – the Vietnam War – placing sensors along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. A failure to connect with the people of Vietnam, along with a swelling peace movement led to the US withdrawal in 1973. This would be the last time the Norden bombsight would see military action.

After all these years, and after all the repairs and production for the war effort, the Hardinge lathe still works perfectly on the WPG production floor. Next to this piece of history sits an example of the modern world it helped to create: an Orbitform riveting machine. This piece of 21st Century technology can exert over a ton of force on a 5/16″ diameter head. WPG uses this machine in the production of the Hand Cup plunger for a weldless finish.

These two machines, sitting side-by-side, are a testament to the WPG production engineers and technicians who work hard every day to bring you the best products available. To learn more, check out our YouTube channel.


Jake Knaub is a Staff Writer at Wood’s Powr-Grip. He researches, prepares, and edits materials for publication.