Image of Mark 14 Gunsight Mark 14 Gunsight
U.S. Navy Mark 14 Gunsight, MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, 1940s

“Doc’s Shoebox” was the nickname for the rectangular black metal prototype of the Mark 14 Gunsight developed during WWII. Sperry Gyroscope had contracted with Charles Stark Draper’s Instrumentation Laboratory at MIT to help develop the specialized instrument that would allow a Navy anti-aircraft gunner to keep up with the new fast-flying airplanes. The resultant design was extremely effective in its first demonstration aboard the USS South Dakota in a 1942 battle when several Japanese Kamikaze aircraft were shot down. The U.S. Navy ordered 85,000 Mark 14 Gunsights, which have been credited with altering the balance of power in favor of the United States in the Pacific conflict. Newspaper accounts were even more glowing providing numerous testimonials to the number of American lives saved, and Draper received the Medal of Merit for his contributions. Most notably, Draper’s wartime project work led directly to his famous inertial navigation work and the steady expansion of the Instrumentation Laboratory to serve the nation’s defense needs.

On loan from The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc.

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  • Yes I was friendly with the mark 14 gun sight as I took training on the 20 mm guns and the 40 mm guns which used this gun sight and all those on the other end had problems.Although I was a first loader on 40 mm and did not have much practice with the mark 14 it was always used mostly daily in war zones..

    leonard brodt
    23 Dec 11 at 3:18 pm
  • Hi, My dad served in the navy during WWII. I can not say for certain if he used a gun that the mark 14 gunsight was attatched to. He has passed on. However I have inherited from him the power unit of a mark 14 gunsight. My dad (and now I) use it to blow dry carburetors after being in carb dip and my computer when it needs it. The rubber diaphram in it is just as pliable and looks almost new still. The tag on the side dates it to 1944.

    Jerry Ridgway
    28 Feb 12 at 6:11 pm
  • Leonard Brodt’s comments interest me very much because of his direct experience with the Mk-14. I (Doc Draper’s son) am writing a history of the Mk-14 in the lab and battle. I have collected the recollections of several gunners who used the Mk-14. I now have two and would much like more recollections of the Mk-14 ‘at work’.I would like permission to add Mr. Brodt’s history. Additional information that I find very useful are what ships are involved, what training and unit and rank did the gunner have, what battles he was in and what direct personal experiences that bring the Mk-14, its role and value in the minds of the gunners to life. Debbie Douglas of the MIT History Museum is aware of my work and might be able to facilitate a conversation. Have a great 2013! – James Draper

    james Draper
    22 Feb 13 at 3:13 pm
  • To James Draper James, you should know that a trainer looks through the mark 14 gun sight and trusts a companion next to him to turn a knob on the sight so as to take a lead angle so that the projectiles are fired where the target is expected to be when the projectile reaches the target and if the projectiles are passing ahead of target the companion turns the knob so as to back up the lead angle to meet target…!!!!!! I think that this is fascinating information for your investigation of mark 14 gun sights.. I used the mark 14 gun sight in training but my air defense station was on quad 14 and I was first loader on barrel #3 and so most of my experience was on quad 14 and worked my station daily and frequently both day and night and as example I had to answer air defense alarms as much as 8 times in one night and also in the daytime and those goings on were common daily when the fleet was near enemy installations or territory. And you should know that the mark 14 gun sight was the technology that saved the fleet many ships from being sunk.!!! The mark 14 gun sight was used on the 20 mm guns and the 40 mm guns.They were all removed after WW two and replaced with rocketry systems…The mark 14 gun sight was an incredible instrument that Kamikazi Pilots had very much difficulty to get through to target..!

    30 Sep 13 at 12:00 am
  • And yes you can use my information as you see fit.!! Lenny

    30 Sep 13 at 12:03 am
  • The Mk 14 lead computing gun sight used compressed air to spin two gyros..one spining on a vertical axis and one spining on a horizontal axis..springs were adgusted.by the range knob to supress the tilting of the gyro carage when unit was slewed vertically and horizontaly when tracking a target. At max range less spring tension..min range more tension.resulting in nore or less lead angle between gun and sight.for40mm mounts.. the Mk14 was mounted on a pedestal suporting a air compressor and housed syncros to send elevation and bearing info. to the gun drive amplifers.

    D. Dahl
    11 Dec 13 at 6:30 pm
  • At the beginning of the Korean War, I was a Firecontrolman aboard a repair ship in Sasebo, Japan. It was good duty, and I wanted to stay where I was. However, one of the LSTs preparing to sail for Inchon submitted a request for a rated FC, and I was tagged. The basis for their request was “a need for someone to maintain their FC equipment”. I was transferred, and much to my displeasure upon reporting aboard the LST, found that the sum total of their FC equipment was two MK 14 gunsights, which did not require a livein rated FC baby sitter. Well, I learned to live with the situation.

    George Pierce
    23 Jan 14 at 10:00 am
  • I believe my Dad was part of the team that worked with your father on the Mark 14 gun sight. Do you have any documents that list the participants? I could privately give you the information that leads me to believe that he was part of the team, but prefer not to post that information publicly.

    Nancy Stickney
    1 Feb 14 at 4:50 pm
  • I realized that I neglected to give you his name: George P. Bentley. He was a student at MIT and, I believe, stayed in contact with Dr. Draper for many years.

    Nancy Stickney
    2 Feb 14 at 9:19 am
  • The Mk.14 was attached directly to the 20mm Oerlikon. When used to aim the 40mm Bofors gun, the Mk.14 was remotely mounted on the Mk.51 director. A pedestal mount that could direct one or more 40mm qaudruple, double, or single mounts on the same target. One Mk.51 was typicaly provided for each Bofors mount. In both case’s, two men, a Gunner and a Range Setter operated the sight. A link to an Operating Bulletin: http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ref/Ordnance/GS-Mk14/

    Rich Fulton
    6 Feb 14 at 11:02 pm

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