Abraham Wald is a brilliant mathematician that lived in Hungary before World War II. Being a Jew, he was discriminated against, and when the Nazis took over, he emigrated to the US, and quickly joined the new "Department of War Math", where he and other scientists are asked to help solve math problems that is related to war. And one of them is about bomber survivability.
|English: Boeing Y1B-17 in flight (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Obviously, one cannot armor the bomber enough to make it bullet proof, and make it still fly and carry bombs. So where should the armor be added? And how much? Where should the trade-off be done between bomb payload and armor? That's where Wald and his colleagues come in.
The story goes that the scientists and assistants flew to Washington, to be briefed by the US Army Air Corp generals and their staff, where they explained the problem, along with representatives from Boeing (the builder) who explains the structure of the airciraft and explains the problems. Then there's data from the USAAC where they present the data they gathered from the bombers that survived, where they are hit and patched, so on and so forth. And they tried armoring the parts that keep getting shot up, but it's not helping the aircrafts to come back safely.
Allegedly Wald listened to some more of this, then stood up, told the generals that they are looking at it ALL WRONG. The parts that got shot up on the bombers that came back are the parts that should NOT be armored.
Really! He's right! Think about it for a minute...