In 1944 Brown became the first woman known to have had her hair used for military aircraft bombsights. She saw an advertisement in a Pueblo newspaper in 1943 that said the government was looking for hair from women for the war effort, although no details were given as to how it would be used. The ad said only that they wanted blonde hair that was at least 22 inches long, and which had not been treated with chemicals or hot irons. The women’s hair collection for use as bombsight crosshairs was a clandestine operation even though they found the hair through a newspaper advertisement.
The Air Force had tried several different materials for the crosshairs of the Norden bombsight, a carefully guarded state of the art instrument that guided bombs to their target. The bombsight was used on the B-24 Liberator, B-29 Super Fortress and B-17 Flying Fortress military aircraft. It was so advanced that it was surrounded by booby-trapped charges that the crew were ordered to detonate if it appeared that the bombsight might be seized by the enemy.
According to Doug Adams, black widow spider webbing had been tried for the crosshairs, but it could not withstand the variations in temperature to which the bombsight would be exposed. In contrast, fine blonde human hair that had not been treated with chemicals or heat was found to be reliable in a wide range of climatic conditions, including at 20,000 feet and below freezing.
Brown’s hair was 34 inches long and had never been cut, chemically treated or heated with irons. It was her most prized possession. She washed it with pure soap twice a week, and combed it twice a day; it stretched down to her knees when she combed it out. She normally wore it wrapped around her head in a braid, and as a result was known as the “lady with the crown”.
The government purchasing agent at the Washington Institute of Technology told her that her hair would be used for meteorological instruments. She sent off samples, and they concluded that it would be appropriate for the crosshairs. Brown agreed in 1944 to have it cut. The government offered to pay her for it in war savings stamps, but she refused, seeing it as her duty to help in the war effort. She ended up feeling traumatized by the loss of it, and cried for two months afterwards.
As well as being used for bombsight crosshairs, Brown’s hair was also used in scientific equipment to make precise measurements of humidity, paramount in the production of military aircraft and other war equipment. Brown’s hair was the first woman’s hair used as crosshairs in military aircraft bombsights.