Arms Race

 

Tesla’s Death Ray

The arms race during World War Two resulted in an entire gallery of new weapons. Some of them opened completely new perspectives of conventional warfare, while others came from the edge of human imagination.

These were so-called weapons of the “New Age:” unconventional arms imagined to be so powerful that they could single-handedly win the war.

Even though the world leaders based their power on conventional arsenals, all of them still had one eye on possible weapons of the future. In the years before — as well as during — the war, these powers had been developing such weapons.

Tesla complex

With visions of Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and so many other sci-fi characters, imaginations soared!

Some of these weapons were brought to life, as was the case with the atomic bomb, but some have never seen the light of the day. The Japanese Ku-Go “Death Ray” weapon falls into the latter category.

One of the most brilliant scientists of all times, Nikola Tesla, was one of the first to claim to have built a “death ray” weapon. He called his weapon “Teleforce” and it wasn’t designed to use any kind of rays but to project microscopic, electrically-charged particles.

Tesla’s weapon was rather complex, including several mechanisms to produce electricity of enormous force, somewhere around 60 million volts. This force required large, static power plants, estimating the cost of one such weapon station to be $2 million in 1940.

For that reason, he presented his plans first to the League of Nations and then to the leading powers of Western Democracy.

The United States Bureau of Standards rejected Tesla’s proposal as they believed it was not possible to produce such an enormous amount of energy.

British Death Ray

The British attempted to make a “death ray” weapon, which resulted in the development of radar.

The Soviet Union made some effort in obtaining Tesla’s plans, but the actual weapon was never made.

However, that which was not of interest to Allies was of interest to the Axis Nations. The article about Tesla’s “Peace Ray” published in the New York Sun and the New York Times on July 11, 1934, caught the attention of Japanese news correspondents in the United States.

When the article was presented in Japan, Tesla’s death ray received a lot of public attention.

In the late 1930s, as Japan was preparing for the war, General Yamamoto was looking for a weapon that could give him an advantage over the United States. For this purpose, he sought out one of the most prominent Japanese physicists, Yoji Ito, from the Naval Technology Research Institute.

Ito had spent several years in Germany studying the development of the atomic bomb and magnetrons, giving him the required knowledge to build such a weapon.

German Death Ray

After studying Tesla’s design, Ito and two other physicists, Maso Kotani and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, came to the same conclusion as their American counterparts: it was impossible to create a station that could produce so much energy.

For that reason, Ito and his team turned to what they already had. Microwaves!

In 1940, the Japanese had already been working on magnetrons as part of their radar research. Ito decided that they should make a bigger, much more powerful magnetron.

This magnetron would emit a high-power beam of very short radio waves that could cause either psychological or physiological problems to enemy soldiers and even death. Ito also believed that the same principle could cause internal combustion engines to stop.

Japanese officials thought that the project could be promising. They invested 2 million yen into it which, in 1940, was around half a million US dollars.

The whole project was put under the control of General Sueyoshi Kusaba. A brand new laboratory was established at Shimada, Shiyuoka Prefecture. The weapon was codenamed Ku-Go.

Gen. Kusaba Sueyoshi, commander of Ku-Go. (his brother Tatsumi graduated West Point in 1920)

However, experiments with internal combustion engines were far less successful. Ito believed that microwaves could cause the pre-ignition of engines, but his experiments came across many obstacles.

In 1943, Ito and his team managed to stop an exposed car engine but failed to do so when the engine was protected by a hub. Experiments on an airplane engine from 1944 showed that microwaves were even weaker against well-protected engines.

Megetron, sliced open to show interior.

The largest experiment was conducted in 1944 when the first prototype of Ku-Go was built by the Japanese Radio Company.  This was an 80-centimeter magetron powered by 30 kilowatts feeding a di-pole antenna placed at the bottom of a 1-meter ellipsoid reflector.  In 1944, 80 cm magnetrons were the shortest wavelength oscillators that the Japanese were able to make.

Plans were made in 1945 to build a new weapon consisting of 4 magetrons with the output of 250 – 300 kilowatts with a di-pole antenna and 10-meter reflector.  Japanese physicists calculated that such a weapon would take ten minutes to kill a rabbit at a distance of 62 miles ( ~ 100 kilometers ).

However, the situation in the Pacific and the capitulation of Imperial Japan stopped all further research.

Click on images to enlarge.

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RAAF 98th Anniversary – 31 March

Pacific Paratrooper gives a sincere THANK YOU to the Royal Australian Air Force for being there!

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

James Bacco – Grant Town, WV; US Navy, WWII

Violet (Bambi) Carrington, IL; US Army WAC, WWII

Veterans Memorial

Ronald Helson – Cleveland, OH; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT, USAR, Lt.Col. (Ret. 30 y.)

Fred Lynn – Anderson, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, D/511/11th Airborne Division

James Mumme – Phoenix, AZ; US Navy, WWII, PTO, radioman, USS Nassau

Robert T. McDaniel – Fort Worth, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, Tuskegee

Joseph Piccirillo – No. Charleston, SC; US Navy, WWII

Harold Steinmetz (101) – Mt. Clemens, IL; US Army, WWII, PTO, Capt., 38/149th Infantry, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Muriel Seale Toole – Washington D.C.; Civilian, US Army Quartermaster Corps

Rodney Wicox – Arnot, PA; US Army, WWII, PTO, Sgt., 11th Airborne Division

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on April 1, 2019, in Home Front, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 103 Comments.

  1. Great piece of history gp, thankfully it never came to fruition.
    Could you imagine what would have been the outcome if Hitler had weapons like that during his reign of The Final Solution.
    Cheers mate.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great read. That’s one of the best death rays I’ve seen…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great article, as always. Thanks. However the British “Death Ray” photo looks like a canister vacuum with ray gun stuff attached.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A book I have recently published, The Goddess of the Devil, includes some fascinating material, meticulously researched, regarding the Nazi quest for super-weapons.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fascinating, GP. Thank you again for educating me!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A lot of this stuff sounds like they came from Buck Rogers

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This was a side to Tesla’s work I’ve never heard about. I had to laugh at the thought of the weapon that would take ten minutes to kill a rabbit at a distance of 62 miles. Entirely tongue in cheek, it occurred to me that I know some gardeners who might be willing to give it a try if it could keep the rabbits out of their gardens.

    Another stray thought: I wonder what ghastly weapons are being cooked up in laboratories today, that we know nothing about?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The Japanese had some lovely things up their sleeves for the good old USA. I’m going to be doing some book reviews soon about how close you all came to a very large outbreak of bubonic plague, one of the many diseases the Japanese worked on as the miracle weapon to change the tide of the war..

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Tesla’s ray was to fire 60 million volts? Whoa! That’s not just a weapon. That’s a very large power plant in itself. The largest substation we have in Kenya is only 220KV, much, much less than 60MV. I can only imagine what that ray could do to a person. It could vaporize people. Haha!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Enjoyed the information about Tesla’s Death Ray. He was an amazing man, well before his time in many aspects of electrical science.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Tesla certainly was a futuristic engineer in many fields. It’s always surprising how experiments for one thing lead to something else – radar, microwave, margarine, i.e.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. It would seem that the technology has been around for years, even though it was not viable. That would suggest that, in time, it could well be! What a terrible thought that is! A fascinating bit of history!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow – what a fascinating read! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Well, thank heaven the research stopped. Microwaves, radar, sonar — btw, did you see the Heddy LeMarr documentary which shows her inventing sonar for the government? Very fascinating….

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Fascinating as always.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I wonder if the US or Japan continued the experiments after the war.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I doubt very much they’d tell us until it came out of the archives. With the technology of today, I’m sure they could find much more efficient ways of doing it – like lasers.

      Like

  17. “at a distance of 62 miles (1 kilometer)”. Try again – a kilometer is approximately six tenths of a mile. (or 0.6)

    Like

  18. The efforts of which you write sound eerily like what our diplomats in Cuba appear to have experienced in the last few years.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. It is interesting to read about some of the weapons research going on. The Japanese could have had an inside track given their expertise with microwaves. Glad they weren’t successful.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. It’s frightening, to consider the consequences. Of doing or not doing. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. So interesting! So scary! So many ‘what ifs” scenarios. Thanks for your research, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I love reading about these. I’ve seen a couple of programs about these ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Scary thoughts that they want to kill a lot of people to gain power. But then throughout history men are always doing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. A very interesting report on futuristic weapons being developed during WW2! Nazi Germany also worked on devices that were commonly known as miracle weapons that were supposed to turn the tide near the end of the war.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I like the German Death Ray article. It reminds me of news stories we see these days, about such and such possible new weapon. I think most of the time these stories are BS hype, as was the Death Ray article, apparently.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Thank you very much GP! I am always wondering about the invention done before and during war activities. Some people only seem to get good ideas this way. Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Such brilliant minds devoted to such evil goals. Very sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. The best weapon/peace maker, though, will remain the simplest, yet most complex: words.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. And, there was much rejoicing among rabbits of the world! But seriously, fascinating post! I see a lot of Tesla cars on the roads today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure the rabbits agree with you, DC!! I was behind a Tesla in traffic the other day. I understand they’re working on a Model E (?) which should only (only – haha) cost $35,000. Affordable to many (not me, but what the heck).

      Liked by 1 person

  30. So now I know a bit about Tesla. Elon Musk seems an eccentric descendant. Great post. I learned so much from reading it. Thanks, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. So basically a personal-sized electromagnetic pulse shooter… I hope nobody ever figures that one out

    Liked by 1 person

  32. As you know, a number of us wondered what you would write as your history of the war’s campaigns wound down. Now we know. You are continuing a tradition of excellent posts.
    Where is that Vets’ memorial?

    Liked by 4 people

  33. Nikola Tesla remains an enigma today. He was a fascinating eccentric.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. This was when it all began – and look where we are now

    Liked by 2 people

  35. Fascinating! Glad it all came to nothing though, for the sake of the bunnies 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Fascinating history of the ingenuity displayed in the hope of killing other human beings, GP.
    At least Tesla got an electric car named after him. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. Thank you, Ian. There will be more about the Japanese weapons coming up too.

    Like

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