A Brief History of Precision Guided Weapons
December 15, 2005 4:04 AM   Subscribe

One-page history of remote-controlled weapons. Includes some Tesla goodness.
posted by Heywood Mogroot (10 comments total)
Fascinating stuff, I'd forgotten Tesla had such a thing for remote control.

(The Tesla Demonstration Cabinet in the Tehnički Musej, Zagreb is one of my most favourite places in the whole wide world. 4.5 million volt Tesla coils. The sudden realisation that it might've been a good idea to look up the Serbo-Croat for 'Stand back!' before entering. Yum.)
posted by jack_mo at 4:32 AM on December 15, 2005

The Tesla stuff is cool, but conspicuously absent are the Soviet ASMs and SSMs. The Soviet Navy pretty much perfected air-, submarine- and surface-launched antiship missiles, but you'd never know it from this page.
posted by alumshubby at 6:26 AM on December 15, 2005

Very interesting stuff indeed.
posted by maxmix at 7:04 AM on December 15, 2005

Does anyone know whether Tesla's death ray was ever tested? I remember hearing a story that a version of it might have been tested in Italy in the 30's shortly before Mussolini took charge. It supposedly shot down some planes over the Bay of Naples. Has anyone ever run across this story?
posted by donfactor at 9:21 AM on December 15, 2005

I heard or read somewhere that the US Army tested a death-ray during WWII. It was essentially an early microwave oven. It took five minutes to kill a strapped-down rabbit at 50 yards. The weapon was never deployed in the field.
posted by Triplanetary at 10:11 AM on December 15, 2005

Found a link to a book about WWII death rays. Search for "Going back as far as 1930" to get to the rabbit part. Either I didn't remember the anecdote right, or both the US and the Japanese microwaved rabbits during the war.
posted by Triplanetary at 10:17 AM on December 15, 2005

OK... Just curious. Is there anything that Tesla didn't do?

Also, great link.
posted by brundlefly at 11:53 AM on December 15, 2005


I remember hearing a story that a version of it might have been tested in Italy in the 30's shortly before Mussolini took charge.

Considering Mussolini took power in 1922 that would be a truly amazing revelation! But as for the meat of the story--that a version was used at some point in Italy--I have never heard that, so I'd be interested if you can find a source. I have also never heard of any connection between Il Duce and Tesla, but anything's possible.
posted by trigonometry at 10:52 PM on December 15, 2005

Well, a death ray was tested in Sicily around 214 B.C., but I don't think that was intended.

The reference was probably to Marconi's ray gun demonstration (which was reported by the March of Time radio series from a conversation with the inventor).

Alleged details (and a Tesla connection), from a suspect site:
In June of 1936 Marconi demonstrated to Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini a wave gun device that could be used as a defensive weapon. In the 1930s such devices were popularized as death rays as in a Boris Karloff film of the same name. Marconi demonstrated the ray on a busy highway north of Milan one afternoon. Mussolini had asked his wife Rachele to also be on the highway at precisely 3:30 in the afternoon. Marconi's device caused the electrical systems in all the cars, including Rachele's, to malfunction for half an hour, while her chauffeur and other motorists checked their fuel pumps and spark plugs. At 3:35 all the cars were able to start again. Rachele Mussolini later published this account in her autobiography.

Mussolini was quite pleased with Marconi's invention. However, it is said that Pope Pius XI learned about the paralyzing rays and took steps to have Mussolini stop Marconi's research. According to Marconi's followers, Marconi then, after faking his own death, took his yacht to South America in 1937.

Okay, that last part is hilarious. In some retellings, it is a plane.

Some more suspect (but perhaps grounded) speculation, including recent patents for EM weapons.

Anyway, the online documentation for this is all pretty dodgy. I can't tell if it really happened. Any poking around swiftly leads via links to discussion of mind-control devices. Keep in mind this was only a couple of years after the first detection of an airplane via radar.
posted by dhartung at 12:54 AM on December 16, 2005

I should have indicated that the MoT bit -- pure hay propaganda? -- may be the actual source, given that I can't verify the other site's claim that Mussolini's widow wrote about it.
posted by dhartung at 1:04 AM on December 16, 2005

« Older Generation KKK   |   We will do what it takes ..." Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments