Death Ray Wall
by Eric M. Jones, Science Editor
WITH ALL THIS TALK ABOUT building a wall on our southern border to keep out the people who pick our crops, it is time to review a wall proposed by the famous Nikola Tesla in the days before World War II. Now there was a lot of psych-ops publishing in the days between the first and second war, which would make a fascinating study by itself. Hardly a month went by without Popular Science or Popular Mechanics showboating “an inventor in Connecticut” or wherever, who discovered a clever-looking contraption that would shoot down airplanes a hundred miles away.
Well, these wouldn’t have fooled any potential enemy, but Tesla, on the other hand was a man of considerable renown who had invented some serious technology and knew his way around high-power, high-voltage, high-frequency devices. Here was a man to be reckoned with. Tesla had actually been working on individual sub-parts of the design since before WW I. He had promoted his “Death Ray” often in several closely related forms.
In a 1934 article in the New York Times, Tesla proclaimed:
NEW YORK TIMES
July 11, 1934
Tesla, At 78, Bares New “Death-Beam”
Invention Powerful Enough to Destroy 10,000 Planes at 250 Miles Away, He Asserts.
Defensive Weapon Only
Scientist, In Interview, Tells of Apparatus That He Says Will Kill Without Trace.
Nikola Tesla, father of modern methods of generation and distribution of electrical energy,
who was 78 years old yesterday, announced a new invention, or inventions, which he said, he
considered the most important of the 700 made by him so far.
He has perfected a method and apparatus, Dr. Tesla said yesterday in an interview at the Hotel New Yorker, which will send concentrated beams of particles through the free air, of such
tremendous energy that they will bring down a fleet of 10,000 enemy airplanes at a distance of 250 miles from a defending nation’s border and will cause armies of millions to drop dead in
“Death-Beam” is Silent
This “death-beam,” Dr. Tesla said, will operate silently but effectively at distances “As far
as a telescope could see an object on the ground and as far as the curvature of the Earth would
permit it.” It will be invisible and will leave no marks behind it beyond its evidence of destruction.
An army of 1,000,000 dead, annihilated in an instant, he said, would not reveal even under the most powerful microscope just what catastrophe had caused its destruction.
When put in operation, Dr. Tesla said, this latest invention of his would make war impossible. This death-beam, he asserted, would surround each country like an invisible Chinese wall, only a million times more impenetrable. It would make every nation impregnable against attack by airplanes or by large invading armies.
But while it will make every nation safe against any attack by a would-be invader, Dr. Tesla added, the death-beam by its nature could not be employed similarly as a weapon for offense. For this death-beam, he explained, could be generated only from large, stationary and immovable power plants, stationed in the manner of old-time forts at various strategic distances from each country’s border. They could not be moved for the purposes of attack.
An exception, however, he added, must be made in the case of battleships, which, he said, would be able to equip themselves with smaller plants for generating the death-beam, with enough power to destroy any airplane approaching for attack from the air.
Battleships to Be Supreme
The net result of the latter, Dr. Tesla said, will be to establish the supremacy of the battleship over the airplane, and to make the nation with the largest and best equipped battleships supreme over the seas. Submarines would become obsolete, he asserted, as methods for detecting them are so perfected that no advantage is gained by submerging. And once found, he added, the death-beam could be employed to do its work of destruction underwater, though not as effectively as in the air.
The production of the death-beam, Dr. Tesla said, involves four new inventions, which have not
been announced by him. The scientific details of these inventions are to be given out by him before the proper scientific bodies in the near future. In the meantime, he gave out a general statement
outlining their nature.
The first invention, he said, comprises a method and apparatus for producing rays and other
manifestations of energy in free air, eliminating the high vacuum necessary at present for the production of such rays and beams.
The second is a method and process for producing “very great electrical forces.”
The third is a method for amplifying this process in the second invention.
The fourth, he said, is ”a new method for producing a tremendous electrical repelling force."
The voltages to be employed in propelling the death-beam to their objective, Dr. Tesla said, will
attain the lightning-like potential of 50,000,000 volts. With this enormous voltage, hitherto
unattained by man made means, microscopic particles of matter will be catapulted on their mission of defensive destruction, Dr. Tesla asserted.
The New York Times
September 22, 1940
‘Death Ray’ For Planes
Nikola Tesla, one of the truly great inventors who celebrated his eighty-fourth birthday on July 10, tells the writer that he stands ready to divulge to the United States government the secret of his “teleforce,” of which he said, “airplane motors would be melted at a distance of 250 miles, so that an invisible ‘Chinese Wall of Defense’ would be built around the country against any enemy attack by an enemy air force, no matter how large.”
This “teleforce” is based on an entirely new principle of physics, that “no one has ever
dreamed about,” different from the principles embodied in his inventions relating to the transmission of electrical power from a distance, for which he has received a number of basic patents.
This new type of force, Mr. Tesla said, would operate through a beam one-hundred-millionth of
a square centimeter in diameter, and could be generated from a special plant that would cost no
more than $2,000,000 and would take only about three months to construct.
A dozen such plants, located at strategic points along the coast, according to Mr. Tesla,
would be enough to defend the country against all aerial attack. The beam would melt any engine, whether diesel or gasoline driven, and would also ignite the explosives aboard any bomber. No possible defense against it could be devised, he asserts, as the beam would be all-penetrating.
High Vacuum Eliminated
The beam, he states, involves four new inventions, two of which already have been tested.
One of these is a method and apparatus eliminating the need for a “high vacuum;” a second is a process for producing “very great electrical forces;” third is a method of amplifying this force, and the fourth is a new method for producing “a tremendous repelling electrical force.” This would be the projector, or the gun of the system. The voltage for propelling the beam to its objective, according to the inventor, will attain a potential of 80,000,000 volts.
With this enormous voltage, he said, microscopic electrical particles of matter will be catapulted on their mission of defensive destruction. He has been working on this invention, he added, for many years and has made a number of improvements to it.
Mr. Tesla makes one important stipulation. Should the government decide to take up his offer, he would go to work on it at once, but they would have to trust him. He would suffer “no interference from experts.” In ordinary times such a condition would very likely interpose an insuperable obstacle. But times being what they are, and with the nation getting ready to spend billions on national defense, at the same time taking in consideration the reputation of Mr. Tesla as an inventor who always was many years ahead of his time, the question arises whether it may not be advisable to take Mr. Tesla at his word and commission him to go ahead with his “teleforce” plant.
Such a Device “Invaluable”
After all, $2,000,000 would be a relatively very small sum compared with what is at stake. If
Mr. Tesla really fulfills his promise, the results achieved would be truly staggering. Not only
would it save billions now planned for air defense by making the country absolutely impregnable against any air attack, but it also would save many more billions in property that would otherwise be surely destroyed no matter how strong the defenses are as witness current events in England.
Take, for example, the Panama Canal. No matter how strong the defense, a suicide squadron of dive bombers, according to some experts, might succeed in getting through and cause such damage that would make the Canal unusable, in which our Navy might find itself bottled up.
Considering the probabilities in the case, even if the chances were a 100,000-to-1 against Mr.Tesla, the odds would still be largely in favor of taking a chance of spend ing $2,000,000. In the opinion of the (NYT) writer, who has known Mr. Tesla for many years and can testify he still retains full intellectual vigor, the authorities in charge of building national defense should at once look into the matter. The sum is insignificant compared to the magnitude of the stake.
This writer believes that if anyone ever had brain damage from working around ozone, Tesla was your man. But would Tesla’s device have worked? If you have enough power you can do almost anything.
“When wireless is
Eric M. Jones is the Science Editor and co-founder of “Perihelion.” He is a design engineer, consultant, entrepreneur, and pilot, working in the experimental aircraft community, NASA, space transportation companies, and the ISS.