1940s Style 'Death Rays'

From Why the Allies Won, 1995. W.W. Norton and Company, p. 235

Not as stylish as 1920s Style ‘Death Rays,’ of course. :wink:

Why do electromagnetic waves cause brain and lung hemorrhages?

It sounds like they are talking about radio waves. Your microwave oven uses the same thing to cook food. The damage is simply caused by heating the tissues.

I’m lazy. Can somebody convert 13-foot to Hz?

Our radio jammer in Tha Army could get you to feeling pretty bad if you stood directly in front of the antenna while it was attacking. It put out a ton of wattage. I guess if you tuned it to the right frequency you could mess someone up, but it’d have been more effective as an interrogation aid that way than for killing a platoon.

There was some ground surveillance radar that was used in my company that could evidently do some hefty damage if you walked in front of it while it was surveying too.

But the damaging effects of these gizmos diminishes geometrically with distance. As a long range weapon they sucked against soft targets. Now if someone could focus that emission the way a laser does, then you might have something that would ber very effective at ruining radios or making soda cans explode, but then why not just use a laser…I mean, unless it hasn’t been invented yet.

Death rays? Kamikazes? Ya gotta give 'em credit for trying I guess. I’m sure we tried our share of harebrained stuff.

Very ballpark, 75 MHz



There’s an entire book on the subject.

I think it could have worked quite well.


Our superior intellects are no match for your puny weapons! We surrender.

I’ve heard from friends in the Navy that if an Aegis missle cruiser really pumped up the radar in one direction they can pretty much cook out electronics systems and living beings. Also it seems pretty clear that mid-frequency sonar can cause death in whales from a pretty good distance.

The bat bomb reminded me of the incendiary bombs used by Japan against our Pacific coast–mostly forest at the time. They’d but incendiaries on balloons, float them up & let the wind deliver them to Washington & Oregon & I guess British Columbia. Sound crazy? People are still finding them!

** Bosda** , I see your Bat-Bomb and raise you one Pigeon-guided missile:-
Here and here

Captain, I’ll see your pigeon-guided missile, & raise you a Anti-Tank Dog Mine scroll down.


The book MiG Pilot, about the guy who defected to the west in a MiG-25 in the 70s, also mentions something like this…the radar of the MiG-25 was also said to be able to “kill a rabbit” at so-many yards. (Can’t remember how many)

Odd that rabbits seem to be the most common target in microwave “death-ray” experiments.
(Nuke da WABBIT…)

Well, I’ll have to fold in the face of the anti-pant weaponry:-

Also from your link.

What about some sort of ‘cluster bomb’ using this radar-based ‘death ray’ concept? Since the problem seems to lie in the issue of effectiveness dimishing over range, why not have a canister containing radio ‘pods’ which simultaneously send out a burst of intense radio waves to the ground below? Thus, a significant area of the ground could be ‘zapped’.

Unless I completely misunderstand what you’re getting at here, I have to nitpick that the microwave oven obviously uses microwaves and not radio waves.

Ummm… microwaves are radio waves–just radio waves of a particular group of frequencies in 2-GHz region. They were named that way because they were so much shorter than other radio waves in common use when they were first investigated.

(This is the same reason that ‘shortwaves’ are called ‘shortwaves’, even though they’re much longer than the most commonly-used radio waves these days. They too were shorter than the commonly-used radio waves when they were named, at a much earlier time.

Radio technology marches on. Now they’re lookin at possible uses for ‘t-rays’, ‘terahertz waves’, electromagnetic waves with terahertz frequencies that lie in between the now-well-understood microvave region and infrared light. )

But then they are called microwaves and not radiowaves, just like ultraviolet light isn’t part of the visible light spectrum anymore, despite being electromagnetic waves (of a shorter wavelength than visible light) as well. Distinctions are there for a reason and hence I kinda shy away from the statement that microwaves are radiowaves. We could reach a consensus by saying both microwaves and radio waves are electromagnetic waves.

If it had been employed, this would seem more effective for stopping the engines of the bombers than killing the crews. Wouldn’t the metal skin of the B-29 have protected the crews? Of course, the short distance is the problem. If you can only get it close by mounting it on an aircraft, you might as well pour 20 or 30 mm shells into the bomber.

Microwaves are a particular kind of radio waves. All microwaves are radio waves, but not all radio waves are microwaves. This distinction isn’t even particularly useful; it exists mainly as a convenience. Partly, the reason is a technological one: instead of antennas and feedlines, microwave transmitters tend to use feedhorns and waveguides, though there is is considerable overlap.

Most folks would say that microwaves are radio waves of a particular frequency.

How stuff works, for example, has the radio spectrum going all the way up to just before infrared: http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/radio-spectrum1.htm

Many years ago I worked at a defense contractor who made (among other things) airborne and ground based RADARs. The microwave sections were referred to as radio frequency, which was always abbreviated to RF (defense contractors love acronyms).

Waveguides, travelling wave tubes, magnetrons, circulators, and other microwave devices are often refferred to as “RF components” and the engineers who work on them are called “RF engineers.”

That said, many folks do make the same distinction you do, so I’m not saying you’re wrong, just that it’s very common to use either nomenclature.

If I’m addressing the general public, I always use the term “radio waves” since the general public often doesn’t seem to understand what microwaves are. Just look how popular the term “nuke” is regarding microwave ovens.

That’s pretty much the reason everyone who was working on it (USA, Japan, Russia, Germany, and probably quite a few others) eventually abandoned their projects.