WWII - soliciting ideas for new weapons from the public

I remember my father telling me that during WWII the Government encouraged the public to submit ideas with potential military application. As I understood it, the hope was that some anonymous soul might have a truly good and unique idea for an effective and practical weapon.

We lived in Canada but it’s quite possible my father was referring to a US undertaking.

Did anything like this exist in any country? If so, was anything of value produced as a result?

There was the National Inventors Council, which was set up for just such a purpose:

Most famously (nowadays , at least) would be Hedy Lamar’s frequency hopping invention that was submitted, but too difficult to implement until almost 2 decades later.

The UK did have an office set up to handle suggestions from the public but they tended towards the fanciful / impossible / insane. Things like dropping bombs into Vesuvius to make it erupt or downing German bombers by dispersing an anaesthetic gas across their flight path.

Considering that some of the ideas actually put into action by the government were equally nuts the idea of soliciting the public was not that far fetched.

Not sure if the Code talkers idea falls into this category. But the idea came from Philip Johnston - a civil engineer, 50 years old and retired from the army. http://www.historynet.com/world-war-ii-navajo-code-talkers.htm

It was instrumental in winning the war.

I saw a film about the development of radar a while back and there was a scene of an office where inventors were being interviewed. It had a couple of Easter eggs, the only one I remember being dismissed with the line, “Congratulations, you’ve invented a device that can boil water!” which, of course, was the microwave.

Gus Wilson, the crusty old mechanic from the Model Garage (anyone remember this from Popular Science?) submitted his own invention.


Didn’t the landing craft design come from a fellow who built boats for his logging business?

That would be the Higgins boat, aka LCVP. That’s why the National WWII museum is in New Orleans.

Don’t forget about the morale effect of such an office. Even if they had no intention of using any of the ideas, it would make people feel like they were doing their part to support our boys Over There. It’s just like, say, the peach-pit drives.

Geoffrey Pyke and Pykrete comes to mind as an idea that at least got off the drawing board as far as Churchill’s bathtub.

IP Australia has a fairly gushy section on inventions developed during wartime that is an interesting read.

I heard an interview with an engineer whose job it was to vet such ideas, and mainly they involved intense detail on some component and little on other, fairly crucial elements. Can’t remember his words but it was along the lines of ‘Here is my plan for a new death-ray that dissolves battle-ships. I’ve designed the nozzle, and if you can do the other bits that would be great.’

In my OP I almost added that my father gave as an example, “flying tanks” which while a literal oxymoron, was in some sense the idea behind the Superfortress.

I think this fits the OP’s question.

I was speechless when I read this


I came in to mention the bat bomb. This has got to be my all-time favorite weapon. If I had been in charge in WWII, I’d have deployed these like gangbusters.

oops… I meant to post this.


Kinda like Sidney Harris’ famous [URL=“http://www.sciencecartoonsplus.com/images/miracle_sharris.gif”]cartoon](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pykrete).