IT IS good news that Canada is taking the lead in a move to apply North American technical
genius to the job of designing new and better war weapons.
In mid-March Ottawa announced the creation of an Army Technical Development Board, headed by Victor Sifton, Master General of the Ordnance.
The Board’s function will be to develop and test new weapon ideas, to improve existing weapons and to allocate research and development work among the agencies best fitted to handle it.
Lieutenant-General A. G. L. McNaughton, Canada’s able overseas corps commander, described its establishment as the first step toward realization of a larger continental plan for weapon betterment.
“Eventually,” he said, “the proposed council will embrace representatives from all vital North American war production offices, with British representatives as well . . . The groundwork has been laid and from now on this continent will be making its weight felt more and more.”
It is no secret that General McNaughton has urged on both Ottawa and Washington the necessity of mobilizing the best scientific and industrial minds of the continent for a dynamic offensive in the field of weapon design.
Superior weapons, argues the General, will be a decisive factor in the outcome of the war.
We can’t expect to win with weapons “just as good as” the enemy’s. To win, we must have weapons radically better than the enemy’s.
To get such weapons we need to utilize the imaginative and technical genius which has created in North America the world’s most efficient and powerful industrial machine.
Such is the McNaughton view, and such the reasoning behind the proposal that the United States and Canada should set up a North American Design and Development Council to tackle the job of weapon betterment on the grand scale.
That there is wide room for improvement in United Nations’ weapon types, no one who has studied the question will deny.
The Italians have developed a radically new type of airplane. Propellerless, it is pushed through the air by a jet of compressed air and burning gases ejected from its tail. In a 168-mile test flight it reached a speed of 130 miles an hour. While not yet a direct military threat it suggests possibilities which we can ill afford to let the enemy develop first.
Already the Germans in France are reported to be using some sort of rocket device to get interceptor planes into the air quickly.
Photographs of a German mobile gun, recently arrived from Libya, reveal that some ingenious armorer in Rommel’s army has removed the turret from a medium tank, substituting a heavy gun protected by an improvised metal shield. The result is a self-propelled artillery unit capable of hurling armor-piercing shell 5,000 yards. Against such equipment more than a few of our tanks have been destroyed before they could fire a shot.
A German antitank gun captured on another front fires a small-bore projectile which pierces three inches of the toughest armor plate. Tests
revealed that its muzzle velocity is twice as high as that of comparable guns used by United Nations’ forces.
We do need “a dynamic offensive in the field of weapon design.”
’Ware the Ostrich
“German bombers will unload explosives onto power stations, munitions plants and aircraft factories in Montreal, Toronto, Detroit, Buffalo and New York in the early summer of 1942. They will take off from Norway, flying via Iceland and Greenland. After depositing their loads on objectives which today are circled on Luftwaffe maps of Canada and the United States, the bomber crews will land in some isolated region of Canada. They will then make as much trouble as possible, such as attempting to take over a prison camp. Eventually they may surrender as prisoners of war after scuttling their planes and equipment.”
Canadian Aviation quotes this prediction; reports it was made to a group of Detroit business executives by a German who, early in this war, flew with the Luftwaffe, then fled his fatherland because of religious affiliations. We don’t know how he got to the U.S., or what the status of a self-exiled German war pilot is, but we haven’t any doubt that the plan he reveals is on the German agenda and that it is feasible.
President Roosevelt, on February 17, told a press conference that the enemy could drop bombs on Detroit. That city is taking precautions.
So far as the Canadian centres are concerned, it would be insane to do the ostrich act. It would be a sound precaution to have adequately armed fighter planes stationed where they can do the most good. And the recent revelation that young girls could fraternize with German prisoners in a Northern Ontario camp, and mail letters for them, makes us wonder what would happen should armed Nazis, landing from the sky, attempt to aid the escape of their fellows from prison camps.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.