Will Robombs End All War?
"The significance of the flying bomb is immense . . . it may lead to the elimination of war itself"—Fuller
Maj.-Gen. J. F. C. Fuller
Gen. Fuller, an expert in mechanical warfare, has long been a stormy petrel in British military circles. He is the author of 24 books on military subjects. As early as September, 1939, he predicted the bombardment of cities by rockets during this war.
EVER since man first took to fashioning his ideas into things there has raged within him a battle between his instincts of fear and of hunger: fear of death and hunger to take life, those complements we call peace and war.
The unknown has always terrified him. He shuns the novel, the abnormal and the unconventional— they are taboo. Nevertheless, simultaneously he is attracted by them because they may reveal to him means whereby he can strengthen his natural powers by stealing a march on his enemy.
Thus it has come about that every new or improved weapon of war has been designed to increase danger for those who do not possess it by decreasing danger for those who do. Hence, in turn, each new weapon has been anathematized by the majority, and only finally accepted when it has passed into common use. For instance, when in the fourth century B.C. the Spartan general Archidamus first saw a catapult he exclaimed: “O! Hercules, the valor of man is at an end.” Many other such instances could be quoted; for example, that in 1139 the Second Lateran Council, under penalty of anathema, prohibited the use of the crossbow, because the Church considered it “a weapon hateful to God and unfit for Christians.” That Milton assigned the invention of artillery to the devil, and that Ariosto one of the 16th century Italians poets, did likewise:
“0/ curs’d device! base implement of death! Fram'd in the black Tartarean realms beneath!
By Beelzebub’s malicious art design'd To ruin all the race of human kind.”
Thus also with the rifle, the torpedo, the air bomb and lethal gas. Thus also with war’s latest weapon, the flying bomb, and in spite of the fact that the only marked difference between it and the bomb proper — now universally accepted—is that in the one (as in the marine torpedo) the actual driving mechanism is an integral part of the bomb, whereas in the other it is separated from it.
These missile-throwing weapons, to which many others could be added, were finally accepted because they reduced danger: (1) By increasing projectile
range they increasingly separated the fighters, and, in consequence, diminished the size of the human targets. And (2) by increasing the volume of projectiles fired they whittled down the number of fighters required to produce a given effect. Thus, for example: if one rifleman can fire 10 aimed shots a minute, then 60 riflemen will be required to equal the volume of fire of a machine gun firing 600 rounds a minute. Therefore, should the machine-gun team consist of six men, then, theoretically, the human target it offers the enemy will be one tenth of that offered by the 60 riflemen. In other words, nine tenths of the human target will be eliminated.
Of these two methods of reducing danger—by range and by volume of firethe second only began to take the lead about a century ago, since when its influence on weapon design has been constant. Nevertheless, until the introduction of the flying bomb, do what he
might, in order to fight the soldier had to be either on the battlefield, whatever its depth, or in the fighting space, whatever its altitude. Therefore the ultimate problem in the reduction of danger remained— namely, the elimination of the soldier altogether from the fighting area or the fighting space.
Many years ago now, when considering this problem, I wrote: “The central problem in future
warfare is not even electrification. Instead, it is elimination, the elimination of the human element, the historic stumbling block in war— man fearful and
nervous. Mechanization, chemicalization, electrification are but means to an end—the negation of the instinct of self-preservation. The elimination of danger lies at the bottom of all weapon improvement. A bullet is a nerveless bit of metal, so is a shell and so is a torpedo. Yet the fact remains that frequently these weapons are launched on their destructive courses by trembling hands and fearful brains. How much more violent is this trembling in the case of a sword, a spear or a club; for these weapons are,
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literally, extensions of the soldier’s body. The whole history of weapon ! development is one in which the aim ; has been to reduce to a minimum thus j human contact, and its goal would appear to be the Robot, obedient to a distant mind.”
Granted that this is so, then it is certain that with further development the flying bomb will become the dominant weapon. Further, that a comparison between it and the gun and the bomber plane—the two dominant missile throwers today—proves that this is so.
The gun is a stationary weapon, and from the position it occupies it can fire for hours, days and even weeks on end. Its wear and tear are slight. It is an accurate weapon, and the risks of it being hit or put out of action are small. Its ammunition can be dumped alongside it in large quantities, and the cost of each discharge is limited to the value of the explosive used and such depreciation it causes to the gun.
The bomber can operate only when in movement. The risk of it being put out of action is considerable. It may take several hours before it comes within range of its target. Its bomb load is limited, and once expended the machine must return to its base to reload. It is not a very accurate weapon, and the cost of each load discharged includes, besides the wear and tear of the machine, the value of the fuel burned, which may run into several thousands of gallons. Lastly, bombing is a highly dangerous method of fighting and therefore costly in human life.
Nevertheless, in spite of these drawbacks, the two great advantages of the bomber over the gun are: (1) vastly
increased range, and (2) greater projectile power. And so long as these hold good, for distant bombardments and rapid destructive effect the gun remains outclassed.
Suppose, however, that it were possible to invent a gun possessing these characteristics. Suppose that it could fire a shell as large as the heaviest bomb, at a range equi vident to that of the biggest bomber ever likely to be built, would not the bomber be at once outclassed?
Certainly, because such a weapon would be less clumsy, costly and complicated. Further, as shells in any quantity could be dumped alongside it, during days and weeks on end an j unbroken stream of projectiles could be ! directed on the target.
At once it will be seen that the flying i bomb, as it is today, is the embryo of such a weapon.
Its simplicity and economy over airtransported bombs areself-evident. Like a shell, it can be fired from a stationary position, at great range and in any quantities. It can be made of any size and without requiring a complicated piece of machinery, such as a cannon, to j fire it, or a still more complicated one the uirplune—to transport it to its target. As it is manless the human elementis eliminated,and as the trough, or cradle, from which it is launched can be placed underground its firing team will be all but invulnerable.
In theory, at least, it is the perfect j projectile. And though in its present stage of development it is not likely to i play more than a walking-on part, I see j no reason why its evolution should not : rival that of the airplane. Therefore, ; as I am convinced that it has come to
stay and grow, I will next turn to its early history.
Though the flying bomb is propelled by a jet-propulsion engine, in idea it derives directly from the rocket, which as a weapon was employed in the West as early as 1380, and in the East probably earlier. Anyhow, it is known that in 1399 Timur used rockets in the battle of Delhi; that in 1783 Tipu Sultan scattered the Mahratta horse by means of them, and that in 1799 they proved so effective at the siege of Seringapatam that the British Ordnance Office took up their construction. This led, in 1804, to Colonel William Congreve producing his rocket, which two years later was tested out during the bombardment of Boulogne, where, as Congreve informs us, “In less than 10 minutes after the first discharge the town was discovered to be on fire.” Rockets were again used, and with considerable effect, at Walcheren and Copenhagen in 1807, and at the battles of Leipzig (1813), Waterloo (1815) and New Orleans (1815). In the last of these battles, writes Major A. Lecarrière Latour, “a cloud of rockets continued to fall in showers during the whole attack.”
Congreve informs us that he made rockets of from two ounces (“a species of self-motive musket ball”) to 300 weights, and that larger could be constructed. He said: “The rocket is, in truth, an arm by which the whole system of military tactics is destined to be changed.” Nevertheless, except as fireworks, they disappeared from the British Army in 1885.
Shortly after the close of World War I the whole subject of the use of rockets was taken up in Germany and placed under the direction of Professor Hermann Oberth, who carried out many experiments at the Raketenflug Platz outside Berlin.
Six Miles Up
At first most of the trials seem to have been of a civil nature. A rocketpropelled car appeared in 1928; and in 1931 a rocket airplane, which achieved remarkable results. Then the War Ministry stepped in and secrecy became the order of the day. Nevertheless in 1933 a leakage occurred, the Rügen Special Correspondent of the Sunday Referee reporting, on Nov. 5, that: “Herr Otto Fischer was shot six miles into the air within a 24-ft. steel rocket, and returned to earth safe and sound, though shaken.” This correspondent added: “Thej demonstration was made under cover of absolute secrecy, under the auspices of the German War Ministry.” His full report is circumstantial and detailed, and does not read like an invention.
. As these facts were known to me, when, on Sept. 19, 1939, Herr Hitler in a speech said: “The moment may
come when we shall use a weapon which is not yet known and against which there is no defense,” it at once occurred to me that he was referring to the rocket. I thereupon wrote an article on rocket warfare, and after pointing out that the two outstanding difficulties were fuel motive power and control of flight, I wrote: “If these two problems have been solved by Germany, then she has at her disposal the most potent weapon of war ever devised, a weapon which in effect willreduce aircraft to ridicule; for not only are size of rocket and tonnage of explosive practically unlimited, but on account of simplicity of construction tens of thousands of these projectiles can be produced in a minimum of time.
“Therefore I suggest it is possible that in this present war, and highly probable should it be a long one, we shall see cities bombarded by rockets
. . . Also, as a steppingstone to this war of annihilation, aircraft, will be fitted with rocket bombs, which will enable them to bombard a city without penetrating its ground anti-aircraft, defenses, as formerly walled cities were bombarded by cannon and mortars.”
In modified form this is what has happened, for not only have many minor rocket projectiles appeared, hut London and other cities have been bombarded, though, as yet, only by flying bombs. The first attack was launched on June 15.
Why this particular weapon, known to the Germans as Vergeltungswaffe Ein or V-l (Vengeance Weapon One), was preferred to the rocket—a simpler and far more powerful weapon—was undoubtedly due to the two difficulties I have mentioned. Also, because the line of flight of the flying bomb can be kept horizontal, whereas that of the rocket cannot. For instance, were a rocket fired from Berlin to New York, the highest point in its trajectory would be 628 miles above sea level. As nothing certain is known of atmospheric conditions at such a height, or anything like it, years of experimentation would be required before distant flights could be made with any accuracy. Nevertheless, that longrange rockets of great size are being experimented with in Germany is probable, otherwise, why the enormous concrete constructions discovered near Cherbourg, one of which is said to cover “80 acres in a hill-enclosed valley”?
Barbarism At Bay
The reception of the flying bomb in England was absolutely normal, which shows how stable human nature is. As had happened with every new and unexpected weapon, abuse, ridicule and scorn were heaped upon it. The Times proclaimed it “an exhibition of venom” and “a device of barbarism at bay,” whereas the Daily Mail wrote it down as “a bloodcurdling bogey . . . just a coward’s last fling.” Letters poured in to the afflicted — persons like myself who happen to live on a bomb route. Here is an extract from one I received: “I am apprehensive that you have undergone harassing disturbance, or even worse consequences at the instance of the Hun’s diabolical Flying Bomb.”
However, the worst aspect of its reception was the primitive hate it aroused. The Church, as usual, took the lead, one clergyman demanding that a German town or village be razed to the ground for each flying bomb discharged. “What’s the good,” he exclaimed, “of wasting air power on concrete platforms? Use it on the living flesh of the (German) nation.” Even Mr. Churchill was not immune from the hate epidemic, for in his speech of Aug. 2 he said: “The only result of the use of this indiscriminate weapon . . . will be that the severity of the punishment . . . will be appreciably in-
creased.” (Loud chèers.)
Though it may destroy much, hatred creates nothing. Besides this is a scientific age, in which witch hunts are totally out of place.
The premises are these: Because the flying bomb is the logical product of what may be called “the constant tactical factor”—that is, as I have noted, the search after the elimination of danger through weapon improvement—it cannot be abolished by interdict or anathema. Therefore it has come to stay; therefore its military significance is immense; for should it be followed by an efficient long-range rocket, then, as Congreve predicted in 1827, “the whole system of military tactics is destined to be changed.” This distant prophecy is, in part at least,
corroborated by what the flying bomb has accomplished during the first six
weeks of its existence.
On Aug. 2 Mr. Churchill placed these facts before the House of Commons: Up to date» 5,340 "robots” as he called them had been launched and had killed 4,735 persons and injured 14,000 seriously. .Seventeen thousand houses had been totally destroyed and about 800,000 damaged. Also, nearly 1,000,000 people had been evacuated from London alone.
As it has been estimated by an American scientist that the production cost of the flying bomb is about $500,
this damage was effected at the price of $2,670,000 that is, approximately, at the cost of eight Flying Fortresses! Surely this is the most economical piece of devastation recorded in the history of modern war! What then may we expect a generation hence, when this weapon will be full grown?
These physical and material losses are, however, of minor significance when compared with the moral effect attained. Having eliminated all danger to the soldier who "wields" the flying bomb, this weapon has thrust all danger onto the civil population attacked. It has brought home to humanity at large the full implications of the machine age in their most brutal form.
As the machine has been divorced from" human control it cannot be terrorized or unnerved. It is a weapon which has rendered war absolutely total; for its attack is not only universal in space but ever-present in time: it is all-pervading and truly diabolical: it is like evil itself. As a writer has written in The Church of England Newspaper of June 23, because it "ignores all human differences and distinctions,” and because "it is mechanism controlled by mechanism," it suggests “some Satanic vision of humanity completely subject to the work of its own hands.” Man, through countless millennia, has grown so accustomed to fight man that he now feels impotent when faced by a bloodless and nerveless "creature,” which, though it can be destroyed, cannot be killed.
Its political significance is equally remarkable, for should its range become global, then a permanent state of world wardom will be established.
As a writer in The New English Weekly of July 13 has stated: "It will make the task of the next Peace Conference about as different from that of any previous one as Einstein’s astronomy is from Newton’s. For what is now to be reckoned as a military frontier? One of our bright parliamentary boys has already proposed that after this war Germany should be encircled with flying-bomb platforms for instant use if her government’s policy does not please her neighbors . . . Rockets and flying bombs have transformed international politics from two dimensions into three. Perhaps this has happened already with the invention of the airplane, but it is the flying bomb which, by making it quite conceivable for one nation to destroy another without invading it at all, not even in the air, has finally destroyed the traditional basis of international politics.”
This writer goes on to say: "All we would venture to suggest is that if the problem is not settled somehow the end of technological civilization can hardly be more than a few decades away. For there will be a revolt of the masses of mankind against the sources of
technics. Science itself will be named
as the enemy.”
This would mean the casting of the mechanics out of the machine shops of western civilization, and a return to what may be called the medieval order. Though all things are possible, this change is unlikely. Our way of life is now no more than a jungle trail, choked by weeds but once a religious civilization begins to decay, eventually it is replaced by a new dispensation. Thus, in the Geeta, Shri Krishna spoke to Arjuna:
“Whenever spirituality decays and materialism is rampant, then, O Arjuna! I reincarnate myself. To protect the righteous, to destroy the wicked, and to establish the Kingdom of God 1 am reborn from age to age.”
Therefore, what appears to me to be more likely is that man will continue to tread his apish path to its ultimate end. Not the extinction of himself, but instead the extinction of war, and thus eliminate danger, not from the battlefield only, but also from his civilization. Should this be so, then we touch the highest significance of this new weapon.
To explain this, I cannot do better than quote what 12 years ago I set down in my book, “The Dragon’s Teeth.” Considering what I called the "Robot Cycle of War,” I wrote:
“It is not beyond the realms of possibility to imagine that a general may be seated in some farmstead in Kent, or in a flat in London, and yet be fighting a manless battle in Central Asia in which the civil population is the target. Victory will depend on his will as fully as the defeat of Amalek depended upon Moses holding up his arms. And should he grow weary the battle may be lost, for his weapons are brainless and heartless—they have no fear. Heroism, the one virtue of war,
will be gone. They shatter and are shattered; they give blows but feel them not; they know neither mercy nor pity; they are soulless and unheroic, as they destroy each other without pain. Heroism will be dead; war will become as ridiculous a solution of human quarrels as the burning of witches eventually became to the extermination of witchcraft. It will exterminate itself, for it will have lost its glamour. Its nobility will have gone. No warrior will be killed, no woman will weep for a soldier slain. The soullessness of war as well as its universal terrors will have brought war within sight of its end.
“For thousands of years man unconsciously has been working toward this end, in other words, willy-nilly, he has been compelled by the costly process of trial and error to travel along the path of the constant tactical factor. The stone axe gave way to the primitive bow because man feared to be struck by the axe, the bow to the musket because man feared the arrow, the musket to the rifle, and so on. Obviously this progress has not b«en consistent, because it has depended on the caprices of civilization, and man is far from being a logical animal. Now, however, that the secret of weapon evolution—one of the many forms of general evolution—is known, it is almost a certainty that it will be more and more closely followed: and once it is followed the logical process of the elimination of danger on the battlefield will, so it seems to me, proceed to its logical end—the elimination of war itself.”