Sunday 5 January 2014

The Incredible Story of Soviet Diesel Engines

Looks like the Soviets weren't the only ones with pre-war science fiction ray guns. Germany got in on that game as well.

"To comrade Stalin
January 1st, 1935

INO GUGB received the following information about military preparations in Germany.
  1. Recently, in all German newspapers, a story was published about the emergency landing of three Polish aircraft on their territory because of fog.
    The real reason for this is not fog at all. In October of 1934, a Polish military delegation arrived in Berlin, which observed secret military inventions. A device for halting cars was demonstrated on the Berlin-Zossen highway, where there is a special device for turning off aircraft engines remotely from the ground. The Poles sent three of their airplanes to test this, which were taken down next to Elbing. In Elbing, antennas are installed openly for the purpose of taking down airplanes with ultrasonic waves.
    Because of this, Germany is racing to replace their aircraft engines with diesel engines.
  2. In Heilsberg, underground fortifications are being dug, and heavy weapons are being installed.
  3. Schichau plants are producing large amounts of barbed wire, grenades, and shell casings. Light military ships are also being built there.
  4. In Pillau, there are underground storage facilities for oil and fuel that can completely supply the German fleet and aircraft in the Baltic.
  5. Locks and dams in East Prussia can cause flooding of a large area, if necessary.
  6. From November 15th, 1934 to February 15th, 1935, the Reichswehr is in full battle readiness. All leave taking place in this period has been cancelled.
Deputy Chief of the INO GUGB, Berman"

Stalin responds: 

  1. Give all surplus in the NKO's budget to SNK, in order to:
    1. Create an airplane diesel motor as soon as possible.
    2. Invent a device to stop cars and bring down aircraft as soon as possible."
Of course, Germany had no such beam weapon, and Soviet experiments with diesel engines (at least for tanks) predate 1935 (the first diesel engine was installed on a BT-2 in 1933), but this is an amusing anecdote nevertheless. 


  1. Which corresponds nicely with the rumor, which R V Jones describes, about a German device that could stall car engine. What happened was that the Germans, at the time, had experimented with radio beam navigation for their air force. Rumor was created by the necessity to turn off car engines while the measurements were taken, since the spark plugs could interfere with radio emission. The guards were posted on the roads near the research facility and they would stop the traffic on the nearby country road for the duration of the experiment (half an hour at most). As the story went from one person to another, the sequence of the events got changed and British intelligence got the news of a machine that could stop the internal combustion engine. Seems that the story was really widespread.I can recommend to his book "Most Secret War: British Scientific Intelligence 1939-1945". Quite interesting reading, that one, thought it has nothing to do with tanks, I'm afraid.

  2. Its possible to kill petrol engines with electro magnetic pulse weaponry, so I would not be surprised if the Soviets figured out something.

  3. But if it could be done with 1930s technology at all, you'd think that all the forces would have developed some version by 1939, or the early '40s in the case of the US, and used it.

    However this notion that "death rays" could, if not vaporize objects or kill human targets, at any rate stop spark-ignition engines, was very much "in the air" in the 1930s; if I recall correctly, in Churchill's series of WWII memoirs in the first volume, he discusses the origins of British radar development as beginning with an investigation of this possibility. Quickly giving up on the idea of shutting down overflying airplanes, they did realize that the echo of their radio beams would be a useful thing to track, leading to Chain Home and the gradually more sophisticated radars of the war years. But it started with "death rays;" I have to wonder now whether the German development of radar had a similar origin. Certainly that would be more gratifying to Hitler one would think!