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Entries in WWI (4)

Wednesday
Aug032011

Doughboys become "iron boys" to fight wars of the future (1926)

Between 1918 end of World War I and the 1939 start of World War II, American newspapers sometimes ran stories about how robots would battle in wars of the future. Still shaken from the incredible death toll of World War I, people hoped for a time when robots would fight in the place of humans. Sometimes this was imagined as something to ensure that only your side wouldn't see casualties, but other articles predicted a time when wars would simply be decided by whatever nation's robots could conquer that of another nation's robots, leaving no human casulaties.

The December 25, 1926 San Antonio Light ran this illustration of the robot soldier of the future. The illustration is based on an unnamed mechanical man with RUR emblazoned on its chest. R.U.R., of course being the name of the play by Karel Capek that introduced the word "robot" to the English speaking world in 1921. The caption explains that doughboys of the future (a term for American soldiers fighting in WWI) might be called iron boys if they're one day replaced by robots.

Possibly in some grim war of the future the doughboy will have become the "iron boy." The army has enlisted its first mechanical man "Private Robot," and put him to work at Aberdeen proving grounds.

 

Friday
Jan212011

The Trench Destroyer (1917)

This chilling image from the height of World War I appeared on the February, 1917 cover of Hugo Gernsback's The Electrical Experimenter. The excerpt below is from Yesterday's Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future by Joseph Corn and Brian Horrigan.

The design of this mobile dreadnaught, with its steel-tired, spoked wheels, suggests that its inventor may have been influenced by agricultural tractors or perhaps an amusement park Ferris wheel. The trench destroyer also embodies the common goal of military visionaries: maximum offensive power with total defensive security.

 Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Monday
Sep282009

When Wars Are Fought With Robot Soldiers (1935)

The idea that robot soldiers would inevitably replace human troops pops up repeatedly in newspapers of the 1930s. The emergence of humanoid robots, however primitive, lent themselves to people thinking about the human toll of the first World War and how it might be avoided in future wars.

This article from the July 28, 1935 San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX) features illustrations from artist Erik Nitsche depicting robots with machine guns for heads, robot scouts with movie camera faces, a twenty-five tube robot military band, and even a robot hospital for the repair of robot soldiers. An excerpt appears below.

Erik Nitsche, a distinguished European artist, has looked into the future of a century from now and has made a series of remarkable prophetic pictures of a war fought solely with robot soldiers. The majority of them were drawn exclusively for The American Weekly and appear on this page.

Instead of the human machine gunners, crouched in their emplacements, waiting for the mangling shell to end them, there is a steel encased mechanism. The most important organ to the machine gunner, without which his hands would be useless, are his eyes. Nitsche's robot machine gunner's head is the gun itself. His eyes are in the heads of those who by television and radio direct his fire. he crawls forward, his human masters miles away, striving to direct the deadly stream into the mechanical vitals of the enemy's robots.

Patrol work was desperately dangerous in the last war. But a flying robot, equipped with motion picture and sound recording machines, could dart and hover over the enemy with no danger to human life -- and bring back vastly more accurate observations. When a human soldier gets a bullet in his heart, or in his liver or has himself partly blown to pieces, that is the end of that soldier. Not so with the robot. A new heart can be put in him as easily, almost, as changing a tire. Doctors were notoriously insufficient in the World War, and they found their tasks unpleasantly dangerous in the future, Mr. Nitsche thinks war robot doctors will attend to the injuries of robot soldiers. There will also be hospitals where all the equipment will be mechanical, reeking no more of blood and antiseptics but of machine oil.

Previously on Paleo-Future:

 

Monday
Jul022007

Looks for Era of Brotherhood (1923)

Winifred G. Hedenberg laments the brutality of WWI in the February 12, 1923 Bridgeport Telegram (Bridgeport, Connecticut) article "Thinking Men and Women Predict Problems of World Century Hence."

The year 2022 will see a world reverted back to barbarism if another war on the scale of the so-called World War takes place within the next fifty years; but it will be a degenerate type of savagery, with man killing his fellows at sight. None of the noble traits of the American Indian will be found in the 2022 type of savage.

On the other hand, if no major conflicts take place between nations I believe 2022 will see an era of universal brotherhood, where poverty, wars, famines, the Republican Party and other like afflictions will be unknown. Prisons as we know them to-day will have vanished. I believe by that time no person will have any reason for theft or the minor crimes responsible for filling our jails to-day.

See also:
Gigantic Robots to Fight Our Battles (Fresno Bee, 1934)
Thinking Men and Women Predict Problems of World Century Hence (1923)
Pictures Stately Edifices (1923)
Thinks We'll Do Our Reading on Screen (1923)
Work Days of Two Hours (1923)
United States a British Colony (1923)