Yankee Ingenuity Vs. Hitler! (Aug, 1941)

<< Previous
1 of 7
<< Previous
1 of 7

Yankee Ingenuity Vs. Hitler!

by Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson

Noted Military Expert. Author of “America Can Win” and “Battleshield of the Republic.”

AT THE precise moment that Herr Adolf Hitler finds himself actually face to face with an American fighting machine, the Fuehrer, who has some little reputation as a wizard of war surprises himself, is going to get the surprise of his life.

For Mr. Hitler’s war plans have not taken account of one intangible in the complex which is America: Yankee ingenuity!

For more than 150 years, American ingenuity has lead the advance of science—not only in peace pursuits, but especially in the art of war.

The record shows that always, in the pinch, the Yankee has come through with some new and startling weapon or war method.

For America has been built upon imagination, adaptiveness and mental agility. The continent was first peopled by adventurous souls who dared to look over awesome horizons and push into the unknown. The Nation was made by revolutionary thinkers. It became the wealthiest in the world by developing a new race of men: a race of traders and tinkerers with an original and inventive turn of mind—the same type of people who today make up the readers of Mechanix Illustrated.

Pessimists and cynics have been saying that America can’t do it—that the spirit that built America and made it rich beyond dreams is dead. The pessimists and cynics, however, haven’t any lathes or workbenches of their own; they don’t putter in the basement; they have lost touch with the real people of America, the people who still actually do things with their brains and their hands. These people know that America can do it!

What does the record show A quick glance at American history reveals this panorama:

A band of Revolutionary soldiers making a forced march through the forests, spreading out as skirmishers behind trees and bushes and routing the precision trained, solid-marching ranks of Europe’s best army—a new-tactic so startling that British generals complained bitterly of it, declaring it was “unfair”!

In 1836, Samuel Colt produces the famous revolver “that won the west,” with standarized ammunition—changing all concepts of side-arms.

On March 9, 1862, the Monitor and the Merrimac meet in Hampton Roads, Va., and not only blasted each other—but also blasted every other warship in the world. They were the first armored battleships in history and their engagement rendered all the wooden battleships in the world immediately obsolete.

In 1861, Dr. Richard Gatling invents a rapid firing gun, the Gatling gun—and makes all the military theories on fire power archaic.

In 1895, Charles Duryea builds what is generally conceded to be the first successful automobile—and paves the way for all the mechanized armies of today.

Shortly before the turn of the century, Simon Lake and J. P. Holland produce the first successful submarines—a weapon with which the Germans very nearly won the last wa r

In 1903. the Wrights fly their first airplane—the precursor of the Luftwaffe. In the early 1900’s, Benjamin Holt conceives the catepillar tread for a tractor—! making possible the panzer divisions of today.

In 1912, an American, Captain Berry, makes the first parachute jump from an airplane—and foreshadowed the modern ‘chute troops.

This is only a peep-show panorama of the military advances which have been made possible through American ingenuity. There have been dozens of others — barbed wire, to mention one more. Americans produce more than 50,000 patents a year. Among them have been thousands upon thousands of military improvements. It can safely be said that any major military mechanism existing today can be traced directly or indirectly to American technical cleverness.

It can certainly be said, without danger of argument, that none of the war machines of today would be in existence had it not been for the exclusively American development of mass production.

The American Navy invented dive-bombing, just as the Army invented parachute troops—later adopted by the Russians. America has produced what is undoubtedly the most accurate bomb-sight in the world. Air-cooled radial motors on which today’s bombing planes depend for power, smokeless powder, machine guns, automatic rifles —they are all American. The pessimists argue that all of this is in the past—a dead chapter. They declare that Americans have waited too long: war is upon us, and nothing has been done.

The record shows, however, that the same charge has always been made in the past; that America works best under pressure; that America plows the earth, minding its own business, until the Redskins shoot their arrows out of the woods, and America then seizes its musket and fights exactly as hard as she works!

When Herr Hitler puts on the heat, then America will produce!

What shape will Yankee inventiveness take?

Only the great American mind, itself, can answer that question. Whatever shape it may take, it will certainly be unique, and probably fantastic sounding in the light of our present ideas. Every other great military innovation in the past has sounded fantastic to the traditional military mind of the time. If we had been told six months ago that an attempt would be made to land an invading army across waters by means of airplane gliders, our traditional military men would have scoffed at the idea. Yet witness the affair in Crete only recently!

In view of the fantastic developments of the present war, one may be permitted to speculate.

Consider the possibility of bat-man troops! It’s a weird sounding idea. The bat-man stunt was first developed by American trick parachute jumpers at air shows here several years ago. The bat-man equips himself with a set of diving wings attached to his arms, and with a quick-opening parachute. He jumps from a plane, spreads his arm-wings and dives toward the earth. The arm-wings enable him to check the speed of his fall and, more important, to control the direction of his fall. Near the earth, he opens his parachute for the final descent.

The bat-man idea, adapted to military purposes, would solve two of the greatest problems which confront parachute troops in their present form. The first weak spot in parachute troop maneuvers is the fact that airmen are highly vulnerable to enemy fire when coming down the 400 to 500 feet required for a ‘chute to open vertically. Equipped with bat-wings, the ‘chute soldier could flatten out in flight a comparatively short distance above earth, release his parachute and allow it to open while he was in a glide of perhaps 30 degrees. In this manner, the time he would be left helpless, dangling from his shrouds, would be cut down materially.

A second weakness of parachute troops lies in the fact that, under present methods, due to the spaced interval necessary at which the jumpers leave their plane, troops come to earth scattered out all over the terrain. Precious tactical minutes are lost as the troopers assemble on the ground. With bat-wings, on the other hand, the ‘chutists, being able to control the direction of their dives, could assemble in loose formations while still in the air and land in much closer groups.

Here are a few devices which seem to be indicated, on the basis of experience in the present war:

An efficient invasion barge, equipped with heavy guns capable of covering landing movements on the beaches.

A new type of really heavy torpedo, loaded with enough explosive to annihilate a battleship, and so constructed that it can be accurately steered to its objective by human hands. The artist has sketched a possible solution: a small torpedo boat mounted directly on such a huge missile, which could roar at great speed into the midst of an enemy formation, release its deadly load, automatically detach itself from the torpedo, end speed away.

An effective aircraft detector. Accompanying this article, the artist has given his conception of such a weapon. It involves the use of ultra short wave radio beams which sweep the sky and, hitting an aircraft, “bounce back” to the detector. Anti-aircraft guns are mounted in the detector and are automatically aimed and fired by the reflected radio beams.

Some type of radio controlled, moving land mine, as suggested in the illustrations. Loaded with a terrific explosive charge, it could be directed at night against fixed fortifications such as the Siegfried Line.

Perhaps most important, a new system of field maps for the use of staff headquarters in land operations. The swiftness of tank and plane movements in the field have rendered all former systems of operations maps archaic. It was the experience of French and English staffs during the swift-moving battle of Flanders which ended in the rout at Dunkirk, that information radioed to them from observation planes on the movements of panzer columns was obsolete by the time it was set down on staff maps four or five minutes later.

The artist has pictured a possible solution to this problem: a television field map! Observation planes carry aloft portable televisors and broadcast the image of moving tank columns back to field headquarters, where they are picked up by correlated receivers and the staff officers are presented with an actual, living picture of the operations in progress!

These are only a few possible directions which Yankee ingenuity may take to surprise and out-trick a foe.

The important point to be made is that faith in American inventive genius must not be lost. The evidence of its strength and power is before us. Whatever the outcome may be, Herr Hitler, at the moment he faces the Yankees, is in for some unpleasant surprises!

  1. Firebrand38 says: December 13, 20079:05 am

    It’s amazing how he got just about everything wrong. Postwar the United States was knocking itself out trying to adopt German ingenuity.

    As a former paratrooper the “bat-man suits” really cracks me up. Although they foreshadow today’s squirrel suits http://www.youtube.com/… I can’t even imagine the chaos of even a rifle company of soldiers “flying” over a drop zone.

    This is the guy who in 1922 wrote a book defending the viability of horse cavalry. For the interested it’s available online at google books http://books.google.com…

    After his service he started a company that eventually became DC Comics (home of Superman and Batman) http://en.wikipedia.org…

  2. Slim says: December 13, 200710:19 am

    Yes, it’s all baloney. But think of it as a pep talk at a time when the U.S. needed one.

    I loved the phrase ” America plows the earth, minding its own business, until the Redskins shoot their arrows out of the woods, and America then seizes its musket and fights exactly as hard as she works!”. Apparently he didn’t consider Indians as American.

  3. Firebrand38 says: December 13, 200711:21 am

    In fact, the “radio controlled, moving land mine” was developed by the Germans after a French example was captured http://en.wikipedia.org…

    He also perpetuates one of my pet peeves; that whole “Monitor versus Merrimac” nonsense.

  4. jayessell says: December 13, 200711:56 am

    No props for the radar steered anti-aircraft gun?
    Didn’t the Japanese have a Kamakize torpedo?
    (I know a radio commentator of the era said they did.)
    (and I saw it in a Republic serial.)

  5. jmyint says: December 13, 200712:32 pm

    The Allies (notably the US and UK) far exceded the Axis in medical, electronic, material, and manufacturing technology. The jet engines manufactured by Rolls Royce were far superior to the engines made by the Germans as far as thrust and durability.

    The German military depended upon horses throughout the war and it was this dependence on horses that lost them Russia.

    Yes the Japanese did develop a suicide torpedo, the kaiten. There was only one ship confirmed to have been sunk by kaitens. The has been speculation that the USS Indianapolis was also sunk by kaitens though the captain of the submarine that did it denied it.

  6. Firebrand38 says: December 13, 20071:19 pm

    I think that it could be argued that there were more causes of the German defeat in Russia than a dependence on horses. I’d like to see a source or reference for that notion.

    Put me in the camp of those who favor the theory that the US exceeded the Axis in plain old manufacturing causing the Germans to run out of anti-tank shells before we ran out of tanks.

    Side by side comparisons of jet thrust are hardly to the point as well. Following that the C-5 Galaxy with 43,000 pounds of thrust per engine would be “superior” to the British Gloster Meteor and The Me262.

    I will say that the British Roll’s Royce engines were used in planes that shot down V-1 buzz bombs while the Me262 actually shot down Allied planes. So a lot of it has to do with how you actually use hardware as well.

  7. Neil Russell says: December 13, 20073:35 pm

    FB38, I take it your peeve involves not calling it the “Virginia” 🙂

    I’d take issue with the Colt revolver of 1836, since it was a cap and ball affair it didn’t exactly “standardize” ammunition. The flip down trigger didn’t win a lot of fans either. Now a case could actually be made for the SAA of 1873 but that debate has raged for years.

    And other than using manpower rather than some sort of artificial propulsion there was a “successful” (ok, up to the point of sinking!) submarine utilized in warfare by the Confederate Navy when the CSS Hunley sunk the Housatonic in Charleston Harbor.

    Hardly modern, but it did sink a ship. And it’s still around

  8. Firebrand38 says: December 13, 20074:12 pm

    Correct! When Charlie holds our first annual MM Bloggers convention I’ll buy you a drink. The USS Merrimac burned to the waterline and the CSS Virginia was built on it’s corpse. I rank that up theer with “I could care less” and “The proof is in the pudding”, but I digress.

    Good point on the cap and ball. His revolver was arguably more famous for using interchangeable parts than for somehow “standardizing” ammo.

    And just for due diligence, the German Goliath was of course cable and NOT radio controlled.

  9. jmyint says: December 13, 20075:16 pm
  10. Firebrand38 says: December 13, 20075:44 pm

    Yeah, like that. But your reference lists horses as one of several logistical failures. Giving a single reason like that for defeat to me is like saying the only reason that the US won is because we issued the M-1 rifle. It’s more complicated than that.

    Keep in mind that article was the opinion of the officer writing it. Here is an article that blames Nazi ideology http://www.loyno.edu/~h… and here is a monograph from the Army War College that blames the planning process http://handle.dtic.mil/…

    The stormbirds link was fascinating, but I saw a comparison with the P-51 and not anything with Rolls-Royce engines.

  11. Neil Russell says: December 13, 20076:00 pm

    FB, when you said “Giving a single reason like that for defeat to me is like saying the only reason that the US won is because we issued the M-1 rifle” it gave me a start, and of course I’m not arguing with it. What struck me is that I used to converse with an elderly fellow here in our little town that had been in the German service and on the Russian front and it was his position that one of the determining factors that led to defeat was that they didn’t issue rifles that fired the 8mm Kurz round.

    Completely different contexts of course but you never know what will cause a synapse to fire!

    And to your list of annoyances add “mano y mano” especially since the person saying it never mean hands!

    Oh yeah, and make that gin martini, straight up, extra dry, twist of lemon.
    And I’ll spot the second round

  12. Firebrand38 says: December 13, 20076:33 pm

    Done! Now it’s up to Charlie!

  13. Charlie says: December 13, 20078:01 pm

    MM Blog Con, sounds like fun. Incredibly dorky fun, but fun nonetheless. The only commenter on this blog I’ve actually met is Stannous. Simone and I took an awesome tour he gives of the Haight in SF.

    Where do all of you live anyway? I’m in Oceanside, CA. Near San Diego.

  14. Firebrand38 says: December 13, 20078:02 pm

    Kennesaw, GA

  15. Neil Russell says: December 13, 20079:36 pm

    Way down south in the land of bumpkins; Statesboro, GA

  16. jayessell says: December 14, 200711:57 am

    Chester, NY, USA

    FB38… I haven’t read the article, but I think allocating limited rail resources to the “Final Solution” over the transport of munitions might have shown misplaced priorities.

  17. Emcha says: December 16, 20077:09 pm

    “…television field map with observation planes broadcasting the image…”

    Systems like this were actually built and tested during the war:



    Tracked landing barge reminds me of good old LVTs:


    “…the Fuehrer, who has some little reputation as a wizard of war surprises himself, is going to get the surprise of his life.”

    And he certainly was surprised!

  18. Firebrand38 says: December 16, 20079:47 pm

    The battlefield TV systems may have been built and tested but not deployed to my knowledge.

    And “archaic” though they were we still manage to blunder our way to victory without television field maps.

    The Baird airplane system of the 1930’s is probably what inspired his “pedictions” in 1941. This too didn’t get deployed.

    I still say that the good Major still got more wrong than right.

  19. Emcha says: December 17, 20076:05 am

    “This too didn’t get deployed.”

    But the technology was there. This goes to show that his ideas weren’t so wrong afteral.

    And they even developed AND deployed electro-optical glide bomb in 1944.


    “Some type of radio controlled, moving land mine…”

    NDRC developed some kind of remote-controlled mineroller called Tricycle during the war. Never deployed AFAIK but still interesting device.

    “I still say that the good Major still got more wrong than right.”

    It would seem that similar ideas got at least some attention.

  20. Firebrand38 says: December 17, 20075:38 pm

    And following your TV drone link we find “In retrospect, the Aphrodite concept was a costly failure, and was often more dangerous to the crews which operated the drones than it was to the Germans. It turned out that the hardware available in 1944 was simply not good enough to do the kind of job that was required.”

    So once again, gadgets were a distraction and we won the war in spite of (and not because of them)…but you knew that.

    I’m surprised that he didn’t “predict” Pykrete or the Christie Flying Tank http://www.roadabletime…

    “But the technology was there. This goes to show that his ideas weren’t so wrong afteral.” As I said and I’m sure that you read, since he was writing in 1941 for a 1939-40 Baird aerial TV system I’d hardly venture to call it “his” idea.

  21. Emcha says: December 18, 200710:57 am

    I wouldn’t even expect this kind of new pioneering technology to make a difference but they had prototypes and/or actually fielded weapons.

    GB-4 glide bombs were not much of a success either but they were the way of the future.


    “…in spite of (and not because of them)…but you knew that.”

    Exactly. But my intention was to show that these ideas were not totally hopeless.

    “As I said and I’m sure that you read, since he was writing in 1941 for a 1939-40 Baird aerial TV system I’d hardly venture to call it “his” idea.”

    But i can’t be sure that he was even aware of this early system. And then there was that experimental Blitzkrieg TV…

    As you see there were other things similar to what he had considered: Goliaths, Landing Vehicle Tracked and so on.

  22. Firebrand38 says: December 19, 20078:31 am

    I don’t know why you are such a fan of this guy. He’s about as reliable as Nostradamus or Sylvia Brown.

    Once again, he was talking about the then next war with Hitler and not when GPS cruise missile technology was developed.

    This discussion has pretty much turned pointless so I’ll be moving along.

  23. Emcha says: December 19, 20071:35 pm

    “I don’t know why you are such a fan of this guy.”

    Neither do i. I have never claimed to be his fan.

    “…as reliable as Nostradamus…he was talking about the then next war with Hitler and not when GPS cruise missile technology was developed.”

    So it WAS actually pretty prophetic, wasn’t it? Heheh….

    “This discussion has pretty much turned pointless…”

    I fully agree with that!

Submit comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.