Japan’s top-secret weapon inspired by Tesla’s “Death Ray”
One of the most brilliant scientists of all times, Nikola Tesla, was one of the first to claim to have built a “death ray” weapon. He called his weapon “Teleforce” and it wasn’t designed to use any kind of rays but to project microscopic, electrically-charged particles. In the late 1930s, as Japan was preparing for the war, General Yamamoto was looking for a weapon that could give him an advantage over the United States. For this purpose, he sought out one of the most prominent Japanese physicists, Yoji Ito, from the Naval Technology Research Institute. Ito had spent several years in Germany studying the development of the atomic bomb and magnetrons, giving him the required knowledge to build such a weapon. After studying Tesla’s design, Ito and two other physicists, Maso Kotani and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, came to the same conclusion as their American counterparts: it was impossible to create a station that could produce so much energy. For that reason, Ito and his team turned to what they already had. Microwaves! In 1940, the Japanese had already been working on magnetrons as part of their radar research. Ito decided that they should make a bigger, much more powerful magnetron. This magnetron would emit a high-power beam of very short radio waves that could cause either psychological or physiological problems to enemy soldiers and even death. Ito also believed that the same principle could cause internal combustion engines to stop. Japanese officials thought that the project could be promising. They invested 2 million yen into it which, in 1940, was around half a million US dollars. The whole project was put under the control of General Sueyoshi Kusaba. A brand new laboratory was established at Shimada, Shiyuoka Prefecture. The weapon was codenamed Ku-Go. For five and a half years, the Japanese conducted experiments on animals as well as on car and airplane engines. In the first trial, Ku-Go was put up against a rabbit at the distance of 98.4 feet (30 meters). The rabbit died after it was exposed to microwaves for ten minutes. Experiments involving monkeys were not possible, as the Japanese had problems finding one at that time. Plans were made in 1945 to build a new weapon consisting of four magnetrons with the output power of 250 to 300 kilowatts with a dipole antenna and 10-meter reflector. Japanese physicists calculated that such a weapon would take ten minutes to kill a rabbit at a distance of 62 miles (1 kilometer). However, the situation on the Pacific front and the capitulation of Imperial Japan stopped all further research. The project might have shown the potential to eventually produce a “death ray” weapon, but it was still far from complete in 1945.