First off, let's start by saying that the concept of a death ray is just that - a concept.
While it's true that we could have someone stand in front of a super hot laser beam stream and be killed by it, but as of yet, no one has turned it into a real weapon.
The same holds true for a death ray.
Nikola Tesla, one of the most brilliant men (generic) to have ever walked upon this planet claimed he had invented a death ray back in the 1930s.
Tesla so-called death ray was known as teleforce, and was supposedly invented in the 1930s…. and claims that continued until his death in 1943. Sure… but you know that if it existed, the American military would have swooped in and appropriated it… and surely after 75+ years we would have seen it in action in some myriad form.
Then there was the supposed connection regarding Telsa having created and tested a death ray in 1908 Siberia over an area known as Tunguska. You can read about that HERE.
While Tesla is the most famous, inventor Edwin R. Scott of San Francisco supposedly invented a death ray that could kill a person as easily as take down an aeroplane (airplane) with ground to air accuracy. This was 1923.
Harry Grindell Matthews tried to sell the British Air Ministry a death ray in 1924 but obviously failed in his attempts to give them a working model.
And then there was Antonio Longoria who in 1934 said he had a death ray that could kill pigeons from four miles away, though I have no idea why anyone would want to do that.
The only functioning death ray I ever saw was in the movie serials and Big Little Books of the 1930s - usually revolving around Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. I used to own all the Buck Rogers Big Little Books, and a few of the Flash Gordon comic books. If you were a kid in the 1930s, this was cooler than cool.
|I think this is the 1934 edition. I bought all of them in the 1990s when the market hadn't caught on to these and sold them by 1999 making a very nice profit.|
|Gotta love the Death Star!|
The Japanese weapon was known as "Ku-go" and involved using microwaves created within a very large magnetron.
According to a tiny news brief from the October 8, 1945 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press, discusses that the Japanese were at the very least trying to create a death ray.
I'm not sure where this information comes from, but some believe that the Japanese began working on their death ray concept as early as 1939 in Noborito (登戸) is a neighborhood in Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa Prefecture near Tokyo.
Okay, let's suppose this is all true... just how far are the Japanese supposed to have got in their quest for death ray dominance?
Well... there's a Japanese physicist named Tomonaga Shin'ichirō (surname first, 朝永 振一郎) who was a major domo in the development of quantum electrodynamics, gaining joining credit for a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965... sharing it with Julian Schwinger and Richard Feynman... the latter a name you might recognize if you watch The Big Bang Theory on television.
Born in Tokyo on March 31, 1906, Tomonaga was the son of Japanese philosopher Tomonaga Sanjūrō (surname first), so it's at least easy to see where he developed his ability to think outside the proverbial box.
He went to Kyoto Imperial University in 1926. One of his under grad classmates, Yukawa Hideki (surname first, 湯川 秀樹), would also win a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1949.
Anyhow, in 1931 after graduate school, Tomonaga joined Nishina Yoshio (仁科 芳雄 , surname first) and his team at the Japanese Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (now known as RIKEN). He was called "the founding father of modern physics research in Japan". Nishina would later lead the efforts of Japan to develop an atomic bomb during World War II.
Then in 1937 Tomonaga worked at Leipzig University in Leipzig, Germany where he worked alongside the famous Werner Heisenberg, a major contributor to quantum mechanics (and as an alias for Walter White on the television show Breaking Bad).
But, when WWII broke out with Germany becoming the major problem starting in 1939, Tomonaga headed back to Japan. There, he completed his thesis on the study of nuclear materials and finished his doctorate at the University of Tokyo.
He was then appointed to a professorship in the Tokyo University of Education (a forerunner of Tsukuba University).
But when Japan became fully embroiled in WWII in December of 1941, Tomonaga began studying the magnetron, meson theory, and began to formulate his own super-many-time theory.
So... at least Tomonaga's research and the Japanese death ray project focus line up.
Apparently Tomonaga's team had built a magnetron measuring 20 centimeters (eight inches) in diameter with an output of 100kW.
According to someone else, that if this was the energy output, the ku-go death ray might have been able to kill a rabbit 1,000 yards (914.4 meters) away, but only if the rabbit stood still for five minutes.
But what is a magnetron?
Now called a cavity magnetron, it is a high-powered vacuum tube that generates microwaves using the interaction of a stream of electrons with a magnetic field while moving past a series of open metal cavities (cavity resonators).
Sure... but what we can determine is that this technology is now used in microwave ovens in the home... and yeah, one of those things could kill someone, as it cooks from the inside out meaning a person would boil their insides before exploding outwards.
What's brown and bubbly and knocks on the window?
A baby in a microwave.
Welcome to the stoopidist jokes kids created back in the late 1970s back when those type of jokes were making the round. Sadly 40+ years haven't dulled the memory.
The point of all this is that the Japanese did not have anything close to resembling a death ray weapon during the 1940s...
However, the United States Navy does posses its own Laser Weapon System (LaWS).
Its full name is the AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System or XN-1 LaWS, and is a directed-energy weapon - making it akin to a death ray.
The Navy installed it on the USS Ponce—an Austin-class amphibious transport—for field testing in 2014.
In December 2014, the United States Navy reported that the LaWS system worked perfectly against low-end asymmetric threats, and that the commander of the USS Ponce is authorized to use the system as a defensive weapon.
Take a look at the CNN video below:
WHOOPS - They blocked me... whatever...
You can go to the Wikipedia page for Laser Weapon System (HERE) and look at the second image on the right - a video that may show a better example of the laser system on the USS Ponce.
So... 70 years later, we have a working example of a death ray or as the US Navy calls it - a defensive weapon.
Sorry Tesla. Sorry Ku-go.