Civil War Flying Machines?

During the Civil War, the Confederate States of America invented and deployed a number of secret weapons against Union forces. They created the the first steam-powered ironclad warship and built the H.L. Hunley, the first combat submarine to successfully sink an enemy vessel. But the strangest secret weapon of all was the one they didn’t create…just how close did the Confederacy come to building its own Air Force?

Civil War Planes?

On Dec. 17, 1903, the Wright brothers made what is often considered “the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight.” It wasn’t until the Italo-Turkish War in 1911 that aircraft were first used for military purposes. However, if one man had his way, both those achievements would’ve been reached decades earlier.

In 1863, R. Finley Hunt was a dentist by trade. But he exhibited an unusual “passion for flight.” During the Civil War, both sides used balloons to perform aerial reconnaissance. Hunt envisioned something more dramatic…nothing less than full-blown “Flying Machines” raining terror down on Union forces.

Hunt prepared “pencil drawings of wings, propellers, and a multi-cylinder steam engine” and contacted CSA President Jefferson Davis. But Confederate engineers doubted the feasibility of the project, especially the ability of a steam engine to keep the plane aloft. They also described another error as “so obvious on reflection that no discussion is required.” As far as I’ve been able to determine, the nature of this error remains unknown.

Hunt continued to seek an audience and even requested the temporary assistance of one N. Hays, who was apparently an accomplished armory machinist. However, Hays was too valuable to be spared and ultimately, the Confederacy passed on the project.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Hunt’s plans recently surfaced at a rare book dealer’s shop. They are being auctioned by RR Auction with a minimum bid of $1,000. Here’s the preview page for “Civil War Airplanes.”

After the war, Hunt traveled to Washington D.C. and received a patent for his invention. He proceeded to build a few working models of his Flying Machine. However, he was short on financing and his creation never got off the ground, so to speak.

“It’s incredible for someone who loves early aviation, because it poses the great question of ‘What if? What if planes had appeared above the wilderness when [Union general Ulysses S.] Grant began his campaign in the Shenandoah Valley?” ~ Bobby Livingston, RR Auction, Vice President of Sales and Marketing

I hope that whoever buys this piece of history uses the plans to reconstruct the Flying Machine. For all we know, Hunt was far ahead of his time. If it had worked and had been put into production, the Civil War might’ve ended in a far different manner than it did.

The Last Secrets of World War I?

On April 19, 2011, the Central Intelligence Agency declassified six secret documents from 1917 and 1918. These were America’s oldest classified documents and believed to be the last of their kind from World War I. So, what great secrets could possibly require nearly a century of security? Political intrigue? Government conspiracy? Something even worse?

Secret Documents…from World War I?

Not in the least bit. According to the official press release, the secret documents, which you can find here, “describe secret writing techniques.” Or, to put it more plainly, they describe how to create invisible ink as well as “a method for opening sealed letters without detection.”

Have you ever wanted to secretly open an envelope, World War I-style? Well, here’s your opportunity.

“Mix 5 drams copper acetol arsenate. 3 ounces acetone and add 1 pint amyl alcohol (fusil-oil). Heat in water bath — steam rising will dissolve the sealing material of its mucilage, wax or oil.”

Oh, but don’t forget this part.

“Do not inhale fumes.”

Why all the Secrecy over Outdated Secret Documents?

I have to admit that the secret documents provide some interesting insights into the national security concerns of the time. One paper exposes Germany’s secret formula for invisible ink. Another one provides 50 ways for U.S. postal inspectors to detect invisible ink.

“The rule is to suspect or examine every possible thing. The war between the spy or forger and the expert is continually bringing out new methods.” ~ Theodore Kytka, Handwriting Expert

Still, I can’t help but wonder why the CIA chose to keep this material classified for nearly a hundred years. Recipes for invisible ink are easy to find and anyways, would any spy dare to use such an outdated technique?

According to the CIA, the answer is apparently yes. In 1999, “the agency rejected a Freedom of Information Act request to release the six documents, asserting that doing so ‘could be expected to damage the national security.'” A similar request was rejected in 2002.So, what changed? Well, a CIA spokeswoman claimed that “in recent years, the chemistry of making secret ink and the lighting used to detect it has greatly improved.”

“These documents remained classified for nearly a century until recent advancements in technology made it possible to release them. When historical information is no longer sensitive, we take seriously our responsibility to share it with the American people.” ~ Leon E. Panetta, CIA Director

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

One of the secret documents revealed that America knew the secret to creating Germany’s invisible ink. I guess the German Empire will have to switch recipes going forward. Anyways, the CIA has long been considered one of the world’s most secretive organizations. From where I stand, the delayed release of these extremely outdated documents does nothing to change that reputation.

“Invisible ink was rendered obsolete by digital encryption long ago, not in the last few years. Director Panetta is attempting to rationalize the CIA’s irrational information policies, but there is no known basis for his claim.” ~ Steve Aftergood, The Federation for American Scientists

Well, I suppose we can be happy that these secret documents have finally been released. Now, we can move on to the next batch. What’s next on the list of oldest still-classified documents? Anyone?

President Lincoln’s Greatest Nemesis?

If you were to ask the typical American about President Abraham Lincoln’s greatest enemy, he or she would most likely answer with Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederate States of America. But recent scholarship suggests that Lincoln faced a far more hated enemy much closer to home…Judge Roger Taney, the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. In 1861, Lincoln’s hatred of Taney nearly exploded into a Constitutional crisis of epic proportions.

Judge Roger Taney versus President Lincoln?

On May 25, 1861, a Confederate sympathizer named John Merryman was arrested and charged with treason. He petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus, a judicial order forcing the Union Army to appear before a judge and justify his imprisonment. Judge Roger Taney granted the writ.

But General George Cadwalader refused, stating that he was under no obligation to do so since President Lincoln had ordered the suspension of habeas corpus. This led to the famous Ex parte Merryman ruling, in which Judge Taney stated that only Congress had the power to suspend habeas corpus.

“And if the President of the United States may suspend the writ, then the Constitution of the United States has conferred upon him more regal and absolute power over the liberty of the citizen than the people of England have thought it safe to entrust to the Crown–a power which the Queen of England cannot exercise at this day, and which could not have been lawfully exercised by the sovereign even in the reign of Charles the First.” ~ Judge Taney, Ex parte Merryman

President Lincoln orders Roger Taney’s Arrest?

The judgment was an embarrassing repudiation to President Lincoln and Confederate sympathizers seized upon it as an example of Lincoln’s tyranny. In either May or June 1861, President Lincoln’s anger inspired him to call for the arrest of Judge Roger Taney.

“After due consideration the administration determined upon the arrest of the Chief Justice. A warrant or order was issued for his arrest. Then arose the question of service. Who should make the arrest and where should the imprisonment be? This was done by the President with instructions to use his own discretion about making the arrest unless he should receive further orders from him.” ~ Ward Hill Lamon

According to his own words, Ward Hill Lamon, who was a friend and bodyguard to President Lincoln as well as a United States Marshall, was given the warrant and ordered to arrest Roger Taney. Strangely though, the warrant was never served.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Nobody knows for sure why Lamon never followed through with the arrest. President Lincoln certainly wasn’t above arresting his political opponents, as the cases of Clement Vallandigham and Judge Merrick have shown. But we do know that the two men continued their bitter feud over Lincoln’s efforts to curtail civil liberties for several additional years.

I should point out that Lamon is the sole primary source for this story. Interestingly enough, most current Lincoln scholars consider it ridiculous. They dismiss Lamon as an alcoholic and point to the fact that he didn’t include the story in any of his published books (which, by the way, are highly treasured by these same scholars). Still, there is some corroborating evidence. Records indicate that Roger Taney himself as well as a colleague named Judge Curtis were aware of the near-imprisonment.

We may never know for certain how close President Lincoln came to arresting Judge Roger Taney. But we can all be thankful that he didn’t follow through on it. The ramifications might have been disastrous.

“It would have destroyed the separation of powers; destroyed the place of the Supreme Court in the Constitutional scheme of government. It would have made the executive power supreme, over all others, and put the President, the military, and the executive branch of government, in total control of American society. The Constitution would have been at an end.” ~ Charles Adams

Bioweapons…during the Revolutionary War?

In 1777, George Washington signed an order to vaccinate his troops for smallpox. While some historians consider this a response to a normal outbreak, others point to a more sinister cause…a biowarfare campaign waged by the British during the Revolutionary War.

Biological Warfare during the Revolutionary War?

According to Wikipedia, Biological warfare is defined as “the deliberate use of disease-causing biological agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, or biological toxins, to kill or incapacitate humans, animals or plants as an act of war.” Biowarfare has a long sordid past. Hittite texts from as far back as 1500-1200 BC report the use of plague victims to spread disease into enemy territory.

According to a recent article entitled, British used Bioweapon in US War of Independence, smallpox was a particularly brutal disease back in the 1700s. In 1776, “more than half of all people caught smallpox at some point, and a third of those died.” Since a proper vaccination was still twenty-two years away, smallpox itself was used to immunize people. By deliberately infecting people with a less deadly strain, doctors managed to reduce casualty rates to just 1-2%.

However, people who had recently received the vaccination were capable of spreading the more deadly strain to others, making them, in effect, human bioweapons. British troops used this method to spread smallpox among North American Indians back in the 1760s and among Boston rebels in 1775. A year later, they supposedly infected prostitutes with smallpox and sent them behind American lines, causing 5,000 casualties.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Clearly, General Washington had reason to fear smallpox outbreaks during the Revolutionary War. It stands to reason that his order to send troops to Philadelphia to receive the primitive vaccination was due, at least in part, to concerns over human bioweapons. Later, he even “set up special clinics to inoculate all new recruits.”

These days, many people glorify the past as a simpler and more noble time. However, Britain’s biowarfare campaign serves as a stark reminder that this just isn’t the case. The weapons were less effective during the Revolutionary War. But the desire to cause mass enemy casualties, both military and civilian, was just as strong as it is today.

Did the Nazi’s build America’s Atomic Bomb?

On May 14, 1945, the U-234 surrendered to the USS Sutton. Subsequently, members of the Sutton sailed the Nazi submarine to Portsmouth Naval Yard near Portsmouth, NH. Upon opening its holds, awe-struck officials quickly covered up and classified details of the U-234’s incredible cargo. But why? What was it carrying?

The Strange Voyage of the U-234

The Nazi’s built the U-234 as a minelaying submarine. Later, it was repurposed into a cargo carrier for long-range missions. As the European theater of World War II came to a close, the Nazi’s decided to send the U-234 to Japan with twelve passengers and two hundred and forty tons of cargo.

On April 15, 1945, the submarine launched from Kristiansand, Norway. On May 4, the U-234 received a partial transmission indicating that Adolf Hitler had died and that Admiral Karl Dönitz had assumed control of Germany. Six days later, the submarine received its last order from Admiral Dönitz. All submarines were to surface, hoist black flags, and surrender to Allied forces.

Believing that he and his crew would receive better treatment from the Americans, Captain Johann-Heinrich Fehler headed west. After learning about his decision, two Japanese passengers committed hari-kiri and were buried at sea.

The U-234’s Shocking Cargo

The surrender of the U-234 became a major news event. This was primarily due to the capture of high-level passengers including General Ulrich Kessler of the Luftwaffe, Kai Nieschling, Dr. Heinz Schlicke, and August Bringewalde. The reporters who fought to catch glimpses of the submarine had no idea that the U-234’s most valuable assets were stored in her cargo holds. So, what was this mysterious cargo?

  • Technical drawings
  • The Nazi’s newest electric torpedoes
  • One crated Me 262 (the world’s first jet-powered fighter)
  • One Henschel Hs 293 glide bomb
  • And last, but not least…five hundred and sixty kilograms of “uranium oxide.”

The exact nature of this “uranium oxide” is one of the greatest mysteries of history. A recently-discovered secret cable message stated that the “uranium oxide” was stored in gold-lined cylinders. Gold, thanks to its radioactive shielding properties, is often used for shipping highly-enriched, pure uranium. Also, one Nazi radio operator who watched these cylinders being loaded onto the U-234 noticed the two Japanese passengers labeling them as “U-235.” U-235 may refer to Uranium-235, the same material used to fuel Little Boy, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Was Nazi Uranium used to build America’s First Atomic Bomb?

Intriguingly, in December 1944, the chief metallurgist at the Los Alamos laboratory indicated that the Manhattan Project would only generate fifteen kilograms of U-235 by May 1945, far short of the 64 kilograms eventually used in the construction of Little Boy. Then, in March 1945, Senator James Byrnes sent a memo to President Roosevelt, indicating his worry that the Manhattan Project would fail. Finally, shortly after the surrender of the U-234, the output of U-235 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory abruptly doubled.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Is it possible that America lucked on a large cache of Nazi uranium, which enabled it to complete its own atomic bomb? It certainly seems possible. And if that’s the case, was the U-234 the only Nazi sub that fled Europe with enriched uranium in its holds? Or were there others…others that might’ve hidden their cargos or sank to the bottom of the ocean…others still waiting to be found?

Did the U.S. test a nuke…on its own citizens?

On July 17, 1944, the Port Chicago Pier exploded into a tremendous fireball. Hundreds died instantly, hundreds more were injured by the blast. Over sixty years later, it remains one of the deadliest disasters in U.S. history. The official explanation is that it was caused by an accidental munition detonation. However, not everyone is convinced. Some point to a far darker conclusion…that the blast was caused by an atomic bomb.

The Port Chicago Pier Explosion?

In 1944, Port Chicago Naval Magazine, now known as the Concord Naval Weapons Station, was a munitions depot in California. It was used to transport bombs, shells, torpedoes, and other explosives to units fighting against Japan. On July 13, the SS E.A. Bryan docked at Port Chicago’s lone pier. After four days of hard work, 40% of the ships’s holds were filled with 4,600 tons of explosives. Then, at 10:18 p.m., all hell broke loose.

An unusual noise described as a metallic sound and rending timbers, such as made by a falling boom, was heard coming from the direction of the pier immediately before the first flash.

A few seconds later, the SS E. A. Bryan exploded into a fireball that measured three miles in diameter. Seismographs determined that this second explosion was equivalent to a 3.4 earthquake on the Richter scale. Three hundred and twenty people died instantly.  Three hundred and ninety others suffered blast-related injuries. The majority of these deaths and injuries occurred to African-Americans. A month later, survivors led a work stoppage, which is now known as the so-called Port Chicago Mutiny.

Did an Atomic Bomb cause the Port Chicago Pier Explosion?

At the time, the explosion was determined to have similar effects to that of a small atomic bomb. But for several decades, no one questioned the official story. Thirty-four years later however, that changed.

In 1980, Peter Vogel discovered some old documents at a rummage sale. They had been stolen from the Los Alamos Laboratories by Paul Masters, a photo technician. Some of the papers discussed the predictions for Trinity, which would end up being the first recorded test of a nuclear weapon in history. These documents predicted a “ball of fire mushroom out at 18,000 (feet) in typical Port Chicago fashion.” Intrigued by the possibility that the Port Chicago disaster was caused by an atomic bomb, Vogel began to gather some of the evidence listed below.

  1. Size of Blast: The blast seemed greater than what could’ve been caused by the official story.
  2. Bright Lights: Descriptions of the explosion refer to “an enormous blinding incandescent” and a “brilliant white.”  Conventional explosives generally do not give off a white color unless mixed with magnesium (which apparently weren’t present at the Pier).
  3. A Strange Cloud: A Wilson condensation cloud appeared after the disaster, similar to an atomic bomb detonated in a vapor-filled atmosphere.
  4. Speed of the Explosion: The seismograph records indicated a rapid explosion that seemed similar in nature to that of an atomic bomb.

Why would the U.S. Government Drop an Atomic Bomb on American Soil?

But why would the U.S. government test a nuclear weapon on its own people? Vogel and others like him believed that the Port Chicago disaster was perpetrated to allow scientists to study the effects of a nuclear explosion on people. In this case, those people included primarily low-ranking, African-American military personnel.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Obviously, this is an explosive charge, so to speak.  So, was Vogel right?  Did a small atomic bomb cause the Port Chicago disaster? Supporting evidence is skimpy at best. Most damning, there are no records of radiation-based injuries amongst the survivors or clean-up crew. That being said, the size and reach of the explosion is somewhat difficult to explain.

Overall, it seems highly unlikely that an atomic bomb caused this explosion. If one hopes to prove otherwise, they will need substantial, hard evidence…far more substantial than that accumulated by Vogel. After all, if he was correct, Port Chicago wasn’t just the site of an atomic bomb test…it was also the site of mass murder.

The Nazi Plot to Bomb America

In the film, Captain America: The First Avenger, the Red Skull (SPOILER ALERT) attempts to attack the United States by flying over it and attacking from the air. While fictional, the plot line bears resemblance to a real-life Nazi plot. What was the mysterious Amerika-Bomber project? And how close did it come to achieving its goal of leaving New York in flames?

The Amerika-Bomber Project?

Even before America’s entrance into World War II, Adolf Hitler was intrigued by the idea of attacking New York City via long-range strategic bombers. On May 12, 1942, a formal plan, coined the Amerika-Bomber Project, was submitted to the Minister of Aviation, Hermann Göring.

The plan was to fly planes to the Azores, refuel, and then take off again, on course for America’s east coast. Along with New York City, the Nazi’s hoped to drop bombs on nineteen strategic American targets and two additional Canadian targets. Most of these targets built aircraft parts so it seems probable that the goal of the Project was to cripple America’s air force capabilities.

Numerous planes were considered for the Project. Ultimately, the Ju 390 (pictured above) was selected for production. However, before it could be produced in mass quantities, the Nazi’s abandoned their efforts.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

While the Amerika-Bomber Project appears feasible in retrospect, it lacked the necessary resources and aircraft parts to become a working operation. Even if it had been green-lit, its ultimate impact on the War would’ve been minimal since Germany lacked the ability to deploy atomic bombs.

The idea of Nazi’s attacking New York City seems fanciful today. And yet, it came close to reality…far too close for comfort. The Amerika-Bomber Project was put into motion, a feasible plan was developed, and an aircraft was selected. Only lack of time and intense Allied bombing raids on the Nazi supply chain kept New York City safe from flames.

(This is the third article in a three part series. Go here for Part I: Captain America and Suspended Animation and here for Part II: The Nazi Super-Soldier Program).

The Nazi Super-Soldier Program

This week’s big movie, Captain America: The First Avenger, features a fictional super-soldier serum developed during World War II. This serum is capable of turning a sickly, small man named Steve Rogers into the physical peak of human perfection known as Captain America. With the world aflame during the 1940’s, the very thought of wielding a force of super-soldiers must’ve gained strong interest from all sides. But did any of the warring nations actually attempt to create a real-life super-soldier serum?

Nazi Super-Soldiers?

The Nazi’s were deeply interested in developing a permanent master race. In 1935, they set up the Lebensborn, or Spring of Life, as a sort of breeding/child-rearing program. Some of its practices included kidnapping and “Germanizing” Aryan children from occupied countries as well as providing special breeding clinics where SS soldiers could mate with suitable, handpicked women. The goal of the Lebensborn was to create a large and lasting Aryan race who would serve as the super-soldiers of the future.

However, that wasn’t the Nazi’s only effort at creating super-soldiers. The average Nazi soldier received a regular intake of pills designed to “help them fight longer and without rest.” Surviving records show that the most pervasive pill was Pervitin, which was made of methamphetamine or as it is now called, crystal meth. Between 1939 and 1945, over two hundred million Pervitin pills were provided to Nazi soldiers.

But this was hardly a unique situation. Troops from all sides took various types of drugs during World War II, a practice that continues to this day. But Nazi scientists weren’t satisfied. In 1944, they started a top-secret program to develop a drug named D-IX. They hoped to use this drug to create temporary super-soldiers who would eventually turn the tide of the war.

D-IX Super-Soldiers?

D-IX was a cocaine-based cocktail, consisting of five milligrams of cocaine, five milligrams of oxycodone (a morphine-related painkiller), and three milligrams of Pervitin. It was first tested on inmates at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. After taking the drug, the prisoners were forced to march in circles while carrying forty-five pound packs. With the aid of D-IX, these individuals were able to march between fifty-five and seventy miles before collapsing. Highly encouraged by the results, Nazi scientists planned to supply D-IX to all German troops. Fortunately, the war ended before it could be produced in mass quantities.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Despite their best efforts, the Nazi’s never succeeded in creating super-soldiers. Nowadays, researchers are hard at work, hoping to achieve the same goal with different means. In 2008, DARPA announced a $3 billion dollar program to create a “metabolically dominant soldier.” If scientists have their way, someday soon super-soldiers may not be all that super…they may, in fact, be commonplace.

(This is the second article in a three part series. Go here for Part I: Captain America and Suspended Animation & here for Part III: The Nazi Plot to Bomb America.)

Geoengineering during World War II?

On May 11, 1944, 363 U.S. Army Air Force B-24 Liberators and 536 other military planes launched into the air over southeast England.  After joining into a massive formation, they flew to Nazi-controlled France to bomb marshalling yards.  Their efforts impacted the outcome of the war.  But they may have impacted something else as well…the local weather via geoengineering.

Geoengineering during World War II?

Two days ago, Fox News reported that the May 11 Allied bombing raid may have inadvertently altered that day’s weather.  It is an early unintended example of something that scientists now call geoengineering, or climate engineering.

Essentially, the aircraft filled the sky with contrails, or condensation trails.  These trails “are produced when hot moist air from engine exhausts hits colder air in the atmosphere.”  They take the form of long thin clouds that trail after the plane.

After analyzing historical weather data from various stations, researchers from Lancaster University and the Environmental Agency in the United Kingdom discovered that areas under the contrails experienced slower temperature growth on May 11, 1944, to the tune of two degrees Fahrenheit.  They believe that this can be explained by the contrails creating an enormous cloud cover that reflected sunlight away from the ground.

Geoengineering & Global Warming?

Geoengineering advocates wish to do something similar in order to deal with the perceived threat from global warming.  Some scientists propose that a fleet of planes deposit sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere.  These particles would reflect sunlight and perhaps, lower global temperatures.  This most recent study indicates that small-scale geoengineering might have the desired effect on regional temperatures.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

However, geoengineering remains highly controversial and, in my opinion, with good reason.  It is an attempt to duplicate the effects of an enormous volcanic eruption.  The ultimate impact on the stratosphere, weather patterns, and ecosystems would be unpredictable…maybe even catastrophic.