Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 91.djvu/339

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Popular Science Monthly

��Vol. 91 No. 3

��239 Fourth Avenue, New York City

September, 1917

��$1.50

Annually

��Why Not the Land Torpedo?

Mount it on an automobile; open the throttle wide; and let the machine rush to the enemy's trenches

��THE submarine torpedo is the most destructive weapon of the sea. Then why not a land torpedo? A cheap vehicle could be made to carry a high- explosive mine, a huge shrapnel, or a mis- sile which would be a combination of both. Where necessary, provide the vehicle with caterpillar wheels and with a wire-cutter, and dispatch it toward the enemy, over shell craters and through entanglements into the opposing trenches. There the charge could be exploded, and the men and property within blasted into oblivion. ii The originator of this plan is Felix Sabah, of Philadelphia, whose idea as he has conceived it is illustrated in action. The ground of "No-Man's Land" being flat, ordinary gasoline automobiles of small size are used. In them the charge is carried, consisting of about a thousand pounds of explosive, mounted on the crutch-like frames. The firing wires which lead back to the electric igniting coils are seen in our picture projecting from the rear. The outposts are telephoning the order to fire. The fatal button is pressed — then ghastly destruction.

And the enemy? Has he no defense? No doubt he will erect concrete barriers, and blast huge craters. Caterpillar wheels, however, would be a single means of over- coming the craters. The use of percussion caps, which would ignite the torpedo charge on striking the walls, would be one way of smashing through them.

Let us not forget that once we can get the torpedoes there, the rest will be easy. If nothing else can be used, time-fuses will set off the charge at the proper instant.

The other military considerations in- volved in the practical application of the project are much more simple. There will be no difficulty in constructing the light type of automobile that would be required.

��In fact, the plan would provide the means of giving many an antiquated automobile which is about ready for the junk heap, its opportunity for making its last sacrifice.

From the shipping point in Europe, the men of the "Land Torpedo Corps" could each ride an automobile directly up to the front, thus relieving the railroads of the burden. Here the torpedo charges could be mounted, tests could be made, and everything could be planned for a con- certed assault.

To launch the torpedoes on this drive, competent officers would have to set and lock the steering gears. Throwing open a clutch from the rear of the machine, the automobile leaps ahead audaciously. The vital parts being armored, the enemy will be unable to damage it severely when the machine is seen to be rushing towards them at some sixty miles an hour.

Closely resembling this land torpedo is the torpedo car described on page 526 of the April issue of the Popular Science Monthly. It too is designed to take the place of artillery in preparing the way for infantry attack. A torpedo carrying several hundred pounds of high explosive is mount- ed on a chassis. The propelling power may be either gas, steam, compressed air or a storage battery or electric motor. Its most important feature concerns the method by which it is guided and fired. This is done by means of cables and wires in the hands of the attacking party, which is a noteworthy advantage over the land torpedo described in this article. Furthermore, the torpedo car, should it not reach the enemy because of rough ground, can be drawn back to the trench from which it was started by a simple pull on the control cable. The torpedo car would cost about one thousand dollars, whereas the modern naval torpedo costs seven thousand dollars.

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