WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

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Paul in Saudi
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WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby Paul in Saudi » Sat Jun 08, 2013 2:56 pm UTC

Over here is my very old (and not very good) NatNoWriMo novel.
http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/ForesightAmerica.htm

So a time-traveller is spit like a watermelon seed into Washington DC in 1935 or so. He, John Wayne and FDR proceed to fight and win WWII.

My mind returns to the premise again and again. I have already improved tanks (front engine, diesel fuel) and airplanes (earlier jets). I fixed torpedoes, the biggest and most important thing. I welcome your comments on what could have been done by a generalist like ourselves.

How about a primitive smart bomb? Forget the early TV-guided drones we had in real life. What about a bomb that seeks out antiaircraft batteries by sound? Four microphones mounted on whiskers on the front, you drop it in the right general direction. The guns fire and bomb homes in on the noise. [b]Could such a thing have worked?

Any other smart ideas?

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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby Nnelg » Sun Jun 09, 2013 1:17 am UTC

Paul in Saudi wrote:How about a primitive smart bomb? Forget the early TV-guided drones we had in real life. What about a bomb that seeks out antiaircraft batteries by sound? Four microphones mounted on whiskers on the front, you drop it in the right general direction. The guns fire and bomb homes in on the noise. [b]Could such a thing have worked?

Frankly, no. Unless your protagonist is an expert in the field of semiconductors, there's no way he's going to build a small enough computer for that in ten years. (Or twenty.) And even then, the task of sorting out the right sound from the chaos could occupy an entire team of modern audio engineers for the rest of their lives. Not that it'd be audible from high up enough for it to matter, anyways... (Without a vectored rocket engine, there's little to no maneuvering capability.)


Paul in Saudi wrote:Any other smart ideas?

Honestly, during WWII technology was already advancing as fast as it could; a time traveler who isn't an expert himself wouldn't change much. Scientists were exploring pretty much every possibility available. Still, there are a few less-than-obvious things which might be introduced earlier:
Reactive armor, sloped hulls, APDS, HEAT, man-portable rocket launchers, helicopters.

Unfortunately, none of it will really matter. The war in Europe was won by the Russians; the entry of the US into that theater merely made defeat of the Germans certain instead of likely. In the Pacific, the only plausible useful advancements would be in radar and aeronautics -but unless your protagonist is a PhD, period scientists will already know more than him.

So, sorry; "future tech" ain't all it's cracked up to be. :P


(Although, I read a bit of your work and saw mention of a laptop. In the same time period as the guys who invented the computer...)
keithl wrote:As a rule of thumb, it is imprudent to pass over speed bumps faster than orbital velocity.

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Paul in Saudi
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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby Paul in Saudi » Mon Jun 10, 2013 1:16 pm UTC

Thank you all.

I hate to be like a dog with bone in my teeth, but...

If my sound-seeking bomb uses tubes and a sensor array the weighs about 500 pounds, could it work?

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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby Nnelg » Mon Jun 10, 2013 6:07 pm UTC

Paul in Saudi wrote:Thank you all.

I hate to be like a dog with bone in my teeth, but...

If my sound-seeking bomb uses tubes and a sensor array the weighs about 500 pounds, could it work?

I'm sorry, but it's just got way too many problems to work. :(

A powerful enough computer made from vacuum tubes would weigh closer to 50 tons, and be too large to fit on a plane (let alone a bomb). Kickstarting the semiconductor industry would require your chrononaut to be a polymath with PhDs in several fields, as well as an effort on par with the Manhattan Project (starting that earlier would be a much better course of action). Even if you could pick out and triangulate the sound of a single battery (which I'm not sure is feasible even with near-future tech) the sound might be indistinguishable from background noise at anything but a very low altitude. (40's-era radar tech would be better, as it's both smaller and more advanced than you might expect.) Not to mention that bombs don't have any way to maneuver, so you'd have to build that system from scratch too (and von Braun is on the wrong side).

Frankly, you'd be much better off going with wire-guided or radio-controlled missiles, which were actually used in WWII.
keithl wrote:As a rule of thumb, it is imprudent to pass over speed bumps faster than orbital velocity.

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Paul in Saudi
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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby Paul in Saudi » Tue Jun 11, 2013 1:09 am UTC

Thank you all for keeping me honest.

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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby Copper Bezel » Tue Jun 11, 2013 7:55 am UTC

Requisite alternative. (So there actually was some technology in existence for maneuvering bombs, at least.)
So much depends upon a red wheel barrow (>= XXII) but it is not going to be installed.

she / her / her

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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby bouer » Tue Jun 11, 2013 12:28 pm UTC

Probably the most history altering thing you could do is bring back wikipedia on a hard drive, and something to read it with.

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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby Paul in Saudi » Tue Jun 11, 2013 3:36 pm UTC

Two things became clear while speed-writing the thing. First off, the Japanese had no chance in heck and ought not to have walked out in front of that truck. Also, it is remarkably hard to figure a way for an Allied victory before late 1944 at the best.

Also hard to beat Japan in a less-bloody way than the actual timeline.

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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby speising » Tue Jun 11, 2013 8:48 pm UTC

i don't see a point in an alternate history story that doesn't actually change the outcome of the war. winning a bit earlier doesn't seem to be so exciting to warrant the effort.

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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby Nnelg » Tue Jun 11, 2013 10:56 pm UTC

Paul in Saudi wrote:First off, the Japanese had no chance in heck and ought not to have walked out in front of that truck.

They knew that going in, actually. They were betting on getting a few crushing victories that would demoralize the American public, forcing congress to sue for peace.

Informing the US government of Japan's intentions might change things so drastically that they never attempt war with the U.S. in the first place, though.

Edit:
Phoning the Kremlin with word of Hitler's intentions would certainly shake things up too. If Russia mobilizes ahead of time then the war would be a lot shorter...
Last edited by Nnelg on Wed Jun 12, 2013 12:00 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
keithl wrote:As a rule of thumb, it is imprudent to pass over speed bumps faster than orbital velocity.

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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby speising » Tue Jun 11, 2013 11:38 pm UTC

actually, it would be intereresting to explore the consequences of preventing (at least the trauma of) pearl harbour, by warning the us in time of the attack.
it could mean that the us never, or much later, join the war, which makes it a lot worse.

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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby Nnelg » Wed Jun 12, 2013 12:03 am UTC

speising wrote:actually, it would be intereresting to explore the consequences of preventing (at least the trauma of) pearl harbour, by warning the us in time of the attack.
it could mean that the us never, or much later, join the war, which makes it a lot worse.

If the attack happens at all, the U.S. will go to war. Setting it up as an ambush would be an excellent way to shorten the war, but the butterfly effect will make that difficult or impossible if the time traveler appears more than a month or so in advance.
keithl wrote:As a rule of thumb, it is imprudent to pass over speed bumps faster than orbital velocity.

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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby Paul in Saudi » Thu Jun 13, 2013 4:27 am UTC

Well, I am very proud of how I handled the problem of Pearl Harbor, and I would rather not tell. But it was a sticky wicket in terms of the story.

The outcome of "my" war is actually quite different. Italy sits the whole thing out. For the Italian/Spanish-speaking world this most likely would lead to a victory for the Falange on two continents. That would not be a Good Thing.

The story that really needs to be written is of a time traveller who get the US ready for war. Only at the end is it mentioned the guy's name is Howard Hughes.

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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby Paul in Saudi » Mon Jun 17, 2013 2:12 pm UTC

Wait, if the Germans could introduce a sound-homing torpedo in 1943, why is a sound-homing bomb so tough to do?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G7es_torpedo

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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby jaap » Mon Jun 17, 2013 2:43 pm UTC

Paul in Saudi wrote:Wait, if the Germans could introduce a sound-homing torpedo in 1943, why is a sound-homing bomb so tough to do?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G7es_torpedo


Maybe you have seen the Mythbusters episode where they recreated a scene from the movie Point Break. In it they had two skydivers in freefall, trying to talk/shout to each other, with a distance of about a foot or two between them. It did not work like in the movie, because the turbulence of the rushing air itself generates so much vibration that it is impossible to hear each other.

Also, underwater microphones work much better because sound travels so much further in water. It might also be the case (but I'm not sure about this) that under water, a microphone is much more sensitive than in open air merely due to the mass of water - i.e. if it moves, you'll detect it more easily.

So the air equivalent to that sound-homing torpedo would be a bomb attached to a miniature zeppelin so that it could essentially hover without making any sound, and travel slowly and quietly enough so that it could detect ambient sound. I don't think these, even if technically possible, would be effective. If you are a few hundred metres up in the air, you can hardly hear anything. Go on a hot air balloon ride, and you'll see.

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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby Paul in Saudi » Mon Jun 17, 2013 3:20 pm UTC

I am still noodling this. The Anglo-Americans introduce a mass-produced artillery proximity fuse in the winter of '44. (Consider the g-forces a radar fuse had to withstand!) If a very tough very small proximity fuse was in the grasp of 1940s electronics, I am fairly certain that a low-g, five-pound sound detector could be built.

But perhaps there is an issue (as you said) of hearing the guns. I find that hard to believe. I have certainly talked to other soldiers while under a parachute, and I have heard ground noises quite clearly.

But perhaps I am simply showing my ignorance of some basic part of acoustics.

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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby firechicago » Mon Jun 17, 2013 11:15 pm UTC

Nnelg wrote:Edit:
Phoning the Kremlin with word of Hitler's intentions would certainly shake things up too. If Russia mobilizes ahead of time then the war would be a lot shorter...

I'm not actually sure that that's the case. The reasons that 1941 and 42 were so very very bad for the Red Army had a lot more to do with the logistical, organizational and technical shortcomings of the Red Army than they did with the initial shock and surprise of the German invasion. Keep in mind that this is a military that was fought to a near standstill by the much smaller and weaker Finnish army only a year before. And I'm not sure there's a plausible way to fix those shortcomings without completely rewriting the history of the Soviet Union in the 1930's, especially undoing the damage Stalin's purges did to the officer corps.

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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby Nnelg » Tue Jun 18, 2013 4:43 pm UTC

jaap wrote:
Paul in Saudi wrote:Wait, if the Germans could introduce a sound-homing torpedo in 1943, why is a sound-homing bomb so tough to do?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G7es_torpedo

So the air equivalent to that sound-homing torpedo would be a bomb attached to a miniature zeppelin so that it could essentially hover without making any sound, and travel slowly and quietly enough so that it could detect ambient sound. I don't think these, even if technically possible, would be effective. If you are a few hundred metres up in the air, you can hardly hear anything. Go on a hot air balloon ride, and you'll see.

More importantly, the torpedo doesn't have to worry about picking out a single source of sound amongst many. So, the torpedoes can just turn in the direction of the loudest sound. Air-based 'sonar' weapons don't have that luxury.


Paul in Saudi wrote:I am still noodling this. The Anglo-Americans introduce a mass-produced artillery proximity fuse in the winter of '44. (Consider the g-forces a radar fuse had to withstand!) If a very tough very small proximity fuse was in the grasp of 1940s electronics, I am fairly certain that a low-g, five-pound sound detector could be built.

But perhaps there is an issue (as you said) of hearing the guns. I find that hard to believe. I have certainly talked to other soldiers while under a parachute, and I have heard ground noises quite clearly.

It is not an issue of hearing the guns, as you've pointed out it's more than plausible. The issue is being able to pick out the sound of one battery from every other sound in the air. (Especially the sound of other batteries.) The only way I can imagine doing this is with pattern recognition software (something we're still working on in the 21st century, by the way). For that you'd need a microcomputer, which is about as anachronistic as an atomic bomb in the Victorian Era. And it would require an effort on par with those directed towards atomic bombs, but with a lot less payoff.

The final nail in the coffin is that the same practical effect could be achieved by other, more reasonable and even available-in-period methods. There's a reason why sound-guided bombs were never developed, even once the technology to make them existed. That's why I suggest you just look at what was invented at or just after the end of the war and shift it up. You'd be surprised what they were working on. For instance:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VB-6_Felix
(Note that this is still designed solely as an anti-ship weapon, because ships are easier to pick out for the same reasons as before.)

Also, the science behind other things like laser-guided bombs actually existed by 1940, so it's possible to get period engineers in on the project, which is absolutely essential. It also helps that that the time traveler need be an expert in only one or two fields.


Anyways, ultimately it's your novel. It all really depends on how hard you want the science to be. (Speculative fiction is never 100% accurate, after all.) But you asked if it was plausible, and the answer is not really. :P
keithl wrote:As a rule of thumb, it is imprudent to pass over speed bumps faster than orbital velocity.

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Re: WWII Weaponry (w/ Time Traveller)

Postby Paul in Saudi » Wed Jun 19, 2013 2:26 am UTC

Thank you, patter-recognition problems I can understand. (In truth, a potential twist would have been using such a guidance system against ships.)


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