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JetScootr t1_je4jyyu wrote

My father was in the Navy during WWII, and was stationed on an aircraft carrier. His job was maintaining the drones that the gunners used for target practice.

When the kamakazi attacks started, the Navy ordered the drone pilots to fly the drones into the ship if the gunners didn't shoot them down. The aircraft carrier's command crew was not happy about these orders, but it was from Washington, so they had to.

I've had a hard time the last ten years or so even convincing people that radio controlled drones were even a thing that far back. Thanks for finding this link.


jaa101 t1_je4ljjc wrote

Another amazing technology that helped beat the kamakazi attacks was the proximity fuse. Without that, you have to set your AA shells to explode at some fixed time from firing which is hard to get right against incoming aircraft. Proximity-fused shells would automatically explode when they got near something—a huge advantage—but it involved having vacuum tubes survive being fired from a gun.


Meior t1_je55ugt wrote

Holy shit that engineering is incredible. I have to read up on that tonight.


WanderingCamper t1_je5wpaw wrote

It was one of the most closely guarded Allied technologies during the war. Similar in importance to radar, cracking enigma, and the Manhattan project.


kelldricked t1_je9wwh2 wrote

Its insane how much technology progressed during the war. Especially once you start reading up to all the non deployed develop weapons, shit that was working but just not practicle or to expensive.


ZLUCremisi t1_je5jx9x wrote

US Army AirForce try to remote control a bomber but the fewcrew inside it switching it over to remote diedcwhen i crashed


JetScootr t1_je5nwbe wrote

My dad had a souvenir propeller - about 3 feet long. The drones he worked on had a 9 foot wingspan and were purpose built.


buntopolis t1_je5uspf wrote

Shit my grandfather served on the USS Essex as a PBY Radioman, and I had no clue that drones were ever a thing. Never mentioned them, ever. Very cool to learn!


JetScootr t1_je657gw wrote

Dad said they weren't allowed to talk about it then, but when he was telling me, it was because my brother had a RC model plane that Dad said was about the same level of tech - in a model plane a little bigger than a notebook. Dad didn't figure that the stuff he worked on was secret anymore :)


buntopolis t1_je6d1eq wrote

Haha that’s awesome. Such a cool thing to learn about your parent. I didn’t learn much because my grandpa really didn’t like to talk about the war. He only really opened up about it after his cancer diagnosis. That’s when he told me his plane was shot down by Zeroes on patrol, the aircraft sheared in half before hitting the water - only he and the pilot survived. Floated there for over 24 hours until rescue came. Like, holy shit. Really puts my own problems into perspective there.


bros402 t1_je75gbp wrote

You might be able to get his records from the National Archives if you are one of the lucky ones


buntopolis t1_je7awfh wrote

Army and Air Force records - were Navy records lost in the fire too??


bros402 t1_je7e5cx wrote

Nope - they were at a different facility. You can request them here


neoplastic_pleonasm t1_je5vzrg wrote

When I was a little kid, my grandfather, an air force mechanic, gave me a weird little model airplane for Christmas. It was black and pointy and had no cockpit. It wasn't until many years later I learned it was a real plane, a Lockheed D-21 hypersonic supersonic drone, and he'd worked on the project. It absolutely blew my mind that we had hypersonic supersonic drones in the late 60s.


FiveFive55 t1_je65r7m wrote

When I read this the first time I thought that your dad gave you an actual, decommissioned drone and just told you it was a model. Had to look up how large it was to be certain that wasn't the case. At 43' long I'm assuming it was not a real drone, unless you had an exceptionally large bedroom to put it inside.

It's kind of wild how our perspective on a word can change. 20 years ago if someone mentioned drones people would picture a giant military drone ready to drop bombs. Now you say it and pictures of tiny little toy-sized quadcopters pop into most people's minds.


ambulancisto t1_je6w6q7 wrote

What's amazing is that there were drones that could be piloted with TV. TV was in its infancy. I know the Germans had some TV guided missiles, but talk about bleeding edge tech for the early 1940s...


KNHaw t1_je5c9ch wrote

In 1990 I was a fresh college graduate working at Northrop (now Northrop-Grumman) on the B2 bomber when Desert Storm started. There were several engineers who I worked with who suddenly disappeared. When I asked where they had gone, I was told not to ask.

It turns out they'd all worked on a target drone as described above. On the first night of the air war, the Iraqi air defenses detected hundreds of attacking targets and shot them down. But in doing so, they'd turned on their radars, which had been detected by ECM aircraft that had blown them up to pave the way for the real wave of air strikes.

That first wave was training drones, designed to be shot down, originally for training but here as a feint tactic. All those engineers who'd gone missing were in Saudi Arabia supporting this because they'd all previously worked on these crappy, low end target drones Northrop had made as a sideline.


JetScootr t1_je5r6tg wrote

That's what Wild Weasels (piloted F4 phantoms) did in Viet Nam - they'd go in first to get the enemy to turn on their radars, which they would then shoot up with radar-seeking missiles.


nomnomnomnomRABIES t1_je5q77c wrote

I never heard of this- I hope it's not classified information


KNHaw t1_je5xoee wrote

No worries. Not classified at all. Gen Schwartzkopf gave one of his famous news conferences about it. "You know how the Iraqi government claimed they shot down a hundred planes yesterday? Well, let me explain why they think that..."


DragonWhsiperer t1_je5roi2 wrote

Dunno but i don't think so. SEAD and DEAD are anti radar warfare concepts going back to the war in Vietnam. Wild Weasel squadrons were especially trained pilots that would fly as a lures into enemy SAM range to trigger their radar, and have their buddy that was silent fire special anti radar missiles.

Basically the same practice, just replacing the human pilot with a remotely operated craft.


neoplastic_pleonasm t1_je5yu5n wrote

Nah, it's been publicly known for a long while. I think it's mentioned in the book Skunkworks. The Operations Room also has a good video series about the Desert Storm air war that I think mentions it:

Edit: around t=13:30


zipcloak t1_jebqmeh wrote

Not at all. You can use publicly available satellite data to detect analog radar at the moment yourself, if you'd like.


GreenStrong t1_je52tdx wrote

JFK's older brother died flying one of these drones. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. spent most of the war piloting a sub- hunting aircraft over the North Atlantic. It was a dangerous job, but he never spotted an actual enemy. He volunteered for one last mission, they needed a pilot to get an experimental radio controlled plane off the ground, then bail out with a parachute while the plane flew on. The primitive vacuum tube based TV equipment overheated, and the plane blew up.

Their father was a prominent senator, and Joseph would have probably been the one to run for president, had he not exploded. Worth noting that for that generation, it was expected that a senator's two Harvard educated sons should both see combat. JFK was captain of a small PT boat that was sunk in battle. George H. Bush was another senator's son who nearly died in combat- he flew a plane that got shot down.


jb270 t1_je5k3bi wrote

The craziest part with Bush senior is that he drifted away from the rest of the plane crew. He wound up being the only survivor, the other 8 airmen were captured by the Japanese, tortured, executed, and parts of them were served to Japanese officers. It’s known as the Chichijima incident, and is the subject of the book Flyboys. The entire trajectory of the 20th and 21st century would have been completely different if an ocean current hadn’t saved George HW Bush from getting beheaded and cannibalized.


ZLUCremisi t1_je5kadc wrote

Yep. Back then it was encourage to join the military if you were able to.


Sindri556 t1_je4lojz wrote


Jampine t1_je566o4 wrote

Made me think of the incorrect summary of Project wingman: "When defending the boat, we make the discovery that in this universe, missles are pigeon guided, and exhibit traits of self perseverance".

Checked it again, and it literally has the same picture from the Wikipedia entry lol.


VoopityScoop t1_je8bvtu wrote

In the Pacific Theater of WWII there was a plan to capture a bunch of bats that were living in attics in Tokyo and attach incendiary devices to them, so when the bats returned to their attacks they would set them on fire and burn Tokyo to the ground. The only reason this plan didn't go through was because we decided to nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki instead


Kelend t1_je7cvc5 wrote

The most crazy thing about this little part of history, is not that it happened... but that it worked.


BCF13 t1_je4kdrh wrote

War always drives new technologies.


Porkamiso t1_je4kqto wrote

made by kodak and sears


series_hybrid t1_je59mzq wrote

In bee society, drones follow the queen when she is flying through the air.

Anti-aircraft training started out with a piloted airplane pulling a banner far behind it, but problems still occurred.

Simple radio-controls could operate servo's on a target plane, so...a control plane with a pilot and one crewman would take off. A target plane with a pilot would take off just behind them.

Just beore reaching the target area, the pilot in the target plane would parachute out.

Since the plane in the rear followed the control plane, unmanned target-planes became known as drones.

I read that on vectorsite


jamescookenotthatone OP t1_je4jj14 wrote

I was listening to an episode of the radio drama X Minus One from 1956 when a character says they are going to send out drones and was startled to hear a reference to what I thought was a recent word. I first assumed they just lucked into it but nope, 'drone' dates back to 1936.

Link to the radio drama:


duglarri t1_je7a7d2 wrote

There was the US Navy program in the Pacific in 1943 that resulted in video-guided kamikaze drones that may have actually been the inspiration for the real kamikazes. The Japanese didn't start deploying Kamikazes until very late 1944- prior to that, though, the would have seen American "planes" diving and crashing into Japanese targets in the Pacific, part of trials of some very effective drones by the Navy.

The drones actually worked very well, with success rates of around 25%, compared to bombing hit rates of 2% for conventional attacks. And the drone attacks were risk-free for the crews, because they stayed kilometers away from the targets. Zero casualties in all the test missions they flew.

But the Navy brass in their infinite wisdom killed the project because they felt they had enough conventional aircraft available to do the job, and losing five or ten aircrew on any particular target was perfectly fine as far as they were concerned.

So American drones may have been the inspiration for the Kamikaze.


Nutcrackit t1_je5jg47 wrote

Okay I swear this shit is proving time travel Fing with the timeline. As someone who has a large interest in the historic warfare I don't see how I couldn't have heard of this.


ZLUCremisi t1_je5kizb wrote

I mean JFK brother dued when the US attempt it in WW2 because of a problem.

We had remote control turrets in the early 40s.


Slimsaiyan t1_je5oqnf wrote

I watched the history of time travel last night and I definitely feel this


JetScootr t1_je5s2kb wrote

Really? Cuz we couldn't see shows on time travel until 2147.


ScottRiqui t1_je65jk7 wrote

The modern quadcopter drone dates back to a 1959 patent application.

The biggest difference is obviously that the new drones are battery powered rather than gas-powered, but the big characteristics (four rotors at the ends of folding arms, avoiding interference between rotors, maneuvering by varying the rotor tilt, etc.) were there almost 65 years ago.


ThePeriodicPooper t1_je69xqo wrote

kinda sad that our greatest technological achievements pretty much always come into existence as a result of war.


Ty3point141 t1_je6eu6a wrote

My grandpa was in the Navy in Vietnam. He flew QH-50 Drone helicopters. Traditionally they were supposed to be anti-submarine, however, they felt they had better use taking those torpedoes and dropping them on enemy positions on land.

He said they had a high failure rate and that they would have to go and retrieve the downed helicopters.



pixelwhistle t1_je6fhga wrote

“Here’s that torpedo you ordered.” “Thank you, such quick service”


eastindyguy t1_je6m6ea wrote

I believe the National Museum of the USAF has a replica of one of these drones in the hangar dedicated to the early years of flight. Anyone interested in aviation or just likes looking at a bunch of cool aircraft really should visit the museum.


hucareshokiesrul t1_je6n7rz wrote

Why have drones so recently become such a big thing? An RC helicopter doesn’t seem like a particularly new technology.


newtoon t1_je8f0x6 wrote

Answer is the stabilisation electronic board allowing a quarotor to be stable. IT became cheap in the end of the 2000s


That-Soup3492 t1_je8my0g wrote

My grandfather worked with radio controlled drones for gunnery practice in the army during the 50s. I still have a propeller from one that he was given when he left.