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When Wars Are Fought With Robot Soldiers (1935)

The idea that robot soldiers would inevitably replace human troops pops up repeatedly in newspapers of the 1930s. The emergence of humanoid robots, however primitive, lent themselves to people thinking about the human toll of the first World War and how it might be avoided in future wars.

This article from the July 28, 1935 San Antonio Light (San Antonio, TX) features illustrations from artist Erik Nitsche depicting robots with machine guns for heads, robot scouts with movie camera faces, a twenty-five tube robot military band, and even a robot hospital for the repair of robot soldiers. An excerpt appears below.

Erik Nitsche, a distinguished European artist, has looked into the future of a century from now and has made a series of remarkable prophetic pictures of a war fought solely with robot soldiers. The majority of them were drawn exclusively for The American Weekly and appear on this page.

Instead of the human machine gunners, crouched in their emplacements, waiting for the mangling shell to end them, there is a steel encased mechanism. The most important organ to the machine gunner, without which his hands would be useless, are his eyes. Nitsche's robot machine gunner's head is the gun itself. His eyes are in the heads of those who by television and radio direct his fire. he crawls forward, his human masters miles away, striving to direct the deadly stream into the mechanical vitals of the enemy's robots.

Patrol work was desperately dangerous in the last war. But a flying robot, equipped with motion picture and sound recording machines, could dart and hover over the enemy with no danger to human life -- and bring back vastly more accurate observations. When a human soldier gets a bullet in his heart, or in his liver or has himself partly blown to pieces, that is the end of that soldier. Not so with the robot. A new heart can be put in him as easily, almost, as changing a tire. Doctors were notoriously insufficient in the World War, and they found their tasks unpleasantly dangerous in the future, Mr. Nitsche thinks war robot doctors will attend to the injuries of robot soldiers. There will also be hospitals where all the equipment will be mechanical, reeking no more of blood and antiseptics but of machine oil.

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Reader Comments (8)

I wouldn't want robots with machine guns for heads roaming the streets!

September 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChris N. Hanson

This is a very interesting concept in many ways. Would cut down on human casualties..or would it? Also brings the whole Terminator series of movies to mind.

September 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBlueOne

We still don't have robot soldiers publicly.They will soon be part of armed force in next few decades.

regime hyperproteine

October 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterneil

UAVs and UGVs are good enough.

Do you how hard it is to make a bi-ped robot?!

October 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTubers

"But a flying robot, equipped with motion picture and sound recording machines, could dart and hover over the enemy with no danger to human life -- and bring back vastly more accurate observations."

Don't we have that now, and it's called the Predator drone, and looks more like a plane than a man? Got it half right.

January 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

Robot soldiers are starting to happen now, however it's really unlikely that they will EVER be bipedal. if they have legs it'll probably be 6 or more because it's far easier to design and program such a robot, plus it doesn't matter much if it looks like a bug since it's supposed to kill people and break things.

When you want soldiers that can talk they will still very likely use people because it's easier.

There's already a project to develop a robot tank that would be semi-autonomous, it would drive itself (and maybe aim it's gun itself) but there would still be a human operator making descriptions like where to drive and what to shoot.

January 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSpudd86

We'll see.

July 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChromartie

Not realy "the future that never was", but rather something that is only now begining to enter into reality.

July 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Black

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