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.
Previously on Paleo-Future:
- Gigantic Robots To Fight Our Battles (1934)
- Future War Tank (1939)
- Will War Drive Civilization Underground? (1942)
- Closer Than We Think! Push-Button Staff Room (1959)