Cabled a U.S. correspondent last week: "They are just as frightening today as they were the first night." Some Britons and propagandists still bravely belittled the "buzz-bombs." But the world's scientists were not taking them so lightly. None asserted that the new weapon would seriously affect the outcome of World War II, but many regarded the buzz-bombing of England as a crude preview of World War III.
Many a scientist was sure that it was only a question of timeperhaps five or ten yearsbefore vastly bigger, farther-flying bombs can be dropped accurately on a target by radio control. The No. 1 U.S. expert on remote-controlled weapons, Inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. of Gloucester, Mass., recalled a 1929 prediction : "The war of the future will last hours instead of years."
Military students who remembered similar predictions about the machine gun, the airplane, the tank, and poison gas remained skeptical. But none could doubt that terrifying new vistas of destruction had been opened.
Moon Professor. The buzz-bomb's inventor, by Stockholm report, is Hermann Oberth, 50, professor of physical astronomy at Berlin University. A stiff, old-fashioned pedagogue, Professor Oberth has long been famed in Europe as a writer on occultism and a pioneer in the study of interplanetary rocket flying. In 1923, when he published one of the first schemes for projecting a rocket into interplanetary space, he was nicknamed "the moon professor." He also predicted murderous rockets capable of being sent halfway around the earth and exterminating whole populations.
UFA, the German film trust, hired the Professor to help produce a spaceship movie called The Girl in the Moon. As a publicity stunt for the movie's premiere, Oberth was to launch a tremendous rocket of his own design at a deserted spot on the Baltic coast. The rocket failed to go off and the humiliated professor retired from public view.
In 1937 Oberth, now an ardent Nazi, emerged from his seclusion and called on Colonel Albert Kesselring (now Field
Marshal in command of the German Armies in Italy) with a sheaf of amazing blueprints and photographs. They comprised a design for the long-distance mili tary rocket he had predicted. U.S. Army ordnance officers had brushed aside robot-bomb designs by such established invent ors as Hammond, Charles F. Kettering, the late Lawrence B. Sperry. But Kessel ring and Hermann Göring gave Oberth a big staff of technicians and the run of German laboratories.
The buzz-bomb which the professor finally produced is not a rocket (rockets are propelled by gases generated by their own fuel), but a jet-propelled missile which carries 136 gallons of gasoline, has a range of about 150 miles and a speed of 200 to 300 m.p.h. The length of its flight is regulated by a timing device which tips the robot into a 60-degree dive. Oberth presumably abandoned his rocket design because the necessary weight of fuel made it unpractical. Since his jet-propelled bomb is dependent on air, it cannot soar above the stratosphere like a rocket hut must remain within range of enemy flak and planes.