1939 Gumps comic strip predicts modern drone warfare


That appears to be predicting anti-aircraft homing missiles rather than drone warfare.

Of course a Hellfire drone is really just a multi-stage cruise missile with a reusable first stage, so who’s counting.

(I gotta say that a sonic homing system sounds surprisingly plausible in an era before radar or IR sensors. Good job on the science for a cheap gag!)

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I just want to know who stole that man’s chin.

More V1 than drone. It does anticipate guidance a bit.

To my mind though “drone” implies some level of remote control, pilotless aircraft. This is more guided missile.

Well, sonic homing systems exist on torpedos. They were first introduced by the Germans in 1943, but the Allies had them soon after.

I think the German X-4 air-to-air missile had an acoustic fuse that was tuned to the sound of B-17 engines, but those were guided by remote control.

I see the word “predict” attached to to many things like this - I think a more accurate word is “PRESAGE” which is more of a foreshadowing of things or events. “PREDICT” is more of a declarative statement. Anyway, of course, all forms of art (including comics) have presaged or foreshadowed the future (that has gradually become our current PRESENT)

For predicting 21st century warfare, I still think Ambrose Bierce wins.

There were tests of bomb dropping drones (or “automatic aircraft” as they called them) during WW I. Gyroscopes and radio existed before aircraft, and remote controlled boats existed before the turn of the century, so the idea of the drone was born when aircraft proved themselves viable, not by post-aircraft thinking or advances.

Oh, hey, that reminds me of a fun fact: the first functional self-propelled naval torpedo, and arguably the first “guided missile” of any kind, had a spring-driven clockwork engine and was guided by a guy on the shore pulling on ropes to swing the rudder back and forth.

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Hmmm, I see the Bush administration and former VP Dick Cheney mentioned in a post about the drone warfare that has been used with ever-greater frequency but I don’t see the name of the current Administration or VP. If only we knew the names of the President and VP who have been overseeing drone warfare for the last 5 years! Oh well, I guess that the answer will always be one of life’s little mysteries…

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