In March 1934 Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, race car driver, future president of Eastern Airlines, World War I flying ace and Medal of Honor recipient, wrote an article for Foreign Service magazine entitled “War or Peace”. The image above is from that article. The caption reads: “vultures of destruction…controlled by robots…operated by radio and television.” The cartoon predicts and depicts today’s military drone operations. Rickenbacker’s pre-World War II anti-war article, written by a man who had experienced modern war first-hand, is deadly accurate.
“The next war…will be a world war. But it will be unlike any other war that we know of. There will be no noncombatants. The battle front, roughly, will be the face of the earth. The roof of one’s own house, one’s own back yard, each will be part of the battle front. The combatants will be all living things.”
In some detail, he describes the horrors of the coming war. “These vultures of destruction, many—probably most of them—controlled by robots, will fly far behind the lines of advancing men, there to drop bombs weighing tons, the explosion of which will shake the average city as would an earthquake, causing buildings far from the scene of the explosion to tremble, crack, then crumble to the ground, crushing human souls to death, burying thousands there alive.”
But, after accurately predicting all the horrors of the next war, especially today’s euphemistically called “collateral damage”, he goes on to say that he does not believe there will be another war stating that “in the future if there is a war, no one can win but death.”
Capt. Rickenbacker was a great prognosticator of the future of military technology but a poor judge of the sensibility of humanity and the strange affection our political leaders have for creating unending war.