Top-Secret Weapon...?


There is no certain indication that the strange story to follow [which I have had stashed away in my files for a number of years] is of any relation to the UFO subject, but I found the enclosed newspaper article while strolling through microfilm of 1947 newspaper articles looking for information about Kenneth Arnold's UFO sighting.

My interest in the article even went as far as making a few phone calls trying to locate relatives of the Mr. Snodgrass mentioned in the report. I probably called about 6 or 7 numbers in this area, but to no avail.

If anyone has additional information to shed some light on this one, .

Awful as A-Bomb, Cincinnatian Says
Based on British Idea from Tarawa Battle, Not Biological

Source: The Cincinnati Enquirer

A devastating new instrument of war placed in the Anglo-American arsenal by scientists working secretly in New Zealand yesterday was termed "as awesome in its effects as the atomic bomb" by a Cincinnati bio-physicist who aided in its development.

James Marion Snodgrass, 39, chief engineer of the motion picture division of the Dayton Acme Co., consultant engineering firm, declined otherwise to lift the cloak of mystery surrounding the weapon.

Pressed by reporters, Snodgrass said only that it was not connected with the atomic bomb and had no relation to biological warfare. He would not say whether it was intended to be directed against humans, aircraft or ships.


Development of the weapon started after the invasion of Tarawa Island in the Pacific by American forces, Snodgrass *line of text not legible* loss of life.

Asked whether the weapon had any bearing on the casualties or a military problem encountered on the island, Snodgrass replied tersely, "Could be."

Snodgrass, who lives at 150 Somerset Dr., College Hill, was a civilian when he was assigned to a group of British and New Zealand scientists engaged in the development project. The weapon was conceived by the British, Snodgrass said, and research was pressed despite lack of enthusiasm shown by the U.S. Navy officers who received reports during development.


Existence of the weapon first was disclosed when Prof. T.D.J. Leech of New Zealand was mentioned in the birthday honors list of King George VI in London. A news dispatch reported Professor Leech as calling the weapon an effective alternative to the atomic bomb.

Asked whether the weapon could replace the atomic bomb, Snodgrass said only: "First reports are substantially true, but perhaps they are exaggerated a little."

The research was conducted in New Zealand because of fears of espionage, Snodgrass said, although it had been planned to transfer the work to Florida.

Snodgrass, who is married and has two children, formerly was an instructor of psychology at Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio. Before the war, Snodgrass said, he performed considerable research on the effect of electric currents on the human body.

End of article

Pledged To Silence On Secret Weapon
Cincinnatian States

Source: The Cincinnati Enquirer

James M. Snodgrass, Cincinnati biophysicist, yesterday refused to describe any further the secrecy-shrouded weapon of war that he and a group of British and New Zealand scientists devloped in New Zealand during World War II.

As speculation developed concerning the weapon which Snodgrass termed "as awesome as the atomic bomb." The scientist said that he was "under obligation" to remain silent.

Although only the barest of facts have been made public concerning the weapon, it is known that it was developed following the invasion of Tarawa Island and was never used in the war.

End of article

Update on alleged 'Secret Weapon' reported in '47

Here may be some additional details relevant to the alleged 'Secret Weapon' referenced in a 1947 Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper article.

Apparently the papers of James Marion Snodgrass were sought after by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in 1995, as per the following item from:


October 27, 1995
SIO Archives
Quarterly Report July/September


"During this quarter we received 56 films of Eugene La Fond documenting work at sea during the 1960's and the papers of James Marion Snodgrass (38 cartons). The Snodgrass papers were received with a deposit agreement. A deed of gift is under negotiation now. We also received an original 1969 political cartoon signed by Ronald Reagan concerning state oceans policy and slides of work at sea from Peter Brueggeman."

---end excerpt---

    This item was courtesy of Mr. Bob Barnes, who located it while browsing through a search engine under the name of SNODGRASS. I would be inclined to wager that the James Marion Snodgrass indicated in this article may be the same as from the '47 newspaper report, as the "James Marion Snodgrass" combination of 3-names together seems quite rare.

    It appears that the Scripps Institute of Oceanography knew of Snodgrass and had an interest in the acquisition of some of his files, which may or may-not be relevant to this 'Secret' situation he was reportedly involved with while at the motion picture division of the Dayton Acme Company [Dayton, Ohio?].

    Upon reading the '47 article, I first presumed that this exotic weapon was perhaps related to the projection of images -holograms, as per his association with a 'motion picture division' of the Dayton Acme Co., but upon closer scrutiny, the term 'weapon' and comparison to "A-bomb potential" seems to negate that possibility, as holographic projection would only serve as a potential counter-measure in any battlefield application and not have destructive capability as the term 'weapon' would imply.

    I also surmised that this weapon may be an early EMP [Electromagnetic Pulse] bomb. However, according to a report by Defence Analyst Carlo Kopp entitled: "The Electromagnetic Bomb - a Weapon of Electrical Mass Destruction," Kopp states, "The ElectroMagnetic Pulse [EMP] effect was first observed during the early testing of high altitude airburst nuclear weapons." This statement indicates that the EMP effect was observed *after* the conflict at Tarawa, which was during WWII at which time no high altitude atomic tests had been conducted there.

    The second person mentioned in the article, Professor Leech, would be another name to keep alert for.

    In light of Snodgrass' connection to The Scripps Institute of Oceanography, I think it could be plausible that the alleged " Secret Weapon" could be nautically based. What seems puzzling is how that Snodgrass could go from a Chief engineer of the motion picture division of the Dayton Acme Co., a consultant engineering firm in Ohio from 1947, to having papers considered valuable to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in 1995.

    Further, our understanding of the Tarawa Battle during WWII may shed some light on this. A Navy-Marines operation was enacted in the Central Pacific against Japan in August of 1943. The following information was found at:

    The Marshall Islands would serve as an air base from which further operations could be launched against the Marianas, and from there against the Japanese home islands. But 500 miles to the southeast of the Marshalls, an archipelago of atolls called the Gilberts stood between U.S. forward ground air bases and the Marshalls.

    The Gilberts had only one workable airstrip for refueling American aircraft and that was on the island of Betio in the western Gilbert Island atoll of Tarawa.

    The Japanese commander in charge of the defense of Tarawa, Rear Admiral Keiji Shibasaki, said "A million men cannot take Tarawa in a hundred years." He commanded 2,600 imperial marines, the best amphibious troops in the Japanese armed forces. With the importation of 1,000 Japanese workers and 1,200 Korean laborers the island airstrip of Betio had been transformed into one of the most formidable fortresses in the world, boasting 14 coastal defense guns(four of which were taken from the surrendered British garrison at Singapore), 40 strategically located artillery pieces, covering every approach to the island, a coconut-log sea wall four feet high lining the lagoon and over 100 machine gun emplacements behind the wall. All this was concentrated on an island only a mile long and a few hundred yards wide.

    Meanwhile an armada of 17 carriers, 12 battleships, eight heavy and four light cruisers, 66 destroyers and 36 transports carrying the 2nd Marine Division and a part of the 37th Infantry Division- some 35,000 soldiers and Marines headed for Betio in early November of 1943.

    In the moments before pre-invasion bombardment began, the task force naval commander, Rear Admiral Howard F. Kingman announced to the landing troops "Gentlemen, we will not neutralize Betio. We will not destroy it. We will obliterate it!"

    Neither Shibasaki nor Kingman knew what they were up against.

    Thanks to Jim Martin for the information regarding Tarawa.

    Aside from being a slight curiousity, there is nothing substantive indicating that this strange story is UFO-related.

    Update - April 18:

    Bob Barnes added that The Scripps Institute of Oceanography has a research facility in New Zealand, and they receive funding from NASA for oceanic gravitational studies.

    He passed along the following information and comment:



"By the end of 1948, the Library collection
comprised over 22,000 volumes and 450
journal titles. In this photo dated Oct 27,
1943, SIO Library is the building in the middle,
looking south from the pier. By 1949,
the Library was outgrowing the stack space
in the 1916 building. A working group
on SIO space requirements, chaired by James
M Snodgrass, developed a "master plan for
the Library building" which presented
plans and recommendations for present
and future quantities of volumes
and for upgrading deficient facilities
in the building.

---end excerpt---

    Barnes also remarked that SIO has a lab in New Zealand and SIO receives funding from NASA. Of interest is the area of Marine Gravity. See:

    There is a possibility that Snodgrass may have been removed from the alleged Secret Project referenced in the '47 Cincinnati newspapers resulting from his mention in media reportage. If this scenario is likely, it could be possible he ended up with the SIO by '49 in a capacity totally unrelated to the '47 "Secret Weapon" situation.

    Kenny Young

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