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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Story of PAeL

By the time of the Army landing on Guadalcanal in October, 1942, the Army had a fully operational company of over 100 automatons and a like number of human soldiers. When Army troops took over control of the island, Able Company, 1st Battalion, 1138th Infantry Regiment, Troop, Human, Experimental landed with them.

In North Africa, rather than land at Casablanca with the bulk of the troops they were assigned to land at a small inlet just south of the city in November, 1942. The unit was Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 1138th Infantry Regiment, Troop, Human, Experimental. Like the company on Guadalcanal they were composed of over 100 human soldiers and another 100 automatons.

General Patton hated the idea of using automation soldiers and so he kept them in their troop ships until almost all other troops had landed. Only when the Navy wanted their ship back did he consent for them to land. Once again reduced to stevedore duties and filling sandbags their full potential was not realized. At least one PAeL was captured by the Vichy French and sent on to the Germans.

In a report to General Eisenhower, Patton wrote, “The glory of war is for men. If men must share this glory it should be with war horse and war dog, and not a mechanical contrivance made not in the image of God but in the image of man.” As a result, the company and the remainder of the battalion were shipped to General Lloyd Fredendall in Tunisia.

In March of 1943 General Fredendall was relieved of command by General Patton and once again the automatons were out of favor with the high command.

In an effort to rid himself of these automatons, a second time, General Patton created a series of legal questions to tie them up from ever seeing combat, or at least minimize the numbers of them under his command.

Are these lawful combatants under the Geneva conventions?
If captured are the Germans required to treat these machines as human soldiers?
Are human soldiers required by military law to take orders from machine devices?

Patton even made a statement to the press that “While military men may be seen as machines, machines should not be seen as military men.” The project was so secret that General Eisenhower was able to get the story suppressed and in the event it was only published by a small weekly paper in South Pasadena, California.

Unlike General Patton, the Luftwaffe was very enthusiastic to get as many PAeL units as they could get their hands on. They were intended to use the piloted V-1 and V-2 missile system systems. The Army was dubious of this new technology, but the SS was very interested too and they obtained at least a few PAeL units to supplement their own rather advanced automaton program at the King Frederick the Great of Prussia Center for Automaton Research.
The Vichy French and the SS cooperated in the formation of the Jacques de Vaucanson Technical Institute to study the PAeL device, with facilities at both Vichy and Paris. As a result the Germans developed their own automation and deployed some of them on the Eastern Front. In secret meetings with Vichy French officials the Germans agreed to permit the French to manufacture automatons and send them to Russia in lieu of drafting French citizens to fight in the German army or sending troops there to fight there directly. The Soviet Union is known to have captured a few from the Germans.
The PAeL Automatons served nearly everywhere US Army troops served in World War Two. Many soldiers did not like serving with them. Their limited artificial intelligence meant that each PAeL had to have a human Pal to direct them. Since PAeL did not eat or drink, soldiers could not share a cup of coffee or a meal with them. Since the early versions could not speak, they could not have a conversation with their human counterparts.
The PAeL troops were designed to identify the enemy by the presence of enemy gear, especially headgear and weapons. The German helmet, the M43 Feldmutze cap, the German Kar-98 rifle, the German metal gas mask canister were key items of identification. When the PAeL did not detect these features they often would not fire on the enemy.
Initially they plan was to replace 50% of all units with PAeL Automatons, but soon it was realized that it was not practical for all units. Mess facilities were reduced to half size total with only 25% of the original human staffing. Medical units were reduced by 40% of their size, but this was made up by the need for repair teams for the PAeL Automatons. PAeL repair teams were co-located with medical units.

While PAeL soldiers did not really need clothing as such, it was realized that the distinctive US Army helmet was a key identifier of friendly troops. As such, the PAeL was nearly always known to wear a helmet, and usually a GI shirt. They had no practical reason to wear pants or boots and seldom did wear them.

PAeL Automatons were the same size and weight as a large human solder, in the same proportions. They were six feet, two inches tall and weighted 250 pounds. They were designed as small as possible but Dr. Handricksen wanted them to be able to fit inside human vehicles, use human furniture and most importantly, human weapons.

While made of metal, the PAeL was not really bullet proof. They were deactivated with a gunshot to the head or center of chest. They did not feel pain and so would continue to fight even with terrible damage. They would never surrender as a part of their programming but would stop fighting and deactivate themselves at the order of their human Pal.

PAeL Automatons ran on electricity. They could be recharged from any automobile recharging system. Clips from the PAeL battery system could be attached to the vehicle battery and with the engine running the PAeL battery would be recharged in under an hour. PAeL batteries were usually recharged at charging stations and swapped out every day.

2 comments:

Bob G. said...

Bunkermeister:
I'd wager the elements played holy hell with those vacuum tubes!

(solid state circuitry wasn't out yet, correct?)

And they probably squeaked like crazy in damp settings.

Should have some sort of destruct in case of capture.
(perhaps magnesium or sodium-based...complete annihilation)

Pretty good stuff you have here...I like it.

Carry on.

Bunkermeister said...

Vacuum tubes it was. Thanks Bob G.