Killing Them Loudly

Joe Zadeh explores the history of sound as a weapon of war:

The incorporation of sound into warfare may sound like a modern tactic, but the first reports have their roots in history. Back in 1944, as World War II slipped through Germany’s fingertips, it was rumoured that Hitler’s chief architect Albert Speer had set up research to explore his own theories of sonic warfare, with the intention of creating tools of death. An episode of  the History Channel’s Weird Weapons claimed that his device, dubbed an acoustic cannon, was intended to work by igniting a mixture of methane and oxygen in a resonant chamber, and could create a series of over 1,000 explosions per second.

This sent out a deafening and focused beam of sound which was magnified by huge parabolic reflector dishes. The idea, apparently, was that by repeatedly compressing and releasing particular organs in the human body, the cannon could potentially kill someone standing within a 100-yard radius in around thirty seconds. Fortunately, the weapon was never actually used in battle. The actual volume of sound frequency isn’t the only way sound has been used in war. In his  2009 book Sonic Warfare, a key body of research in the understanding of contemporary sonic thought, Goodman included a chapter titled “Project Jericho,” which explored the US PSYOPS campaigns during the Vietnam War. Goodman described a particular campaign known as Operation Wandering Soul. The Curdler, a helicopter-mounted sonic device, produced the “voodoo effects of Wandering Soul, in which haunting sounds said to represent the souls of the dead were played in order to perturb the superstitious snipers, who, while recognizing the artificial source of the wailing noises, could not help but dread what they were hearing was a premonition of their own postdeath dislocated soul.”