Nearly 75 years after the death of pioneering genius Nikola Tesla, questions still abound as to why the government was first to be notified of his death, and why much of the information from his notebook, seized by the government, has yet to be made public. Not even the Tesla museum in Belgrade, Serbia has been allowed access to all of his materials, leading some to wonder which of Tesla’s ideas—such as the Death Ray—may indeed have been brought to fruition after his demise.
By S. T. Patrick
During the winter night of Jan. 7, 1943, Nikola Tesla, the idiosyncratic renaissance man of the scientific community, died in his room at the Hotel New Yorker. The eccentric Tesla had pioneered advances in alternating current (AC), experimented with the creation of a death ray weapon, and dreamed of wireless power grids.
By the time Tesla’s nephew, Yugoslav Ambassador to the U.S. Sava Kosanovic, arrived at the Hotel New Yorker the next morning, someone had gone through the effects in the room. Suspiciously missing was Tesla’s black notebook, which contained hundreds of pages—some that had “Government” transcribed onto them.
Government agents had been contacted and had quickly entered Tesla’s room to confiscate the relevant papers. Controversy still today surrounds the legitimacy of the confiscation. The technical analysis and housing of the papers was undertaken by the Justice Department’s Alien Property Custodian Office (APCO). The APCO should never have assumed jurisdiction over the “missing papers,” as Tesla had become a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1891.
The FBI has confirmed that Tesla’s papers were carefully inspected by naval intelligence officers and a radar scientist at MIT, yet the FBI clams that it “was not involved in searching Tesla’s effects, and it never had possession of his papers or any microfilm that may have been made of those papers.”
The MIT scientist responsible for scientific analysis of the papers was John G. Trump, Ph.D., the uncle of President Donald Trump.
Dr. Trump concluded that Tesla’s “thoughts and efforts during at least the past 15 years (of his life) were primarily of a speculative, philosophical, and somewhat promotional character,” but “did not include new, sound, workable principles or methods for realizing such results.”
Dr. Trump’s conclusions have not been accepted by the majority of Tesla’s biographers and fans over the past 75 years. They are reasonably suspicious that the government has not only used Tesla’s plans for invention but that many of Tesla’s most creative ideas have remained secret to this day. Trump alluded to his uncle’s knowledge during the 2016 campaign.
“(My uncle) would tell me many years ago about the power of weapons someday,” Trump told the media, “that the destructive force of these weapons would be so massive, that it’s going to be a scary world.”
Dr. Trump added that the papers were innocuous and dispelled any fear that they could be used by a World War II enemy of the United States.
Detractors of the “national security” theory cite the mainstream scientific community’s dismissal of Tesla in their argument. If Tesla was simply engaging in harmlessly theoretical, scientific hocus-pocus, why would the government have invaded his quarters immediately after he was found dead? Why were federal officials called before Tesla’s nephew, a Yugoslav diplomatic official, was contacted?
Questions regarding why federal officials were alerted and who knew to do so have spawned conspiracy theories about the death itself.
Other questions focus on the here and now. For instance, does Tesla’s powerful particle-beam weapon—often termed a “Death Ray”—exist today? Theoretical physicists and alternative science investigators such as John Lear believe that is likely, despite the lack of official government acknowledgment.
According to biographer Marc Seifer in Wizard: The Life & Times of Nikola Tesla, Brig. Gen. L. C. Craigee and a group of military personnel at Wright Patterson Air Force Base believed very differently than Trump. Craigee was the first person ever to fly a jet plane for the military.
Seifer wrote, “(Craigee) said, ‘There’s something to this—the particle beam weapon is real.’ ”
Craigee and his staff were tasked with performing experiments using some of Tesla’s most classified papers. The results of the experiments were never made public, and the experiments ended. The Tesla papers used as the basis for the experiments vanished.
President Ronald Reagan believed in the efficacy of the particle beam weapon. An exaggerated version became the basis for his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, or “Star Wars”) program in the mid-1980s. Since the 1970s, fears had arisen that the Soviet Union had constructed a large particle beam weapon facility near the Sino-Soviet border.
Newly released FBI files detail how some FBI agents feared that Kosanovic may take possession of the papers solely to use them as an international bargaining chip. The FBI considered arresting Kosanovic to assure that the contents of the papers would not leave the United States.
The newest FBI releases also confirm that President Franklin Roosevelt and Vice President Henry Wallace were interested in Tesla’s ideas.
Also recently uncovered is the role Vannevar Bush played in the analysis of the Tesla papers. Bush was the head of the Manhattan Project and was a rumored member of Operation Majestic-12, which is alleged to have formed in 1947 to facilitate the recovery and investigation of UFOs.
When the FBI was ordered to return the papers to the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Serbia, only 60 of the 80 trunks collected were sent. There are still files to be released—and some to be “found”—but what remains in the files, as in Tesla’s life, is shrouded in mystery.
S.T. Patrick holds degrees in both journalism and social studies education. He spent ten years as an educator and now hosts the “Midnight Writer News Show.” His email is [email protected].