Canal Defense Light — WWII's Secret Tank Weapon

A specialized mount designed to dazzle enemy troops

Grant Piper

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(Public domain)

In 1942, in the darkness of the Arizona desert, a bright beam of light cut through the night. The searchlight was heinously bright as it swept across the empty expanses of sand. Standing outside in the chill of the night was a team of military observers. These men were taking notes and discussing the usefulness of such a light on the battlefield.

After the demonstration was over, the men packed up and made their way back to their offices, where they quickly drew up reports and observations which were sent out to top brass in the US military. Generals Eisenhower and Clark received such reports and instantly became intrigued with the project being developed between the Americans and the British.

The secret program contained no new armaments. It wasn’t a new bomb or radar system. It wasn't nuclear in nature. It was simply a powerful arc light. Across the pond, the British would call the project the Canal Defense Light (likely referring to a mundane spotlight emplacement that would don the banks of the Suez Canal.) The Americans would call the project Gizmo and refer to the prototype tanks as “shop tractors.” If the Germans decoded Allied notes on the project, they would find phrases like defense light and shop tractor and think…

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Grant Piper

Professional writer. Amateur historian. Husband, father, Christian.