Dakota Datebook

Grand Forks Inventor

Monday, April 23, 2012


An inventor from Grand Forks was celebrating the success of his latest invention on this day in 1916. While tinkering with electrical equipment, R. S. McGuire stumbled upon a method of wireless radio control by accident. Mr. McGuire realized that this method could be employed in a variety of ways, but most notably in the remote steering of underwater torpedoes. The inventor quickly compiled miniature prototypes to test his idea. After several successful trials of his own, McGuire contacted the United States government concerning his wireless torpedo. Although a wireless torpedo invented by John Hays Hammond, Jr. was already in use by the United States military, the government continued to search for more accurate and reliable methods.

A group of government engineers with the war department contacted McGuire and asked to have a demonstration of his torpedo. The engineers selected a secluded stretch of the Mississippi River near St. Cloud, Minnesota as the location of the testing. McGuire anchored a large pile of logs and timbers in the middle of the river to be used as the target. The torpedo was constructed using seventy-five pounds of gun cotton explosive, “or…about 1,400 pounds of dynamite”. Two of the engineers and McGuire sat in a boat 3,000 yards downriver from the target and launched the torpedo. McGuire fastened the wireless device on the prow of the boat and began maneuvering the torpedo through a series of drills. Impressed, the engineers asked McGuire to move the boat nearer the target so that they would be able to see the torpedo’s full effects. The boat was taken to within 200 yards of the target and the engineers requested that McGuire hit the target. The torpedo slammed into the floating woodpile, and McGuire “declare[d] he knew nothing till he found himself in the water some distance from the shore”. The sheer magnitude of the explosion had upset the entire boat and the officials and McGuire both ended up swimming to shore.

The engineers were none the less impressed with McGuire’s device and asked the inventor to travel to the eastern naval yards, where further testing could be accomplished. Although the government did not end up adopting McGuire’s wireless torpedo, the drenched trio that emerged from the Mississippi that day could testify to the device’s success.



Fargo Forum and Daily Republican (Evening ed.). April 22, 1916: p. 2.


Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job



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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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