A Source of Inspiration

Choose your language     

A Source of Inspiration

We have seen already, that the Austrian scientist mentioned by Al Bielek, Dr. Emil Kurtenauer, is a fictitious person and this character was obviously lifted by Bielek right out of the novel "Thin Air" written by Burger & Simpson (see 'Al Bielek's false statements about scientists'). But after looking for possible connections between Bielek and institutes or companies related to scientific research or engineering, we ran into this interview, which is part of the IEEE Oral History Project. The scientist introduced in this interview showed some remarkable coincidences with what was presented as the profile of Dr. Emil Kurtenauer by Al Bielek. It can be safely assumed that as an electronics engineer, Bielek had contacts to the IEEE and he probably knew about this interview. The fields of scientific research and the details of his family background as described by this scientist are a valuable source of a lot of details, which can be found in the stories about the Philadelphia Experiment and the Montauk Project as told by Bielek. Beside this, the following interview gives some more interesting details about the circumstances of German radar and radar countermeasure research in WW II.

Dr. Emil Kurtenauer, an Austrian physicist, was allegedly involved with the planning and conduct of the PX - So Bielek said in his famous speech given in Phoenix in 1990. Already five months before, when he was a guest speaker at the UFO-NEW AGE CONFERENCE in Phoenix, Arizona, he claimed that he knew the members of the team, which was leading the preparation phase for the Philadelphia Experiment. Al Bielek claimed that the prep team consisted of Nikola Tesla, John Hutchinson and Emil Kurtenauer. Bielek later changed the name into Kirtenhauer, however, this unknown scientist allegedly was of Austrian origin. This is taken from the speech at the UFO-New Age Conference:

"Actually, the Philadelphia Experiment, at least in its preliminary stages, probably began about 1932-'33 in the Chicago area. The popular scientific press of the day was very hot on the subject of invisibility. It was at that time that a small team of scientists got together and started to investigate the subject and its possibilities. The team included John Hutchinson, Dean of the University of Chicago; the brilliant Nicola Tesla, and a third man who has been very hard to identify. I finally tracked him down as Dr. Emil Kurtenauer, an Austrian, who had a Ph.D. in physics."

And to complete the curriculum vita of this fictitious character, here is the full description as it can be found in "Thin Air", page 153:

"It (project Thin Air) was initiated by a man named Emil Kurtnauer, whose roots in it extend back to 1933.“
„Emil Kurtnauer was an austrian physicist much influenced by Albert Einsteins’s theories of relativity. He was studying in Duesseldorf in October of 1933 when Einstein and Niels Bohr met in conference at Bruessels. Kurtnauer went there and pestered them until Einstein agreed to sit down with him for two whole days they discussed an application of Einstein’s unified field theory that Kurtnauer wanted to work on. Einstein took great pains trying to talk him out of it, insisting that the theory, which he’d put forth in 1929, was desperately flawed and any applications of it could only compound the error. Kurtnauer insisted to the contrary: there was something to it and he intended to devote himself to this project. Einstein, sensing determination, encouraged him to send over his findings and he in turn would keep Kurtnauer advised of his own progress. So Kurtnauer happily went home.“
„... Kurtnauer, a jew, fled Germany in 1935, emigrating to America. He got in touch with Einstein, who helped him secure a teaching post at the University of Chicago.“

And now to a real person, whose biographical data and scientific work seems an incredibly close match with what we know of "Dr. Kurtenauer". Perhaps this man is the inspiration for Bielek that led to incorporating him into his version of the PX and Montauk stories?

The electrical engineer interviewed here is Herman Schwan, born on August 7, 1915 in Aachen, Germany.
The URL for this interview is

These are the parts that are the most interesting:

SCHWAN: I was born in Aachen. I lived there only two and a half years so I have virtually no memory of the town whatsoever. Then my father was active as a teacher in a little town called Bad Kreuznach near the Rhine River, about ten miles south of Bingen. That was perhaps its best time. We lived there for some ten years. That was the time when my father was in close contact with the faculty at Frankfurt, which was reached by train in an hour or so. I think he wrote most of his publications, and his books as well, in Kreuznach.

NEBEKER: I see. Where did you live after you left Kreuznach?

SCHWAN: For a few years we lived in Dusseldorf, which is a city north of Cologne.

NEBEKER: When did you move there?

SCHWAN: We moved to Dusseldorf about 1928.

Note: The city of Dusseldorf was mentioned in 'Thin Air' as the place, where Dr. Kurtenauer did his studying.


SCHWAN: No. I certainly was undernourished as a baby. Food supplies were very restricted in Germany, of course, at the time. We suffered from that. Right after the First World War, the situation got worse instead of better. A few years later, we experienced tremendous inflation, where we purchased with billion mark notes. The standard of living was low. Even so, we enjoyed a level of security. My father was a good teacher. He had excellent training, and, until 1933, he had a secure position. At least there was regular income. We didn't suffer as much as many other people. From 'twenty-four to the time when the Nazis took over, Germany enjoyed a good economic period where income was rather good, and we enjoyed a relatively high standard of living as well. The years from 1926 to 1930 were particularly good. I like to think of that Germany. Then of course in 'thirty, the big depression came. We had just a few relatively good years between the inflation and the depression. We were all right until my father got released from his job.

NEBEKER: What was your father's subsequent career?

SCHWAN: He never had another job. He lived rather meagerly. During the war he moved to Austria, where he felt safer from the bombings. But then after the Second World War, when Austria was again separated from Germany, he moved back to Hannoe-Munden near Gottingen; and there he died. Late in his years, when he was about sixty, after the Second World War, he wrote five scientific papers which got published in mathematical journals in Germany. But his creativity was almost wiped out in the depressed period which followed his forcible retirement.

Note: Here, Austria is mentioned for the first time. It was not Schwan himself, but his father, who went to Austria. However, although this doesn't make him an Austrian, the connection is clear.


NEBEKER: Did your father teach at a gymnasium in Dusseldorf?

SCHWAN: Yes. He taught mathematics and physics.

Note: This looks somewhat like the prototype of what later became our Dr. Kurtenauer. A scientist teaching math and physics, teacher in Dusseldorf , who later went to Austria. It's all in there. The Kurtenauer-character seems to be a mixture of Herman Schwan and his father.


NEBEKER: Was your father forcibly retired from his position at Bad Kreuznach?

SCHWAN: No, that was after Dusseldorf (in 1934). At Dusseldorf he was again transferred to a city quite close to Berlin -- and there it hit him.

NEBEKER: That was also the year, that you completed gymnasium?

SCHWAN: In Gottingen, yes. My father was temporarily living in Gottingen. He decided that my mother would stay there. My father felt that I should attend high school in Gottingen. As a mathematician he was aware of the reputation of the school in Gottingen. Hermann Weyl's sons attended my high school. One was in the class above me; the other son was the class below me.

NEBEKER: Did you know the Weyls moved to Princeton?

SCHWAN: Yes. Max Born and Courant's children attended the same school. We were all about the same age.

NEBEKER: I can certainly understand the decision to go to high school there in Gottingen. Was the move to Gottingen expressly for that purpose?

SCHWAN: My parents had separated. It was my father's wish that my mother should move to Gottingen so that I could receive a good education. The Gottingen years were very important to me. I had an excellent school with excellent teachers. It was a very intellectual environment with good teachers. The school was one of the strong influences in my lifetime.

Note: Here we see a possible connection to Princeton.


NEBEKER: You completed gymnasium in 'thirty-four?


NEBEKER: How many years did you attend?

SCHWAN: I was in Gottingen four years in high school.


SCHWAN: That happened later. I first started in Frankfurt in October 1937. I had arranged with the Director of the Institute in Frankfurt that I would be permitted to get the next summertime free, in Berlin. I liked my work at Telefunken very much. It was during that summer 1938 that I worked in their high-frequency, very high-frequency, laboratory. They were working primarily on transmission lines. They made Smith charts and diagrammed and measured with coaxial measuring systems. I got quite familiar with relevant very high-frequency technology. As a sideline I learned about magnetron development. I believe the magnetron was discovered in England. The people at Telefunken were very interested in it.

NEBEKER: Were they interested in this for radio communications purposes?

SCHWAN: It is not quite clear. I think they were strongly interested in radar development.

NEBEKER: They were developing radar at Telefunken?

SCHWAN: Oh, yes. As a matter of fact, when the war started in 1939, the Germans developed the fairly well-known Würzburg type of equipment which operated at a wavelength of about one and one-half meters. They were operating at a rather low frequency by comparison with the 2400 megahertz which the United States used later in 'forty-three. They never made it to higher frequencies than that. They operated at lower wavelengths where, of course, resolution is not as good as it is at the higher frequencies. They developed some good magnetrons. It's an irony of history that a few months after the war started in 'thirty-nine the Nazis closed the Magnetron Development Laboratory since they thought it unnecessary for the war. Can you imagine that?

NEBEKER: Had they been developing radar for the military in Germany?


Note: Here we can read, that Schwan was working on top secret German radar research projects as well. Another thing: there was a lab developing the first German magnetron, a key element to radar, as far back as 1939. The USA and the Brits must have known that, which adds additional urgency to the threat by the Nazis. This made it necessary to be ahead in radar technology and countermeasures right from the start of WW II.


NEBEKER: How did your studies go in Frankfurt?

SCHWAN: Fine. No great problem. By that time I had taken so many engineering courses already, primarily math and physics, that I needed to take only specialty courses. I took courses primarily in biophysics, offered by Professor Rajewsky. I took some courses in theoretical physics. I also took some laboratory courses in physics, and an advanced mathematics course in analytical techniques given by a man named Siegel;. I don't know if you've heard about him. He eventually went to Princeton. He became very famous. He was also considered one of those geniuses. He left Germany in 'thirty-six and immediately was offered a job at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton.

NEBEKER: You received your doctorate in 1941?


Note: Schwan was not only working on radar, but on biophysics as well. In addition to Princeton, the Institute for Advanced Studies is mentioned here, not in conjunction with Schwan, but however, it's mentioned.


SCHWAN: Oh, yes. We had many air raids. In March 1944 we experienced a series of four air raids in less than a week. That series of bombings essentially wiped out Frankfurt. The damage was very, very heavy. My mother's house was half destroyed. Curiously enough my apartment house did not suffer. I rented an apartment near I.G. Farben administrative headquarters.

NEBEKER: That sounds dangerous.

SCHWAN: It was completely preserved.

NEBEKER: You're saying the Allied Forces purposely avoided bombing that?

SCHWAN: Yes. Absolutely! It was clear.

NEBEKER: Why is that?

SCHWAN: Well, there are two interpretations. An executive with Du Pont and General Motors offered one interpretation. I was once invited to his estate on the Chesapeake Bay. At one time or another he had been a chief executive officer. Since I was dating a friend of his daughter, he invited me to the estate and offered to help me. He also invited the president of Sperry Gyroscope to his place. He wanted this man to get me a job with Sperry. He told me that I.G. Farben and Du Pont were heavily intertwined. He claimed that in fact Du Pont owned fifty-one percent of the stock of I.G. Farben, and vice versa. He said to me, "We never had any intention to ruin our own headquarters in Germany. That's our stuff." The second interpretation, which I read later on, was that Eisenhower; had decided fairly early that he wanted to have that building complex for his headquarters in Germany. So, I don't know. Anyhow, I didn't suffer much. Windows were blown out, of course. But the building did not suffer much damage. Just two blocks away, however, there was just unbelievable damage.

Note: Here is something , that Bielek later mentioned in another context: The Sperry Corporation appears here, and they obviously wanted Schwan to work for them. Schwan, an expert in biophysics and radar should work for the Sperry Corporation? This is something, which likely was incorporated by Bielek into the 'story board' for his Montauk Project. It shows up as Bielek's claim, that Sperry was involved in the Philadelphia Experiment.

NEBEKER: Was it possible to continue doing research in those last years of the war?

SCHWAN: Our work suffered more and more.

NEBEKER: Did it continue?

SCHWAN: It continued. It continued, oh, yes.

NEBEKER: You continued working on the same topics?

SCHWAN: Actually, yes. But our work had shifted. Curiously enough, I continued doing what I wanted to do until 'forty-three. In 'forty-three, Rajewsky returned from a trip to Berlin. The Armed Forces had called a meeting of physicists. They had been instructed that submarines couldn't operate in the Atlantic anymore because they were being detected by radar. The government gave orders to do something about it. Some physicists were to develop materials to cover submarines which would not reflect radar beams. What was radar called in this country? It was called the "snorkel concept." You may have heard about it.

NEBEKER: Rajewsky was asked to work on that?

SCHWAN: Yes. He came back from that meeting. Of course, since I was the most advanced in dielectric technology and dielectric measurements at the institute, I was supposed to measure materials which might be useful. It was a fairly small effort. There were three groups of people at a number of different institutes, including theoreticians, who were developing so-called swamp materials. The materials would absorb radiation.
As a consequence, the code name was "Chimney Sweeper," because of the idea of blackness. The theoretical group worked to develop concepts of what combination of materials might be useful. Then there was industry, charged with the problem of how to produce such materials, if possible. Other groups developed methods to test whether the properties met I.G. Farben's specifications. I continued to develop microwave technology to higher frequencies and to measure properties with increasing sophistication.

Note: And as a last highlight, we can read, that Schwan was involved in radar countermeasures to protect German U-boats against Allied radar. This refers directly to the background of the Philadelphia Experiment. The Germans were working on a hardware solution to protect their subs while the USA were looking for a 'software' solution, the Philadelphia experiment.


NEBEKER: You called this system to make the submarines invisible to radar, "swamp"?

SCHWAN: Yes. Sumpf. It's a German word.

NEBEKER: Was this system actually implemented?

SCHWAN: Yes, it was.

NEBEKER: What kind of material did you use?

SCHWAN: It was a combination, a layered material. At each interface reflections take place. You can calculate the reflection coefficient as a function of the layer properties. It's easy to design the properties for minimal reflection.

NEBEKER: Was it known what frequencies the Allies were using for their radar?

SCHWAN: Yes, it was known that the twelve-centimeter band was the most popular radar equipment in existence. The Allies had developed the twelve-centimeter radar. The swamp was effective between ten and fifty centimeter wavelengths. The intensity of reflection was decreased ten-fold. That material was applied just to the towers of the submarines, which had to emerge above water to recharge their diesel engine batteries. The German subs became operative for one or two months shortly after the production of this material. It was in late 'forty-four when the Germans were sinking something like 200,000 tons of Allied shipping across the Atlantic each month. But the Germans had nothing later, when the Allies operated equipment at three centimeter wavelengths. That was way out of range.

NEBEKER: How important was your group in developing this material?

SCHWAN: We didn't develop the material. We measured its properties. In other words, we had to check if certain specifications were met. The theoreticians developed an idea of what properties they wanted to have realized.

Note: 'Sumpf' gave the the German subs another short relief for a two months period, then the Allies switched to 3 centimeter radar and the advantage was gone.


NEBEKER: Were you also working on understanding interactions of biological materials with electro magnetic fields? SCHWAN: Yes. There were some very early beginnings. I became aware of work which had been conducted in the late 'thirties in Vienna. One scientist there tried to develop a theory to explain so-called pearl-chain formation, which is the alignment of particles in a high-frequency field. This later on became very important in biotechnology, for example. This primitive theory attracted my attention at that time. It was 'thirty-eight already. Interest in the biological effects of electrical fields was generated almost simultaneously with the interest in electric properties. Both things go hand in hand.

NEBEKER: I gather that you were most innovative in the instrumentation in this area?

SCHWAN: I made major advances in instrumentation, yes. I began my work in Germany, but I did most of the work after I came to this country.

NEBEKER: You say also in the article that there was, in fact, the formation of a biophysical society in 1943. What were the activities of this society?

SCHWAN: We primarily conducted organizational meetings. Not many meetings took place during the war. Immediately after the war, meetings started up again. Traveling became more and more difficult after Stalingrad. After the initial meeting, not much happened for the remainder of the war. But after the Second World War it started right away again with a series of meetings in or near Frankfurt.

NEBEKER: Right about this time, I think it was 1944, Erwin Schrödinger; published What Is Life? That book attracted a number of physicists to biology with the promise that physics could offer explanations of biological phenomena. Were you aware of that publication at the time?

SCHWAN: Not immediately. Yes. I certainly became aware of Schrödinger book, eventually.

Note: The interaction of electric fields with human body tissue was notice in Germany, too. The US guys learned about it the hard way, the side effects of the PX.


SCHWAN: The fact that there was first a vacuum simply resulted from the fact that people didn't understand what I was doing. Cole and Fricke, yes. I met Cole and Fricke. But most of the physiologists didn't even understand Cole. I remember very well when I came to the University of Pennsylvania, that the physiologists often said to me, "Herman, you seem to understand that work of Cole. Can you explain it to us? We have no idea if that's important or not." I tried my best, of course, to do so. The physiologists and early biophysicists just were not trained enough to understand the relevance of this work. It took quite some time. I think an interest in such biophysical investigation started to develop very slowly. Interest increased after two British physiologists, Hodgkin and Huxley, got the Nobel Prize for their work on the electric properties of nerve axons. Then interest in that sort of work grew fairly fast. Cole told me that he brought my work to the attention of Falk and Fatt. My first presentation was in 1950 at the American Physiological Society meeting in Columbus, Ohio. Then I tried to publish it in physiological journals. There was no biophysical journal at that time. I was turned down twice, by two journals. I was very discouraged. And then I submitted it to a German journal where it was published in 'fifty-five -- five years after the Columbus meeting. By 'fifty-six I did have a reputation in the field and I was asked to write a review article on electric properties of biological materials. I wrote a long review article which was published in 'fifty-seven, where I reported for the first time in English about all that sort of work. There was only that German publication before and the abstract, which doesn't say much. This review article was a great success. I think it has been quoted in the Citation Index almost a thousand times. It's still being quoted since it was the first really comprehensive treatment of electrical properties of biological materials. Apparently Cole sent a reprint of this article to the British investigators sometime, I don't know when. They published their work in 'sixty-four.

Note: Remember, that Bielek and Nichols were involved in the United States Psychotronics Association USPA, which again is linked for sure to the American Physiological Society. One can assume, that when Bielek, Nichols and Cameron were looking for scientific stuff to add to their stories, they came along this official interview, too. Many of the subjects Bielek put into his story can be found here, but of course with a different meaning and context.


SCHWAN: Nothing comes immediately to mind, I must say. There was a reorientation and that is perhaps significant to point out. As we discussed before, there was an interest in therapeutic and diagnostic applications: diathermy techniques, echocardiography, things like that. But then later interest in the deleterious effect developed. Hazards, in other words. That also developed in the electromagnetic case. During the war, the Navy had had some concern about the ship radar. But the diathermy interests continued stronger than the interests in health hazards. Then by the late 'fifties, interest in hazards was sufficiently strong so that the IEEE and the Navy cosponsored the American Standards Institute. Committee C-95, and in 'fifty-nine I became chairman of the committee.

Note: Schwan told a lot about the subject of hazards from radar (and electro magnetic fields in general). In conjunction with what he said about his research in biophysics, we can see clear traces of what Bielek says about the Montauk Project and the physical hazards associated with the fields coming off the machinery on the test ship for the PX.

* * *