Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bat Bombs Away!

I produce feature stories, not for the fame or fortune. I do it for the little bits of obscure triva.

Recently, while videotaping a story about tank collecting, military vehicle collector Jack Tomlin gave me a brief WWII history lesson I must've slept through in high school.

In 1942, returning from a tour of Carlsbad Caverns, a Pennsylvania dental surgeon formulated an idea for a revolutionary new weapon. A bat bomb. A canister of bats, each outfitted with little timed incendiary devices, that would be dropped at night high above Osaka. At the right altitude, the canister would open, the bats would fly away, roost in buildings and set the city on fire.

President Roosevelt thought it was a fine idea.

They called it Project X-Ray and the inventor of napalm designed little firebombs to be carried by the bats.

The military tested it, with positive results, on a mock Japanese city at Utah's Dugway Proving Grounds.

I'm not making this up.

It's in Wikipedia, so it must be true. .

There's also an entry there for Project Pigeon, behaviorist B.F. Skinner's contribution to the war effort. A pigeon-guided missile. Pigeons peck at an image of a target and steer the missile to its destination.

That one wasn't quite as successful.

In the end, the bat bomb, which the doctor thought could cause devastation without much loss of life, was never deployed.

It was beaten out by another new weapon. The atomic bomb.

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