Now I know why they call ’em the Greatest Generation. What other group would have the moxie to turn bats into trained bomb-droppers?
The idea behind World War II’s Project X-Ray “was that a bomb-like canister filled with bats would be dropped from high altitude over the target area,” says Murdoc Online. “The bats would be in a sort of hibernation, but as the bomb fell (slowed by a parachute) they would warm up and awaken.”
At the appropriate altitude, the bomb would open and over one thousand bats, each carrying a tiny time-delay napalm incendiary device, would flutter away and roost in various nooks and crannies, many of them in extremely flammable wooden Japanese buildings.
The napalm devices would go off more or less simultaneously, and thousands of little fires would start at the same time. Many of them would grow into large fires, and the ability of the Japanese firefighters to contain them would quickly be overwhelmed…
Seems to me, as outrageous as it sounds, that it could have worked… In fact, one afternoon while demonstrating the napalm devices, several bats woke too early in the lab, flew off, and ended up burning down the brand-new but uninhabited Carlsbad Auxiliary Army Air Base in New Mexico. Really.
Of course, this is the era of warrior-thinkers that came up will all sorts of so-crazy-it-might -just-work schemes — items like paper bombs, plague-filled subs, and aircraft carriers made of ice.
The October 1990 edition of Air Force magazine has a hilariously detailed rundown of the whole bat bomb episode. And Defense Tech Dad Tom Shachtman covers all sorts of WWII-era military research follies in his book Laboratory Warriors: How Allied Science and Technology Tipped the Balance in World War II.
THERE’S MORE: “Our intelligent designer has never created an animal that we couldn’t improve by strapping a bomb to it,” snarks Joel.