Bat Bombs Away!

Now I know why they call ’em the Greatest Generation. What other group would have the moxie to turn bats into trained bomb-droppers?
1090bat1.jpgThe 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.

  • Willis B. Adams

    Unfortunatly there are so misconceptions and and false speculations made about my Dad’s (Dr. Lytle S. Adams Bat warfare Project that nobody even looks at his other inventions. The Air mail Pick-up which was used to pick-up guliders on D-Day, it did the first Ship to Shore and Shore to ship transfer of mail in 1929 and the first human pick-up in 1944. The copany my dad started All American Aviation became Alligainy Airlines and is now USAir. Its sister co. All American Engineering is now Zodiac and still working from my Dads Patents make the hooks for tail hook, build the catapult that launches the Predator and using his 1927 patent for aresting Airlines at airports. He invented Oral surgical instraments, Pellet Seeding for seeding rangeland from the air and these are just a few of his contibutions.
    Willis B. Adams

    • Alta Hoyle

      My two uncles Robert ( Bobby) Herold and Edward Herold both worked with your dad. My family thought a lot of him. I always wondered why he did not recieve more credit for his air pick up and other inventions. Alta from Arizona