In January 1942, a rather unusual weaponry system was designed by the United States Of America. It was targeted towards the Japanese, during World War 2. The bomb, a 48 inch canister, with a weight of 123 kilos, encompassed multiple Napalm-strapped bats within it.1 This device was to be deployed using an aerial bomber, where on reaching a predefined height, the bat bomb would deploy a parachute, once the parachute reaches to a certain height over ground level, the cannister would open, releasing the bats to wreck havoc on the enemy. Each bat would be carrying a payload of 17.5 grams of napalm.
The inventor and other key individuals
Lytle S. Adams, a dentist by profession, conceptualized the idea in the 1940s. The idea reached the government through President Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt. Adams was a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, and suggested the idea to her. The First Lady diverted this information to the President, resulting in the inception of Project X-Ray.
Early testing of the device
The project had various eminent individuals working on it. Namely, Dr. Louis Fieser (The inventor of Napalm) and Donald R. Griffin (Discovered Bat echolocation). Testing commenced in 1943, with a battery of tests strictly scrutinizing the bat bomb project. By the end of the testing phase, a model Japanese village was set up in American state of Utah. The test of this model village was deemed to be a success, as the bat bombs successfully torched various parts of the model village. The weapon was deemed to be an effective device by The National Defense Research Committee. 2
Accidentally burned down a US barracks
The Carlsbad Auxiliary Air Field, New Mexico, was accidentally inflamed during testing the bat bomb. 3 This accident, coupled with slow progress and simultaneous development of the US Nuclear project, signalled the end of the $2 million Bat Bomb Project.
Book by Jack Couffer
Project X-Ray inspired a 284 page long book, titled ‘Bat Bomb: World War II’s Other Secret Weapon’ in the year 2008. 4 The book discusses the history of the project, how it came into existence and eventual shutdown. The book is published by The University of Texas Press.
Additional animal bombs
The United States Office of Strategic Services, undertook an initiative where it began testing Cat bombs.5 Cats would be carrying an explosive payload and later dropped into water. The cat’s disdain for getting wet would guide it towards the closest ship it could find. Upon swimming to the target ship, the bomb would be detonated, destroying the ship and the feline.
The National Research Defense Committee, cleared the Pigeon Project in 1943. The project used trained pigeons rigged with explosives, to target enemy buildings and bunkers.6 This is how the contraption worked:
- Pigeons would be trained to peck at a particular point when they saw a particular target
- These trained pigeons would be encased in a missile and it would be launched
- When the pigeon saw the target (through a magnifying glass), it would start pecking
- The pigeons pecking pattern would guide the missile to hit the target and eventually destroy the target and the pigeon itself.
The project was later scrapped because of its unpredictable nature.
In the year 1941, The British Army developed explosive rat based weaponry, where they stuffed rats with explosives, with the goal of targeting enemy locations.7
The Soviet Army initiated the use of Anti-tank dogs in the 1930s.8 Here, a dog would be trained to run towards enemy tanks in the battlefield, when the dog reaches it’s destination, it’s payload was detonated, destroying the tank and any other enemy units around in the vicinity. The K9 was strapped with a canvas harness, charge initiator, safety pin, detonating cord and the main charge.
- “Think of thousands of fires breaking out simultaneously over a circle of forty miles in diameter for every bomb dropped.” – Lytle S. Adams
- “Lowest form of life is the BAT, associated in history with the underworld and regions of darkness and evil,” – Lytle S. Adams