History has shown that when war breaks out, and as chaos and carnage rule on high, agencies of government often employ the use of some decidedly novel technologies to try and defeat the enemy. And, more than a few of those same technologies have involved our furry and feathered friends; but, in ways so downright strange that they have been relegated to the world of legend, when they’re actually all too strangely true. One is just plain batty.
An operation secretly approved by President Theodore Roosevelt, shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Project Bat Bomb was just about as crazy as its name suggests. Quite possibly, it was even crazier.
The brainchild of a dentist named Lytle S. Adams, who was a good friend of the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt – which is how the idea for the scheme reached the intrigued eyes and ears of the president – the plan was to create sturdy bomb-casings that were to be dropped over Japan by high-flying American bombers and which would unleash upon the cities, towns and villages of the country decidedly unusual and nightmarish cargos.
Those cargos were to be nothing less than thousands upon thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats. And as they are wont to do, after the casings were parachuted out of the planes and opened during descent, all the bats would very likely seek out the many roofs of the buildings in the area, make their collective way in, and roost.
These bats weren’t of the everyday kind, though. And the reasons for releasing the creatures on Japan weren’t to give them good homes in a new, far away land. The plan was for each and every bat to have attached to its body a small incendiary device containing nothing less than deadly napalm.
Then, specifically after the thousands of animals had been given time to find places to roost in countless Japanese homes, factories, and buildings – the construction of which, in many cases, involved highly flammable materials such as bamboo and paper – the napalm-packed devices would be triggered.
The explosive result: all across the targeted area, fires would suddenly break out, and chaos would ensue as the Japanese struggled to combat the escalating infernos springing up all over the place. And not a single member of the American military – aside from those flying the aircraft to their designated targets – would ever have to go into battle.
Well, on paper, at least, it all sounded fine and dandy, as undeniably batty schemes so often do. Putting matters into practice proved disastrous, however. In May 1943, attempts were made to carry out an experiment along these very lines on home territory, specifically at the New Mexico-based Carlsbad Army Air Field Auxiliary Air Base.
Unfortunately, after a number of bats – fully-armed, so to speak – were mistakenly released, en masse, the result was nothing less than the destruction by fire of the entire test range! This was hardly a promising start.
But, officialdom chose to press on, even to the point where the replication of an entire Japanese village was constructed out at the secret Dugway Proving Ground in Utah and where follow-up experiments were undertaken. By all accounts, a fair degree of success was achieved and the village became a blazing wreck with astonishing and much welcome speed.
But, with further problems constantly surfacing, and delays in terms of perfecting the miniature technology that had to be built for tens of thousands of bats – never mind the fact a large supply of the creatures had to first be captured from deep within a series of Texas caves – growing research into the atomic bomb project was seen as offering a far better means of bringing Japan’s military to a grinding halt than a bunch of bats ever could.
Nick Redfern is the author of many books, including Memoirs of a Monster Hunter, There’s something in the Woods, and Monster Diary.