Below you’ll find an extract from my humorous History book ‘Escapades in Bizarrchaeology’.
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The Cat Shield was an example of a defining ‘weapon’ in man’s military history, a device that for better or worse forever changed our view on the world and our place within it. But it’s not the only such weapon in the Zoo, take a sharp left when you get to the Bat enclosure and then I can present to you… the Bat Bomb.
First things first, I believe some clarification is in order. By Bat Bomb I do not mean the high tech compact explosive you would find on the utility belt of the caped crusader, no, I actually mean an incendiary device attached to a bat.
This idea came to be in the midst of the second world war and was the brain child of a Pennsylvanian Dentist named Dr Lytle S. Adams (Yes, that Lytle S. Adams, none other than the inventor of the fried chicken dispensing machine). Recoiling from the shock and horror of the recent attack on Pearl Harbour by the Japanese, Adams came to consider ways in which America could strike back at its faraway foe.
Dr. Adams knew that the vast majority of buildings in Japan were constructed from paper, bamboo and other very flammable materials. He had also witnessed the behaviour of bats during a recent holiday in New Mexico, particularly the manner in which the winged wonders found small crevices to shelter in during the day.
Taking into account these two factors Dr Adams had an epiphany; the results of this epiphany can be easily seen through a number of steps written as bullet points for easy digestion. I like to think this is how Dr Adams planned out his idea but there is no historical evidence to prove this to be the case…
TO DO LIST:
1. Get some bats.
2. Attach a bomb to the bats.
3. Drop bats over Japanese cities.
4. Bats spread far and wide before finally hiding themselves in the dark recesses of buildings.
5. After a period of time the bombs explode causing fires to spread rapidly across Japan creating chaos, panic, and destruction.
6. Back to work… 10.45am. Patient. Root canal.
It was certainly the case that Dr Adams’ idea was unconventional, but there were top bods in the American government who believed that despite the oddity of using flying mammals as an offensive weapon that the theory was sound. That the bat bomb actually could work.
Adams submitted the idea to the White House in January 1942, where President Roosevelt himself authorised the further development of the project. It fell to the inventor of military napalm, Louis Fieser, to devise an effective bomb which was also light enough for the bat to carry. Fortunately for Fieser bats can carry more than their own weight in flight, so the bomb he developed was roughly the same size as a bat and was an impressively diminutive 16 grams in weight.
Now that Fieser had bombs attached to bats the next problem to overcome was to actually get all of them to Japan. And for this there was created an elegant and cunning solution. A device so simple and yet so genius I will write the details of it in its own paragraph.
A big metal box.
Yes, a big metal box with multiple compartments in which could be housed the hibernating bats. A parachute was stuck to the back so when it was dropped by a plane at high altitude over Japan, the descent of the box could be slowed. At 1000 feet the bats were awoken from the hibernation, the compartments then opened and 1000 bat bombs were released.
So, how come the bat bomb was never used?
Well it was, only as a test admittedly, but the military were very pleased with the results of the bat bomb when it was deployed on a mocked up Japanese village built in the Dugway Proving Grounds of Utah. Yes, there were some setbacks along the way (the bats set fire to Carlsbad Army Airfield Auxiliary Air Base when they roosted under a fuel tank, resulting in property damage and a high death count of bats) but none the less the effectiveness of the bat bomb appeared to be promising. Not only that but bat loving mathematicians also surmised that ten B-24 bombers could carry over one million bats to their target.
So, to ask the question again, how come the bat bomb was never used?
Essentially the atomic bomb rendered it irrelevant. The new weapon was so devastating in its power and so terrifying in its annihilation of life that the bat bomb was consigned as a foot note in history.
So, how best to sum up? On the surface the bat bomb seemed like a ridiculous idea, after all, attaching explosive devices to any sort of animal seems like something you would watch in a cartoon. However, what if the bat bomb was used before the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan? What if this seemingly absurd weapon managed to bring a close to the Second World War? What kind of world would we live in had an atomic bomb never been used on a civilian population?
Let’s leave the final word to the inventor of the bat bomb himself, when commenting on why his invention – ‘X-Ray’ – would have been a much better weapon to use on Japan than ‘Little Boy’ or ‘Fat Man’;
‘Think of thousands of fires breaking out simultaneously over a circle of forty miles in diameter for every bomb dropped. Japan could have been devastated, yet with small loss of life’