America once spent $2 million trying to engineer a legitimate Bat Bomb
"War, huh, yeah! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing," shouts Edward Starr on his now-infamous song "WAR." And, for the record, I agree with him. But, despite the depravity and mass-death that war causes, it has also brought about one of the most bizarre and dumbfounding stories that I have read in recent times.
Now, if you will, I'm going to ask you to cast your minds back to World War II. While a lot of you won't have been alive during this period, you can vaguely imagine what it is like to experience it. The world was at war (hence the name) and everyone was looking to out-do each other in terms of their armory. America, home to one of the world's biggest and greatest armies, was in the process of developing the atomic bomb - a weapon that will change the landscape of war for years to come.
However, the US was also developing a much more complex and unique bomb, something so outlandish that no other country would even dare attempt it. Yes, you guessed it; they were developing the Bat Bomb.
Now, I'm a firm believer in keeping things simple, but this - quite frankly - is ridiculous.
When I first heard of the Bat Bomb, I assumed that it was a stealth bomb, dropped at night to cause mass panic and destruction. But no, it was literally a bomb filled with bats. The weapon was conceived in Pennsylvania by Lytle S. Adams, a friend of Eleanor Roosevelt. Adams submitted the plans to the White House in January 1942, and President Roosevelt approved it on the advice of zoologist Donald Griffin.
The idea behind the bomb was simple: a lot of Japanese structures were made up of paper, bamboo and other highly flammable materials. Through the Bat Bomb, a bomb-like cast would be loaded up with Mexican bats - who would all be strapped with mini bombs - and would be dropped from US fighter planes.
As the bomb begins to fall, a parachute would launch and the cast would open, freeing the bats who would then hide in the buildings at dawn. Shortly after, timers would ignite the bombs, leading to widespread fires and chaos.
A series of tests on the bomb were conducted, with varying degrees of success. After several trial-runs, the Marine Corps carried out a definitive test on a mockup of a Japanese village in Utah. Observers of the test produced optimistic accounts, with one saying:
"A reasonable number of destructive fires can be started in spite of the extremely small size of the units.
"The main advantage of the units would seem to be their placement within the enemy structures without the knowledge of the householder or fire watchers, thus allowing the fire to establish itself before being discovered."
More tests of the Bat Bomb were scheduled, but the program was cancelled after it emerged that it would not be war-ready until mid-1945. Looking for a quick end to the war, America decided to press on with its development of the atomic bomb. However, Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King remained a fan of the idea.
"Think of thousands of fires breaking out simultaneously over a circle of forty miles in diameter for every bomb dropped, " he said. "Japan could have been devastated, yet with small loss of life."
So, while the Bat Bomb may sound ludicrous, it may have actually saved a lot of the lives that were lost during the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. If only the US had pressed ahead with their plans.