Feature: Bat Bombs Away!
Towards the end of World War 11 American scientists believed they could destroy entire Japanese cities with bat bombs. As bizarre as it sounds, the idea- Project X-Ray - was sanctioned by President Roosevelt in 1943. And the bombs nearly went into full production.
The theory was simple. You take a Mexican free-tail bat and strap a small napalm-filled vest to its chest, along with a tiny detonator and timer. Then you fill a canister with these bats and release it while flying over a Japanese city.
The bats would be chilled so they’d be in a state of hibernation, but as the canister fell, slowed by a parachute, they would warm up and awaken.
The canister was designed to disintegrate at 500 meters, allowing over a thousand bats, each carrying a tiny time-delay napalm incendiary device, to flutter away.
Because bats hate daylight, they would all disappear into cracks and crevices of the buildings below, then explode after half an hour. At that time most Japanese buildings were wooden so they’d catch fire. Many of them would grow into large fires, and the ability of the Japanese firefighters to contain them would quickly be overwhelmed.
The plan was for ten B-24 bombers flying from Alaska each carrying a hundred shells packed with bats to release 1,040,000 bat bombs over the industrial cities of Osaka Bay."
As simple and ingenuous as the bat bomb idea sounds, all did not go well.
In the first test, most of the bats, not fully recovered from hibernation, dropped to the ground and died on impact.
In another test, the wind change direction and blew the bats into the Carlsbad Auxiliary Army Air Base in New Mexico and burned the place to the ground.
In another incident some of the bats hid under the car of a high-ranking US officer causing it to explode.
There were many other complications. Many bats didn’t wake up in time for the drops. The cardboard cartons did not function properly and the surgical clips proved difficult to attach to the bats without tearing the delicate skin.
But the test went on until late 1944 when pilots realized that, if one of the bats ever escaped during flight, their plane would catch fire. After that, they refused to fly in any more tests and Project X-Ray was cancelled.*