Bat bomb

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Bat bombs were bomb-shaped casings with numerous compartments, each containing a Mexican Free-tailed Bat with a small timed incendiary bomb attached. Dropped from a bomber at dawn, the casings would deploy a parachute in mid-flight and open to release the bats which would then roost in eaves and attics. The incendiaries would start fires in inaccessible places in the largely wood and paper construction of the Japanese cities that were the weapon's intended target. Developed by the United States during World War II, four biological factors gave promise to this plan. First, bats occur in large numbers (four caves in Texas are each occupied by several million bats). Second, bats can carry more than their own weight in flight (females carry their young — sometimes twins). Third, bats hibernate, and while dormant they do not require food or maintenance. Fourth, bats fly in darkness, then find secluded places (often in buildings) to hide during daylight.

The plan was to release bat bombs over Japanese cities having widely-dispersed industrial targets. The bats would spread far from the point of release due to the relatively high altitude of their release, then at dawn they would hide in buildings across the city. Shortly thereafter built-in timers would ignite the bombs, causing widespread fires and chaos. The bat bomb idea was conceived by dental surgeon Lytle S. Adams, who submitted it to the White House in January, 1942, where it was subsequently approved by President Roosevelt.[1] Adams was recruited to research and obtain a suitable supply of bats. Project details By March 1943 a suitable species had been selected. The project was considered serious enough that Louis Fieser, the inventor of military napalm, designed 0.6 ounce (17 g) and one ounce (28 g) incendiary devices to be carried by the bats. A bat carrier similar to a bomb casing was designed that included 26 stacked trays, each containing compartments for 40 bats. The carriers would be dropped from 5,000 feet (1,525 m). Then the trays would separate but remain connected to a parachute that would deploy at 1,000 feet (305 m). It was envisioned that ten B-24 bombers flying from Alaska, each carrying a hundred shells packed with bomb-carrying bats could release 1,040,000 bat bombs over the target — the industrial cities of Osaka Bay. A series of tests to answer various operational questions were conducted. In one incident the Auxiliary Army Air Base in Carlsbad, New Mexico, was set on fire when armed bats were accidentally released. The bats incinerated the test range and roosted under a fuel tank. Following this setback, the project was relegated to the Navy in August 1943, who renamed it Project X-Ray, and then passed it to the Marine Corps that December. The Marine Corps moved operations to the Marine Corps Air Station at El Centro, California. After several experiments and operational adjustments, the definitive test was carried out on a mockup of a Japanese city built by the Chemical Warfare Service at their Dugway Proving Grounds test site in Utah.

Observers at this test produced optimistic accounts. The chief of incendiary testing at Dugway wrote: “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.” The National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) observer stated: “It was concluded that X-Ray is an effective weapon.” The Chief Chemist’s report stated that on a weight basis X-Ray was more effective than the standard incendiary bombs in use at the time. “Expressed in another way, the regular bombs would give probably 167 to 400 fires per bomb load where X-Ray would give 3,625 to 4,748 fires”.

One person involved in this project was actor Tim Holt. This was revealed in a conversation between Mr. Holt and Bob Marshall at a rodeo in Ada, Oklahoma in 1954 where Tim was signing autographs[citation needed]. The two had become friends during the summer of 1943 at El Centro. Apparently, Holt and his crew would carry canisters of bats in bombers, release the canisters for bat deployment. If the canister opened properly, the crew would search for bats. If the canisters failed, the crew would retrieve the failed canister (along with many dead bats) to determine the reason for the canister's failure to open.

More tests were scheduled for the summer of 1944 but the program was cancelled by Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King when he heard that it would likely not be combat ready until mid-1945. By that time it was estimated that $2 million had been spent on the project. It is thought that development of the bat bomb was moving too slowly, and was overtaken in the race for a quick end to the war by the atomic bomb project.

Dr. Adams maintained that the bat bombs would have been effective without the devastating effects of the atomic bomb. He is quoted as having said:

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.[1]

The infamous "Invasion by Bats" project was afterwards referred to by Dr. Stanley P. Lovell, director of the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) as "Die Fledermaus Farce."


[edit] Cultural influence

  • The book Sunwing written by Kenneth Oppel was inspired by this plan.
  • The song "The Story Of The Japanese Bat Bomb" from the 2008 LP Doris, Buzz and Friends, written by John Krane, is also based on this plan, though it projects that its inventor was saddened by the bombs imminent detonation (there is no evidence of such conflict).
  • Adams and his bat bomb project are the subject of Derrick C. Brown's poem, "The Project Known as X-Ray," collected in Scandalabra.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b The Bat Bombers C. V. Glines, Journal of the Airforce Association, October 1990, Vol. 73, No. 10. Retrieved 1 October 2006.

[edit] External links

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