The Second World War saw air power rise to the forefront of modern combat. Fighter planes, torpedo and dive bombers, and regular bombers did more to win/lose that war than just about any other technology. It was also the first war that saw civilian populations being targeted by mass carpet bombing air raids on both sides. It was this new found war on cities that inspired Lytle Adams, a dentist and close friend of the Roosevelts, to conceive of the bat bomb as a way to decimate Japanese cities. In his 1942 proposal to the president, the dentist remarked that Japanese cities, still largely constructed of wood and paper, were severely vulnerable to incendiary devices. While traditional firebombing raids relied on multiple waives of high explosives and incendiary bombs, the good dentist thought of a way to use live bats to carry fire starting charges to a wide area. At dawn the bats would naturally seek shelter in buildings where timers would ignite the charges and start many fires.
While very cruel to the poor animals employed, the plan was accepted with some enthusiasm, and a delivery system was put into the prototype phase to see if it would indeed work. However in May 1943 many armed bats were dropped and wandered off their area. They ended up at the Carlsbad New Mexico Army Airfield and burned several buildings to the ground. However, this proved to be an example of their effectiveness despite their poor precision. Indeed the resulting study showed bats could start almost 10 times the amount of fires per bomb load versus traditional bombs. However, with the delays expected in deploying the system (mid 1945), and the advancements of the Manhattan Project, the bat bomb program was halted. In the end the only destruction caused was friendly fire in New Mexico. Of course many poor animals did end up being bombs in Europe. The Soviets strapped bombs to starved dogs trained to believe food was under tanks. That ultimately failed also as dogs cannot tell Soviet tanks from German tanks.
|The Bat Bomb Canister- It was designed to be dropped and then come apart releasing the bats at high altitudes.|
|The Interior of the canister which could hold many bats|
|The burning buildings of Carlsbad Army Airfield accidentally set ablaze by armed bats|
|Three Above Animations- How I picture "bat bombs" thanks to my youth.|