Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Bat Bombers

Paul Saffo is quoted in this excellent BBC Radio 4 piece about a batty idea during World War II to attach explosives to one million bats and have them dive-bomb Japanese cities. (The story of Project X-Ray is also documented in Jack Couffer's book "Bat Bomb: World War II's Other Secret Weapon.") From the BBC site:

Peter Day tells the story of one of the most extraordinary projects of the Second World War, through the eyes of Jack Couffer, who was conscripted into what came to be called Project X-Ray in 1942 while he was still at school. The whole scheme was dreamt up by a dentist from Pennsylvania, Lytle S Adams.

The programme treks deep in to the wonders of the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, where every evening, hundreds of thousands of bats emerge from deep in the caves to forage for insects over the surrounding countryside.

This awesome sight was the inspiration for Dr Adam's project. Adams happened to be a friend of President Franklin Roosevelt's wife Eleanor. Adams wrote to the President suggesting that bringing the war with Japan to an early halt was exactly what bats had been created to do.

Intrigued, Roosevelt sent him a letter which became the passport to getting the military to support the amazing plan. "This man is not a nut" wrote the President, and so Project X-Ray started rolling.


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