Animal-borne Bombs


During World War II, weapons research led to some strange places (bouncing bombs anyone?). In addition to creating to new weapons, teams were attempting to find ways to attack without tipping off the enemy that bombs were en route. Enter: animal-borne bombs.

A "bomb" which held a lot of bats
A “bomb” which held a lot of bats

One prominent failure of an innovation, was the “bat bomb”. The idea was to release bats from the sky (carried by containers with parachutes) which would then roost in the nooks and crannies of a city. Once there, incendiary devices would be activated, creating fires in places normally inaccessible by typical warfare. Dr. Lytle S. Adams, creator of the concept, believed it could be an alternative to nuclear weaponry:

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.

Unfortunately, the idea would never come to pass. By mid-1944, $2 million had been spent on developing the project and wouldn’t be ready for at least another year. In an effort to find a quick end to the war, all funding was diverted to atomic bomb research. The bat bomb would never be.


A number of armed bats were accidentally released, and they lit a fuel tank on fire in Carlsbad
A number of armed bats were accidentally released, and they lit a fuel tank on fire in Carlsbad

Another animal guided weapon was “Project Pigeon”, where pigeons would not carry bombs, but yet again be carried by them. American behaviorist B.F. Skinner proposed that pigeons be used for their exceptional cognitive abilities to keep a bomb heading to its target. They would be placed in the nose of a bomb along with a screen on pivots. During the journey, the screen would display footage from outside while the pigeons pecked at the target. If the bomb was off course, the pigeons would peck in the direction the bomb should move. But the researchers were never able to get enough funding…

Our problem was no one would take us seriously.

-B.F. Skinner

If the US Military knew their history, perhaps they would have taken the idea more seriously. In the 10th century, Olga of Kiev sent pigeons laden with sulfur to invade a city (who was responsible for her husband’s death). Once inside, her army set fire to the buildings and no water could put them out. The Drevlian city was entirely burnt, and the people killed or taken as slaves. In both ancient and modern cases, the animals would have died in the attack, not so with a certain British concept…


In 1941, the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) came up with the idea to put explosives inside rat carcasses. The dead rat would be placed in a German boiler room in the hopes that, when discovered, it would be tossed into the stoker and explode. An explosion right underneath a boiler could cause extensive damage… But their first shipment of rat carcasses was intercepted by the Germans. And as the SOE later said…

“The trouble caused to them was a much greater success to us than if the rats had actually been used.”

The discovery led the Germans to believe that rats filled with plastic exclusives had been hidden throughout the continent! A hunt began to search for any dead rats that could have explosives. It cost the Germans time, effort, and money, to search for a lot of rats that never existed.

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