The Bat Bombs of World War II

The Bat Bombs of World War II

During World War II Japanese cities were especially vulnerable to fire bombing as many buildings were made of highly flammable materials such as wood and paper. Thus in 1942 a dental surgeon named Lytle S. Adams conceived of a most unorthodox weapon; the bat bomb.  The bat bomb in conception was to consist of a canister containing 1,040 hibernating Mexican Free Tailed bats.  Each bat would have been rigged with a 15-18 gram bomb containing incendiary material such as napalm, which would have been set off by a timer. A number of canisters would be dropped by bomber over a Japanese city. In mid air a parachute would deploy while the canister opened, allowing the bats to fly free.  Naturally, the bats would find various nooks and crannies in buildings throughout the city, and when the incendiary bomb ignited would start countless raging fires within a 20 to 40 miles radius.

The bat bomb concept was given the go ahead for development and testing by the US government, with the program being headquartered at Carlsbad Army Air Corps Auxiliary Airfield in New Mexico. In 1943 the program saw a major setback when a number of bomb armed bats escaped, causing a number of buildings to catch fire.

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After the accident the program was moved to the Marine Corps Air Station in El Centro, California. The firsts tests occurred in 1944, with the bat bombs successfully destroying a mockup of a Japanese town. The bat bombs were planned to be deployed en masse by mid 1945, however the project was cancelled in favor for the deployment of a larger, more destructive bomb. In total the project cost around $2 million, the equivalent of $18 million today.

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