9 Insanely Strange Weapons of War

1Gay bombs:
Strong aphrodisiacs to cause “homosexual behavior”

“Gay bomb” is an informal name for a theoretical non-lethal chemical weapon, which a United States Air Force research laboratory speculated about producing.

In 1994 the Wright Laboratory in Ohio produced a three-page proposal of a variety of possible nonlethal chemical weapons, which was later obtained—complete with marginal jottings and typos—by the Sunshine Project through a Freedom of Information Act request. In one sentence of the document it was suggested that a strong aphrodisiac could be dropped on enemy troops, ideally one which would also cause “homosexual behavior”. The aphrodisiac weapon was described as “distasteful but completely non-lethal”. In its “New Discoveries Needed” section, the document implicitly acknowledges that no such chemicals are actually known.

The document also included many other off-beat ideas, such as spraying enemy troops with bee pheromones and then hiding numerous beehives in the combat area, and a chemical weapon that would give the enemy bad breath.

2Bat bombs:
Incendiary bombs attached to bats

Bat bombs were tiny incendiary bombs attached to bats, that were developed by the United States during World War II with the hope of attacking mainland Japan. 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 complicated maintenance. Fourth, bats fly in darkness, then find secretive places (such as flammable buildings) to hide during daylight.

The plan was to release bomb-laden bats at night over Japanese industrial targets. The flying bats would disperse widely, then at dawn they would hide in buildings and 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. Adams was recruited to research and obtain a suitable supply of bats.

3Who, Me?:
A bad odor weapon to humiliate the enemy

Who Me? was a top secret sulfurous stench weapon developed by the American Office of Strategic Services during World War II to be used by the French Resistance against German officers. Who Me? smelled strongly of fecal matter, and was issued in pocket atomizers intended to be unobtrusively sprayed on a German officer, humiliating him and, by extension, demoralizing the occupying German forces.

The experiment was very short-lived, however. Who Me? had a high concentration of extremely volatile sulfur compounds that were very difficult to control: more often than not the person who did the spraying ended up smelling as bad as the sprayed. After only two weeks it was concluded that Who Me? was a dismal failure. It remains unclear whether there was a successful Who Me? attack.

Pam Dalton, a cognitive psychologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, describes the smell of Who Me? as resembling “the worst garbage dumpster left in the street for a long time in the middle of the hottest summer ever”. A recipe for a kilogram (2.2 lb) of the same or equivalent substance in circulation on the Internet specifies 919 g (32.4 oz) of white mineral oil as an inert carrier, and 20 g (0.7 oz) of skatole, 20 g (0.7 oz) of n-butanoic acid, 20 g (0.7 oz) of n-pentanoic acid, 20 g (0.7 oz) of n-hexanoic acid and 1 g (0.04 oz) of pentanethiol as the active ingredients.

4Anti-tank dogs:
Hungry dogs with explosives

Anti-tank dogs, also known as dog bombs or dog mines, were hungry dogs with explosives harnessed to their backs and trained to seek food under tanks and armoured vehicles. By doing so, a detonator (usually a small wooden lever) would go off, triggering the explosives and damaging or destroying the military vehicle.

The dogs were employed by the Soviet Union during World War II for use against German tanks. The dogs were kept without food for a few days, then trained to find food under a tank. The dogs quickly learned that once released from their pens, food could be found under tracked vehicles. Once trained, the dogs were fitted with an explosive charge and set loose into a field of oncoming German tanks and other tracked vehicles. When the dog went underneath the tank—where there was less armour—the charge would detonate and damage the enemy vehicle.

According to Soviet sources, the anti-tank dogs were successful at disabling a reported three hundred German tanks. They were enough of a problem to the Nazi advance that the Germans were compelled to take measures against them. An armoured vehicle’s top-mounted machine gun proved ineffective due to the relatively small size of the dogs and the fact that they were low to the ground, fast, and hard to spot. Orders were dispatched that commanded every German soldier to shoot any dogs on sight. Eventually the Germans began using tank-mounted flame-throwers to ward off the dogs. They were much more successful at dissuading the attacks, but some dogs would not stop.

In 1942, one use of the anti-tank dogs went seriously awry when a large contingent ran amok, endangering everyone in the battle and forcing the retreat of an entire Soviet division. Soon afterward the anti-tank dogs were withdrawn from service. Training of anti-tank dogs continued until at least June 1996.

5Fire balloons:
Incendiary hydrogen balloons

Fire balloons or balloon bombs where hydrogen balloons with a load varying from a 12 kg (26 lb) incendiary to one 15 kg (33 lb) antipersonnel bomb and four 5 kg (11 lb) incendiaries attached. They were launched by Japan during World War II, designed to wreak havoc on Canadian and American cities, forests, and farmlands.Launch sites were located on the east coast of the main Japanese island of Honshu.

From the late 1944 until early 1945, the Japanese launched over 9,000 of these fire balloons, of which 300 were found or observed in the U.S. Some guesswork gives the total number that made the trip at about 1,000. Despite the high hopes of their designers, the balloons were relatively ineffective as weapons, causing only six deaths and a small amount of damage, and they survive in memory mostly as an ingenious and dangerous curiosity. The bombs caused little damage, but their potential for destruction and fires was large. The bombs also had a potential psychological effect on the American people. The U.S. strategy was not to let Japan know of the balloon bombs’ effectiveness. Cooperating with the desires of the government, the press did not publish any balloon bomb incidents. As a result, the Japanese only learned of one bomb reaching Wyoming, landing and failing to explode, so they stopped the launches after less than six months.

6Exploding rats:
Rat carcasses filled with plastic explosives

Exploding rats were a weapon developed by the British army in World War II for use against Germany. Rat carcasses were filled with plastic explosives, with the idea that when the rats were shovelled along with coal into boilers, they would explode, causing significant damage. However, the first shipment of carcasses was intercepted by the Germans, and the plan was dropped. The Germans exhibited the rats at top military schools, and conducted searches for further exploding rats.

7Killer Dolphins:
To seek and destroy submarines using kamikaze methods

A military dolphin is a cetacean trained for military uses. The United States and Russian militaries have trained and employed oceanic dolphins for several reasons. Such military dolphins have been trained to rescue lost divers or to locate underwater mines.

The U.S. Navy openly trains dolphins and sea lions under the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program, which is based in San Diego, California. Military dolphins were used by the U.S. Navy during the First and Second Gulf War. About 75 dolphins are in the Navy’s marine mammal program.

The Russian military is believed to have closed its marine mammal program in the early 1990s. In 2000 the press reported that dolphins trained to kill by the Soviet Navy had been sold to Iran.

Due to the secrecy of such practice, rumors of military dolphins include training them to lay underwater mines, to kill enemy combatants, or to seek and destroy submarines using kamikaze methods. There has even been speculation about the potential development of sophisticated equipment, such as poison darts, sonar jamming devices, and so on for dolphins, and about combat between cetaceans of both superpowers. The U.S. Navy denies ever having trained its marine mammals to harm or injure humans in any fashion or to carry weapons to destroy ships.

8Project Pigeon:
A pigeon-guided missile

During World War II, Project Pigeon (or Project Orcon, for “organic control”) was American behaviorist B. F. Skinner’s attempt to develop a pigeon-guided missile.

The control system involved a lens at the front of the missile projecting an image of the target to a screen inside, while a pigeon trained (by operant conditioning) to recognize the target pecked at it. As long as the pecks remained in the center of the screen, the missile would fly straight, but pecks off-center would cause the screen to tilt, which would then, via a connection to the missile’s flight controls, cause the missile to change course. Three pigeons were to control the bomb’s direction by majority rule.

Although skeptical of the idea, the National Defense Research Committee nevertheless contributed $25,000 to the research. However, Skinner’s plans to use pigeons in Pelican missiles was apparently too radical for the military establishment; although he had some success with the training, he could not get his idea taken seriously. The program was cancelled on October 8, 1944, because the military believed that “further prosecution of this project would seriously delay others which in the minds of the Division have more immediate promise of combat application.”

Project Orcon was revived in 1948 by the Navy and was finally canceled in 1953.

9Cat Bombs:
To sink German ships

The earliest examples of cats being used in warfare dates back to the Ancient Egypt during a war against Persia. The Persians, fully aware of the reverance that Egyptians paid to their felines, rounded up as many cats as they could find and set them loose on the battlefield. When the Egyptians were faced with either harming the cats or surrendering, they chose the latter.

During World War I, cats were used in the trenches as an attempt to keep the rat population down and some cats were used as poison gas “detectors”.

The most creative way to use a cat as a weapon happened in World War II. The United States’ OSS (Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the CIA) needed a way to guide bombs to sink German ships. Somebody hit upon the inspiration that since cats have such a strong disdain of getting wet and always land on their feet that if you attached a cat to a bomb and drop it in the vicinity of a ship, the cat’s instinct to avoid the water would force it to guide the bomb to the enemy’s deck. It is unclear how the cat was supposed to actually guide a bomb attached to it as it fell from the sky but the plan never got past the testing stages since the cats had a bad habit of becoming unconscious mid-drop.

Not to be outdone by its predecessor, the CIA also attempted to use cats but this time as a bugging device during the Cold War. Although a disaster as a guided bomb, the CIA thought that a cat would make the perfect covert listening device in a project known as Operation Acoustic Kitty. They attempted to surgically alter the cat by placing a bugging device inside him and running an antenna through its tail. The project took five years and $15 million dollars before the first field test hit a slight snag when the bugged kitty was released near a Russian compound in Washington and was immediately hit by a car while crossing the street. The project was ended soon after.