That Time The US Military Tried To Use Bats As Bombers During World War II

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Left, errant bats from the experimental bat bomb set fire to the Carlsbad Army Airfield Auxiliary Air Base in New Mexico.

Left, errant bats from the experimental bat bomb set fire to the Carlsbad Army Airfield Auxiliary Air Base in New Mexico.

Uncle Sam wants you. You already knew that. But for a brief time, he also wanted your favorite flying Austin, Texas, mascot.

According to the Washington Post, the U.S. military once recruited hundreds of Mexican free-tailed bats in a plot to blow up Japanese cities during World War II. These bats (the largest urban colony of which famously lives in present-day Austin) were meant to carry bombs and roost in Japanese buildings, where they would, well ... explode. 

This is the part where you take a breath and collect yourself. You will need the oxygen for your brain. Go for a walk. Text your friend back. Things are about to get wild. Best to get your affairs in order. Because here are some of the other batty details about Project X-Ray (I know, right?) in the Post’s story:

The plan got rubber-stamped by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The whole scheme was cooked up by a Pennsylvania dentist.

Special bat-sized bombs had to be invented, using parts from a factory owned by Bing Crosby.

Finding it difficult to control the winged wonders, the military tried refrigerating them to make them sleepy; they either woke too late and fell to earth like bat-bricks, or woke too soon and escaped.

The whole scheme ended with the bats and their bombs set most of a New Mexico military base on fire, including making a general’s car go “boom.”

The Post’s whole tale is worth examining in detail. And since time is a big ol’ loop, the newspaper also reported that the U.S. military is once again interested in the military application of bats. Their present-day target? Russian bioweapons.

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