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When you talk about animals in war, most people immediately think of military working dogs, who continue to serve with U.S. troops in support of the Global War on Terror. However, horses, camels, elephants, and birds have all been used to incredible effect in dramatically different locations, wars, and eras.
There’s Cairo, the military working dog who went with Seal Team Six during the May 2011 mission to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In World War I, horses were used as mobile weapons platforms, pack animals, and to tow artillery to the front lines, and they paid a heavy price with roughly 8 million dying during the Great War, according to Jilly Cooper’s “Animals in War.” During the same war, when a group a American soldiers were pinned down between a German onslaught and friendly fire during the last major battle of World War 1, a carrier pigeon named Cher Ami, was dispatched to tell the Allied troops to cease fire. The bird flew 25 miles, was shot in the chest, blinded in one eye and lost a leg, but delivered the message and stopped the shelling.
Even as recently as World War II, elephants, the tanks of ancient warfare, were used by James Howard “Billy” Williams, an elephant trainer who helped British troops fight a guerilla war against the Japanese military in what was then Burma.
But, there are some war animals who don’t get a lot of attention. I’m talking about the weird ones — the slimy, bizarre and awkward creatures who have gone to war, or let’s be real, been used in war.
Here are four totally unexpected war animals.
Photo by Timo Newton-SymsA female glow worm, Lampyris noctiluca, in grass in a field in Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire.
During World War I, glow worms were used as lamps for Allied soldiers in the trenches. Soldiers would gather enough of the bioluminescent insects to fit their lighting needs and store them in a bottle or a glass. Their contribution was so great that in November 2004, Queen Elizabeth’s daughter, Princess Anne, unveiled a memorial park in London dedicated to all the animals and insects that served in World War I.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photoMexican free-tailed bats.
In the wake of Pearl Harbor, Lytle S. Adams, a dentist from Pennsylvania concocted a rather eccentric idea: To use bats laden with tiny incendiary bombs to blow up Japanese cities. The plan, dubbed Project X-Ray, was approved for testing in March 1943, but it was incredibly complex.
U.S. Air Force photoEscaped bats from the experimental bat bomb program set fire to the Carlsbad Army Airfield Auxiliary Air Base in New Mexico.
First they had to catch the little cave-dwelling mammals, and once they rounded up thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats, they had to build tiny explosives for them. When that was done, Adams had to figure out how to get the bats onto a plane so they could be airdropped over a city. The bats were placed in ice cube trays and cooled so they would hibernate. The next step was to load the tiny bombers into cardboard containers that could be dropped out of an airplane with a parachute, and scattered over the target area, sowing destruction and no small amount of confusion in their wake.
The plan was eventually scrapped due to funding and scientific efforts that were redirected to the atomic bomb. It also may have had to do with the fact that a few of the bats escaped during testing one day and burned a hangar and one general’s car.
It was nonetheless an impressive and visionary achievement. It was also a bit crazy.
Photo by Roman KöhlerA common garden slug.
Slugs can detect one particle per 10-12,000,000 particles of air, which is three times better than humans. Dr. Paul Bartsch, a curator for the Division of Mollusks at what was then called the U.S. National Museum, realized that by watching the slugs for discomfort, he could tell if a gas attack was underway.
The slugs would indicate discomfort by closing their breathing spores and compressing their bodies, and when soldiers saw this, they would put their gas masks on.
U.S. Navy photoA sea lion attaches a recovery line to a piece of test equipment during training.
The Navy trains California sea lions to find and retrieve equipment lost at sea and to spot intruders swimming into restricted areas. In 2003, the Navy employed sea lions for exactly this purpose in the Persian Gulf. It also used dolphins to seek out and detect sea mines.
If a sea lion detects an intruder, they’re trained to come to the surface and raise the alarm. Their handlers sometimes give the animals a clamp attached to a line that the sea lion can affix to a suspect's leg, marking the person with a surface buoy so that nearby troops can haul the intruder in, like some awkward hundred-plus pound bass.
It sure would be nice to know what the hell is going on in Afghanistan. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently claimed the U.S. military had killed more than 1,000 Taliban fighters in little more than a week – because body counts worked so well in Vietnam – and President Donald Trump said during his speech commemorating the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks that the United States had gone on the offensive against the Taliban.
"The last four days, we have hit our enemy harder than they have ever been hit before, and that will continue," Trump said, without elaborating further.
It's clear that Afghanistan is the new hotness, but the only people who aren't talking about how the strategic situation has changed since Trump abruptly ended peace talks with the Taliban via tweet are the U.S. military leaders in charge of actually fighting the war.
Nearly a decade after he allegedly murdered an unarmed Afghan civilian during a 2010 deployment, the case of Army Maj. Matthew Golsteyn is finally going to trial.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The Taliban have sent a delegation to Russia to discuss prospects for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan following the collapse of talks with the United States this month, officials from the insurgent group said.
The move, days after President Donald Trump canceled a planned meeting with Taliban leaders at his Camp David retreat, came as the movement looks to bolster regional support, with visits also planned for China, Iran and Central Asian states.
We salute the foul-mouthed Navy vet remembered as 'the most inappropriate guy with the biggest heart'
Per his final demands, Joe Heller was laid in his casket Thursday in a T-shirt featuring the Disney dwarf Grumpy and the middle finger of his right hand extended. He also told his daughters to make sure and place a remote control fart machine in the coffin with him.
"My father always wanted the last laugh," daughter Monique Heller said.
The Essex volunteer firefighter and self-described local "dawg kecher" died on Sept. 8 at age 82, and the off-color obituary written by his youngest daughter has become a nationwide sensation — a lead item on cable news sites, a top story on The Courant's website and a post shared far and wide on social media.
Laced with bawdy humor, the irreverent but loving obit captured Heller's highly inappropriate nature and his golden heart, friends who filled the fire station for a celebration of his life on Thursday evening said.
A 19-year-old man who planned a July mass shooting at a West Lubbock hotel that was thwarted by his grandmother was upset that he was considered "defective" by the military when he was discharged for his mental illness, according to court records.
William Patrick Williams faces federal charges for reportedly lying on an application to buy the semiautomatic rifle he planned to use in a shooting, according to a federal indictment filed Aug. 14.
He is charged with a federal felony count of making a false material statement during the purchase of a firearm on July 11, a day before he planned to lure people out of a hotel and shoot them. The charge carries a punishment of up to five years in prison.