Ep. 17 Project X-ray (aka Bat Bombs)
Not what you think.
Hold on to your horses.
A long time ago, a young Dentist by the name of Lytle Adams was relaxing in the sun, enjoying his lovely December vacation. The year was 1941 and our main man Lytle Adams was doing whatever the hell dentists do in the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.
There, smidt the massive stalagtites and stalagmites were an impressive number of….
Lytle was awed. Shook. Curious. And most importantly, thinking about how to use these gentle winged creatures to kill the enemies of the United States of America.
You see, Earlier that day, the radios had begun to broadcast the terror of Peal Harbor. The Japanese had bombed a Us military post in Hawaii.
While trained as Dentist, Lytle had the brain of an evil genius. His idea was that he’d stick little bomb to the backs of bats and release them into Japanese cities. Naturally they’d hide during the day, finding craves and attics to sleep in. All the while the bombs were waiting to explode. Boom. Bye bye japan.
That was the idea anyway.
This homie had learned a bit about our winged friends.
• ) Bats can carry their offspring. Sometimes 2 or 3 at a time. This indicates bats may be strong enough to carry a small device.
• ) Bats can be made to hibernate by lowering the temperature around them. A hibernating bat could be easy to handle and transport.
• ) In daylight they seek out places to hide. Places like under the eaves of buildings and attics.
• ) There are millions of bats; an almost unending supply.
Now. Lytle Adams wasn’t JUST a Dentist (and arguably an evil genius). He also rubbed elbows with some important people.
Like Elenore Roosevelt.
He typed up a letter to the president, knowing that his inside man (woman? That sounds pervy) would but it right on the desk of Americas number 1.
In side the letter, Lytle wrote,’
“The bat was the "lowest form of animal life", and that, until now, "reasons for its creation have remained unexplained"
Roosevelt even had the cohotes to say, "This man is not a nut. It sounds like a perfectly wild idea but is worth looking into.”
Idk about you but that’s impressive AF.
After Roosevelt gave the project his approval, it was given to the authority of the United States Army Air Force.
Adams, humble dentist be he, managed to gather many workers for the project, including the mammalogist Jack von Bloeker, actor Tim Holt, a former gangster, and a former hotel manager, among others.
Von Bloeker and his assistant Jack Couffer, self-described "bat lovers noted that it did not occur to them to question the "morality or the ecological consequences of sacrificing a few million bats"
Because if you love something, the obvious thing to do is weaponize it and BLOW IT UP.
That’s what I do.
Adams and his ridiculous team packed up and headed off to caves in Texas and New Mexico. The goal was to decide what would be the perfect bat for their purposes. Cant use just any old street bat for these government missions.
Despite searching, they couldn’t find a hunky blond haired blue eyed all American bat and instead settled on the Mexican Free-Tailed bat.
Now that they had the bat, the money, and the will power, it was time for the logistics. Of which, it got bad fast.
You see, at this time, the smallest incendiary device created was still 2 lbs. A bat can only carry up to it’s body weight, and these bats only weighed about HALF AN OUNCE. What. The. Fuck.
Now, in walks Louis Fieser. A Harvard chemist.
He was brought in and tasked with developing an incendiary that was half an ounce, but could burn down a house.
Leading the charge of absolute chaos, Fieser developed a little chemical (you might’ve heard of it) called fucking napalm. This liquid jelly gasoline would burn uncontrollably once ignited. It’s. Nuts.
As if that weren’t enough, Fieser also developed a celluloid capsule called H-2 units with a time delay fuse. This capsule would house the napalm and the fuse would ignite it at a given time period after activation. The idea was that you’d attach these to the bats allowing them to be adorable flying time bombs.
Now, these brilliant people looked at the bombs. Then the bats. How to join them? After trying several attachment methods, they decided to affix the H-2 unit to the bats using an adhesive, gluing them to the front of the bats. Jesus fuck.
The OTHER big issue was, delivering the now bombed up bats. If you bucket drop a bunch of hibernating bats, they’d simple fall to the ground. And not be flying death abominations like desired.
So, Lytle Adams came up with an idea. He developed an accordion style folding platform that could be stuffed into a not so subtle canister.
Now, brace yourself. The whole thing is supposed to go like this.
When the bomb was dropped, the shell of the canister would come off. The accordian style platform would drop. Hibernating bats would be held in a type of egg carton design in the accordion case. Upon the drop, the bats would fall out of the carton onto a platform below. This would give the bats time to emerge from hibernation and fly away. The bomb would have a parachute at the base to decrease the rate of fall. When the bats flew away, a thin wire was pulled that activated the time delay fuse. That incendiary would ignite in 30 minutes.
One bomb could deliver 1040 bats.
This would have been INCREDIBLY effective (and fucking horrendous.)
Tests began, and things went haywire because of course they did!
Sometimes the bats died in transit.
Sometimes they fell to the ground, fast asleep via forced hibernation.
Some died BECAUSE of forced hibernation.
And my favorite
In one accident on May 15, 1943, escaped bats flew under the eaves of buildings on an air base and burned them to the ground.
Later that year in December. The bat bomb was tested against a mock Japanese city in Utah and performed very well. The U.S. military concluded the bat bomb proved to be effective.
The program was eventually cancelled by Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King when he heard that it would likely not be combat ready until mid-1945. By that time, it was estimated that $2 million (equivalent to $18.7 million today) had been spent on the project.
Fun ideas from a dentist. Thankfully never got off the ground. Eh? EHH?