Mankind has always been very good at killing one another. We tirelessly pursue the most effective way to rid ourselves of our enemies. Our passion for warfare over the years has manifested some creative weapons of war, some good, and some bad. In this post, we are going to mention just a few of the weapons that were, shall we say, ill conceived.
Holy Firebomb Batman!
The bat bomb was the brainchild of dental surgeon Lytle S. Adams, who submitted the idea to the White House in 1942, where President Roosevelt later approved the project. The idea behind this crazy device was to employ a bomber to fly over a Japanese city, and release a large bomb with parachutes attached. At a preset altitude the casing would open, and release numerous Mexican free-tailed bats, each attached to a small timed incendiary device. According to the plan, the bats would nest in eaves and attics. The incendiaries would start fires in inaccessible places in the largely wood and paper construction of the Japanese cities that were the weapon’s intended target. During testing, a large number of bats escaped on the military installation. The bats ignited, and incinerated the test range while roosting under a fuel truck. Later, the project changed hands several times until Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King canceled it when he heard that it would likely not be combat ready until mid-1945. This weapon could have possibly worked, but with the invention of the atomic bomb, flaming bats were quickly deemed obsolete.
Nazi ACME Rocket Planes
Before the days of surface-to-air missiles, military strategists deployed point defense aircraft to defend particular locations or air bases. During WWII, the Germans engineered a tiny little plane powered solely by a rocket engine. The Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet is the only rocket powered plane known to have been operational on a wide scale, and with good reason. Aside from the obvious lack of control one would get from being strapped into a flying rocket, pilots only had about seven minutes of flying time in the original model. Allied pilots quickly made note of the short flying time, and would simply wait for the planes to run out of fuel, and engage them while unpowered. The first actions involving the Me 163 occurred at the end of July, when two USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress’ were attacked without confirmed kills. Combat operations continued from May 1944 to spring 1945. During this time, there were 9 confirmed kills with 14 Me 163s lost. Feldwebel Siegfried Schubert was the most successful pilot, with three bombers to his credit. During their short operational period, the Komets were often grounded due to the high cost of rocket propellant. As a result, allied planes would often strafe German air fields and destroy these rocket planes while on the ground.
More Bark than Boom
In a desperate attempt to combat the German war machine, the Soviet army employed the use of the Anti-Tank Dog. In theory, these specially trained K-9s would associate the underside of tanks with food, and when they crawled underneath, a mine strapped to their back would detonate, neutralizing the target. In practice however, the concept was flawed. During training, the dogs were used to crawling under tanks that were not running and firing. The loud concussion of the German main gun often scared the dogs back to the trenches where their handlers exploded along with the unfortunate pups. Aside from being downright cruel, the project prompted the German army to issue standing orders to shoot any dog they came across on the battlefield. Another serious problem was the fact that the dogs had been trained to look for food under Russian tanks, not German ones. Some dogs would reportedly find the nearest T-34 and cause mayhem in the Russian lines. After 1942, the use of anti-tank dogs by the Soviet Army rapidly declined, and training schools were redirected to producing the more needed mine seeking and delivery dogs.
Steel Plated Stupidity
During the First World War, Sam Hughes, the Canadian minister for the Department of Militia and Defense, took an idea from his personal secretary, to develop a shovel that could double as a bullet shield. The shovel weighed a whopping five and a quarter pounds, adding a large amount of weight to an already cumbersome amount of carried gear. The design proved to be useless; the designers installed a large sight hole on the plate of the shovel so a shooter could hide behind the plate, and fire through the hole. When used as a shovel, loose sand could simply fall through the hole, making it a little like drinking coffee with a fork. In addition, soldiers complained that the shovel was far too heavy to be a practical shovel. Unfortunately, for the soldiers, the three-sixteenths-inch thick plate would not stop even the smallest enemy bullet. An executive order soon came down to scrap all of the shovels, and try to recover some of the cost. The salvage operation recovered $1,400 out of the original $33,750.
Not Exactly OSHA Compliant
As the Second World War dragged on, Japan’s lack of resources forced production quality to diminish toward the later part of the war. The Japanese marketed the Nambu Type 94 Pistol to officers who, at the time, had to purchase their own sidearms. The pistol fired an 8mm round and was light, weighing in at only 1 pound, 11 ounces. The gun had one horrible design flaw. If you put pressure on the exposed trigger bar on the left side of the receiver, the gun would cycle. As a result, an officer could simply holster his sidearm, and the gun would go off. If you set the gun down on a table too hard, the gun would go off. The Japanese produced large numbers of the Type 94 for military use. Records were lost during World War II, but it historians say that over 72,000 Type 94 pistols were manufactured.
As technology advances, there are always hurdles along the way. As long as there are human beings, the world will get to witness new and fascinating ways of annihilating each other. Some of the world’s best weapon designs often stem from ideas that don’t perform flawlessly until you make a few trips back to the drawing board. Just ask Eugene Stoner.