One of the most original weapons created during WWII was contrived by a Pennsylvania dentist Lytle (nicknamed Doc) Adams, who had a flair for inventions. After he heard of the strike on Pearl Harbor, Adams began to think of ways to fight back. He remembered the caverns he recently visited in Carlsbad, New Mexico. They were filled with bats, mammals that could fly while carrying things heavier than their own body weight. What if they could carry bombs? And thus the brainchild of Adams was conceived: the bat bomb.
There were many well-meaning citizens of WWII who were eager to help the government by offering their warfare ideas, but most were impractical (Air Force Magazine). Remarkably, Adams’s idea of attaching small bombs to bats and then releasing them in Osaka, Japan, was taken into consideration.
After some research regarding which species to use, it was decided that the best bats for the experiment would be the Mexican free-tailed bat. Although they were small fliers, they were abundant, but they were smaller than most incendiary devices of that point in time (“Modern Marvels“). Louis Fieser, inventor of military napalm, was asked to join the team and was able to create a small enough capsule so that the bats could more easily carry their weapon.
Along with the size of the bombs, the team needed to work on how to drop the bats into Japan. They needed time to awaken from hibernation (the safest way to travel with “loaded bats”) and a landing to take off from. Adams once again supplied the answer with a large container that could hold 1,400 bats. Once the container was dropped from the plane, a parachute would open and the surrounding shell would fall off. This left a series of platforms exposed, all holding hibernating bats. When the bats awoke, they would take off from the platform and find a place to roost. As they flew from the container, a trigger would be pulled from their small bombs attached to their chests, setting a timer for the incendiary to explode in 30 minutes.
The project was moving along, but it wasn’t fast enough. It was cut in 1944 by Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King because of its cost and the fact that the bats wouldn’t be ready to go until the following year. The atomic bomb was decidedly a better investment and quicker. Adams naturally disagreed with the decision stating, ”Think of thousands of fires breaking out simultaneously over a circle of forty miles in diameter for every [bat] bomb dropped. Japan could have been devastated, yet with small loss of life,” (Air Force Magazine).