Saturday, March 08, 2014

Ich haff ein cunnink plan, Mein Herr...

From a 1530ish manual on military ordnance; rocket cats.

The work is by one Franz Helm of Cologne, who was an artillerist and ordnance specialist during the early gunpowder warfare period. And Franz had some ideas that seem to be some pretty outside-the-box thinking.
"Helm explained how animals could be used to deliver incendiary devices: "Create a small sack like a fire-arrow . if you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place. And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited."

In other words, capture a cat from enemy territory, attach a bomb to its back, light the fuse and then hope it runs back home and starts a raging fire."
So far as I know there is no actual evidence that Helm, or anyone else, actually tried this.

Probably not a good idea, given that a flaming cat, or crow, is just as likely to run in panic towards the nearest cover; the nearest probably being your own mess tent.


I'll bet if John McCain was President he'd be willing to use Rocket Cats on the damn Russkies.

(Big h/t to TPM and Lawyers, Guns & Money for finding this bizarre piece of semi-military historical trivia...)


Lisa said...

Interesting how the "man having dominion over the beast" paradigm has played itself out.

Besides our agricultural beasts of burden, groups like DARPA seek to harness insects and animals, actual and feigned, as ordnance delivery systems. They crowed about a future in which a man might sit at an outdoor cafe drinking an espresso while a drone-posing-as-insect flew into his ear and detonated, bursting his brain housing.

A delightful thought on this day of our lord.

Brian said...

There are actually quite a few examples of this kind of thing.

Pigs: The Romans are supposed to have used pigs smeared with tar and resin then set alight to disrupt formations of enemy war elephants.

Dolphins: The US Navy tried to train dolphins as mine hunters, mine carriers, even assassins.

Many times donkeys and mules loaded with explosives have been driven into enemy lines. Usually this doesn't work.

B.F. Skinner worked on a pigeon-guided glide bomb during WW 2. The pigeon would peck at a screen when it saw an image of the target it had been conditioned to react to.

And of course, the Russian "mine dogs".

Finally, my favourite, bats: in 1942 the US Army started in on a plan to drop thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats, each one with 1 oz of inciendiary explosive strapped to it, over Japanese cities. The bats would instinctively roost under the eaves of their paper houses and detonate later. The first time this was tested they took the bats up in an unheated unpressurized bomber, and dropped a bunch of dead frozen bats on the ground. After developing a bomber with a heated and pressurized bomb bay that would keep the bats alive, they tested it again over a mock Japanese village they had built. This time the bats made it to the ground, but per their instinct they did not roost under the eaves, they all flew into the large and invitingly dark aircraft hangar nearby, setting it and some fuel tanks afire!

Brian said...

Sorry, I see I was scooped at Milpub.

FDChief said...

Lisa: That's kind of disturbing, yeah. We're ingenious little monkeys provided the creativity involves destroying things.

Brian: No worries; no learning is ever wasted. Thanks for the info!