14. Unfortunately – or Fortunately – the Bat Bomb Plan Was Never Executed
To deliver Bat Bombs to their target area, the critters were induced into hibernation, then tiny incendiaries were attached to them. Next, they were placed in a special bomb casing that contained 26 stacked trays, each with 40 bats, for a total of 1040 bat incendiaries per bomb. The bombs would be dropped 5000 feet above Japanese cities, then deploy a parachute, break open at 1000 feet, and release the by-now-awakened bats to fly off and find roosting places. There were some testing mishaps. On March 15th, 1943, armed bats, accidentally released at Carlsbad Army Air Field, New Mexico, set the place ablaze. The silver lining was that it confirmed that weaponized bats can, indeed, start major fires. More controlled weapons tests at a specially designed “Japanese Village” confirmed that Bat Bombs were, pound for pound, between 11 to 21 times more effective than standard bombs.
As the project’s chief chemist noted: “the regular bombs would give probably 167 to 400 fires per bomb load where X-Ray would give 3,625 to 4,748 fires“. However, the authorities pulled the plug on Project X-Ray in mid-1944, when they were informed that it would not produce a deployable weapon until 1945. That was deemed too slow a pace. Since the Manhattan Project was on track to produce a war-winning bomb by then, X-Ray was cancelled after a 2 year life and a $2 million expenditure. For the rest of his life, Dr. Lytle Adams insisted that his Bat Bombs plan could have won the war, with fewer horrors than atomic bombs. As he put it: “Think of thousands of fires breaking out simultaneously over a circle of forty miles in diameter for every bomb dropped. Japan could have been devastated, yet with small loss of life“.