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Bat bomb (wikipedia.org)
252 points by The_Fox on Nov 8, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 40 comments

If you want to read about the world's scariest saint: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olga_of_Kiev

  Now Olga gave to each soldier in her army a pigeon or a 
  sparrow, and ordered them to attach by thread to each 
  pigeon and sparrow a piece of sulfur bound with small 
  pieces of cloth. When night fell, Olga bade her soldiers 
  release the pigeons and the sparrows. So the birds flew 
  to their nests, the pigeons to the cotes, and the 
  sparrows under the eaves. The dove-cotes, the coops, the 
  porches, and the haymows were set on fire. There was not 
  a house that was not consumed, and it was impossible to 
  extinguish the flames, because all the houses caught on 
  fire at once.
...but no explanation for the spontaneous combustion of the cloth-bound sulfur.

Sounds like it was probably a closely-kept, obfuscated military secret like Greek Fire:


Certain chemicals will spontaneously combust when wrapped in cloth. They absorb into the cloth, and the increased surface area exposed to the air lets them react with oxygen faster, producing heat. The cloth also insulates it so the heat slowly builds up until it gets hot enough to combust.

This is why keeping oily rags are a fire hazard.

Super glue does this if you put it on cotton wool.

I found this out as a child by accident and set fire to the desk in my bedroom...

To be fair that desk caught fire quite a few times.

Hehe, same here. And then my Dad would come in calmly pointing out that this house might come in in handy as a place to live in the future as well.

He once really stalled on us, we were stuffing an empty 7.62 cartridge with explosives and he very clearly explained that while he though we shouldn't make fireworks at least we shouldn't use metal parts.

We continued with a small plastic tube and a couple of hours later it went off in my hand. I love my Dad for a lot of reasons.

Now that's how it should be! Good for you.

We weren't blessed with such weaponry in the UK. About all we got was 12 gauge shotgun cartridges and anything we made ourselves. The latter included ANFO so we made up for it through chemistry. This was 25 years ago; doing this now would get you chucked in prison in 2 seconds flat.

It's more of a mythos than a documentary. In reality they could've used more conventional incendiary weapons of the time to burn down Korosten, then historians may have made a nice-sounding legend.

Maybe they lit the pieces of sulphur that were attached by strings to the birds before they released them.

The text in Russian talks about burning piece of sulfur-soaked oakum.

Seems like the admission criteria for sainthood are laxer than at DeVry.

Actually not, though it's rather different form what somebody not knowledgeable about religion and, most importantly, history of denominations of the Christian Church would expect. In fact most of saints ("saints" like those who are called "святой", not "блаженный") in orthodox church are rather militant people. Historically, their reasons for being acknowledged as saints isn't starving themselves to death somewhere far in the mountains, but "protecting homeland from pagans" and such.

I once took a class at a Jesuit university named "Witches, saints and heretics." The TL;DR was that these are not disjoint groups of people.

Well, Jesuit way to treat thing is very different even from "canonic Catholic" (yeah, sounds a little weird after we have Jesuit pope), not to say about Orthodox Church and it is not unusual for them to conclude that "black and white are essentially one and the same thing after all", so I probably wouldn't relate contents of that class to discussion about some Orthodox saint too much. AFAIK Olga isn't treated as saint in Catholic Church, is she?

I probably should have clarified that the professor was himself a lay person. Basically the term "witch", "saint" or "heretic" was applied based on the social context of the individual, or a moral judgment made by the church or the population surrounding the individual. Heretics were people the Church didn't agree with, saints were those whose actions were approved by the Church. The Church has been known to change its stance over time, and some individuals have fallen into multiple categories at various times. Famously, Joan of Arc was at various points a witch, a heretic, and a saint.

Regarding Olga, she christianized Rus and here sainthood was recognition of that. I don't actually know if she was ever considered a saint by the Roman Church.

it seems almost as lax as the nobel peace prize...

this is where I got my hn name from. I've actually spent a lot of time at dugway. One of my favorite parts about it is the german counterpart of they japanese village mentioned in the article, the German village. There's still a few building (still in use!) out there that were modeled after European villas so the army could test weapons during ww2.

  By that time it was estimated that $2 million had been spent on the project. It is thought that development of the bat bomb was moving too slowly, and was overtaken in the race for a quick end to the war by the atomic bomb project.
I can just see the conversation now.

A: "So what are you working on?"

B: "Well, we're harnessing the nucleic forces to create a destructive force hitherto unknown to man. How about you?"

A: "Um... bats"

B: "What?"

A: "We attaching firecrackers to bats."

B: "OK, um great!"

A: "Yea..."

The reality is that the atomic bomb wasn't scary because it could destroy a city, it was scary because it could do it with just one drop.

America had already flattened 20+ cities before Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but instead of bats, they used large non-atomic bombs. The bats sound cool, but actual bombs were a little bit more dependable.

In the late 1990s I sat in an old house in Yokkaichi City, Mie Prefecture, Japan, talking to an elderly man who had been a part of the civil defense effort during the last year of World War II. He said that he remembered being outside when bombings were starting, and seeing large dust clouds in the distance, making their way toward the city.

One night the city caught fire (it was firebombed in addition to the normal bombings) and he and his wife, both in their 20s, ran outside into the street and covered themselves with their futon mattresses as means of protective cover. The next morning they arose to find their neighborhood severely burned, and the outsides of their mattresses even partially charred.

Later I talked to another man who grew up near Nagoya--he used to love watching the bombings so much that he and his friends would sneak out of their bomb shelters and lay in the rice paddies watching them fly over. They would laugh and shout, "bii ni-jyu kyu!" (B-29!) They'd ooh and ahh as they watched flares drop.

Hearing stories like these really made me realize what a complex and nuanced world we live in.

Edit: I didn't realize this, but apparently "pumpkin bombs" were dropped on Yokkaichi City in preparation for the atomic bombing of Japan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumpkin_bomb

By the time of the Hiroshima bombing, the U.S. was out of military targets and running out of civilian targets that hadn't already been thoroughly pulverized by saturation bombing. The impact of the first atomic bomb drops were therefore largely psychological.

Consider the Japanese perspective. Pretty much every military target and major urban center is already in ruins, and suddenly the enemy starts dropping an entirely new kind of bomb? The Japanese weren't scared of the handful of nuclear bombs the U.S. had managed to build. They were scared of the idea that the U.S. would start saturation nuking the entire country, even if the U.S.'s nuclear stockpile was purely symbolic at that stage.

As for bat bombs, given that the conventional bombing of Japan was so successful that nuclear weapons were a purely psychological threat, it's not surprising that "bat bombs" were deemed superfluous.

Interestingly enough, the "bat bomb" idea might be due for renewed consideration. Nuclear weapons are now considered last resort. Cluster bombs are banned by many nations and considered rather despicable to use due to the fact that the duds remain a threat to civilians long after the conflict is over (Note: The U.S. has not signed the ban and still uses cluster bombs). A "bat bomb" full of mini-drones might provide superior coverage and accuracy to cluster bombs. One such bomb could cover a larger area and target specific structures. Drones could fly their payloads directly inside buildings to structural weak-points, greatly multiplying the impact of their munitions. There would still be duds of course, but, by reducing the amount of ordinance needed to hit all targets in a given area, the impact of unexploded duds on civilians would hopefully be reduced.

> they used large non-atomic bombs

America was dropping napalm on Japanese cities filled with civilians[1]. Firebombing was a popular tactic in the 1940's.


Well, USA was using white phosphorus in "cities filled with civilians" in Iraq in 2004 (Fallujah), which is more like "is using".

So when talking about scary stuff like incendiary weapons it's better to not to try and fool yourself with words like "yeah, past was dark, but now it is 2014, we have all these conventions and stuff, and even in times of war people know limits of humanity, so worry not". Humans are wicked animals.

This ties in well with the fact that the US has not ratified the appropriate Geneva convention on destroying civilian supplies ( http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scorched_earth )

According to Wikipedia, USA signed part of "Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons" which bans white phosphorus in incendiary weapons in 2009 under Obama administration.

I think the problem is that it's still one of the most effective smokescreen generating compounds out there, so militaries are hesitant to ban it entirely and not have it available for that use.

But, just because it's not marked 'incendiary' on the side of the munition doesn't mean it can be used (both purposefully or accidentally) to horrible effect on people.

"Humans are wicked animals"

Indeed. As Jonathan Swift put it: "the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth"

I was going to dispute this but found you are correct - late in the war Napalm was used - 1944/5. I had though that incendiary bombing (just as bad really) was what you were talking about. The bit that is most fascinating for me in that article is the bit about the treaty banning use of napalm on civilian targets. Obama signed it with a provision: "America’s ratification, however, is subject to a diplomatic reservation that says it can disregard the treaty at its discretion if doing so would save civilian lives."

I clicked the See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-tank_dog

I'm kind of bummed out from that one.

Wow, this sounds like a total clown-car operation:

Out of the first group of 30 dogs, only four managed to detonate their bombs near the German tanks, inflicting an unknown amount of damage. Six exploded upon returning to the Soviet trenches, killing and injuring soldiers.

and later...

Another serious training mistake was revealed later; the Soviets used their own diesel-engine tanks to train the dogs rather than German tanks which had gasoline engines. As the dogs relied on their acute sense of smell, the dogs sought out familiar Soviet tanks instead of strange-smelling German tanks.

This is one of those were reality defeats fantasy. Bat bombs sound a lot more like an orcish weapon than a real thing.

These were featured in a great series of books about bats by Canadian author Kenneth Opel called Silverwing [0]. Many fond memories of reading this book as a kid.

[0] http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silverwing_(novel)

From the original article:

The book Sunwing written by Kenneth Oppel was inspired by this plan.

I inspired this article creation - it fell into the "exploding animals" category, mainly because I originally wrote the exploding whale article on Wikipedia.

"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." - Dr. Lytle S. Adams

I guess Dr. Adams wasn't counting the actual bats here.

I have a feeling Alfred Hitchcock would've had a field day with this one...

This weapon seems to mainly target civians and therefore should not be.

it's a shame

obviously batshit crazy

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