Category:
Military

Project Capricious

During World War II, the OSS (precursor to the CIA) hatched a plan to defeat General Rommel's Afrika Korps by using synthetic goat poop. The idea was to drop huge amounts of pathogen-laced pseudo-poop over African towns. Local insects would be attracted to the stuff and would then carry the pathogens to Rommel's troops. However, before the plan could be carried out, Rommel's troops were withdrawn from the area and sent to Russia.

Jeffrey Lockwood tells the story in more detail in his book Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War.

In February 1942, General Rommel's Afrika Korps pummeled U.S. forces in North Africa, and the Americans became worried that their defeat would encourage fascist Spain to join the Axis alliance. Moreover, the Germans were amassing troops in Morocco, in preparation for cutting off the railroad from Casablance to Algiers — the sole supply line for Allied forces. A covert operation was needed to debilitate the German troops, break the momentum of the Axis, and save the Allied lifeline... This called for flies.

The plan was to weaken the enemy forces by using flies to spread a witch's brew of pathogens. Given the agency's inability to rear an army of flies, [OSS Research Director] Lovell decided to conscript the local vectors...

Lovell was a chemist, but he'd been out of the laboratory often enough to know that flies love dung. And with a bit of research, he discovered a key demographic fact: There were more goats than people in Morocco — and goat are prolific producers of poop. Lovell now had the secret formula: microbes + feces + flies = sick Germans. Now all he needed was a few tons of goat droppings as a carrier for laboratory-cultured pathogens.

The OSS collaborated closely with the Canadian entomological warfare experts to launch one of the more preposterous innovations in the history of clandestine weaponry: synthetic goat dung. Of course flies are no fools; they won't be taken in by any old brown lump. So the OSS team added a chemical attractant. The nature of this lure is not clear, but a bit of sleuthing provides some clues.

Allied scientists might have crafted a chemical dinner bell by collecting and concentrating the stinky chemicals that we associate with human feces (indole and the appropriately named skatole). While these extracts would have worked, the more likely attractant was a blend of organic acids, some of which had been known for 150 years. Two of the smelliest of these are caproic and caprylic acids, which, by no coincidence, derive their names from caprinus, meaning "goat." Etymologically as well as entomologically astute, Lovell named the operation Project Capricious. So with a scent to entice the flies, Lovell's team then coated the rubbery pellets in bacteria to complete the lures.

All the Americans had to do was drop loads of pathogenic pseudo-poop over towns and villages where the Germans were garrisoned, and millions of local flies would be drawn to the bait, pick up a dose of microbes, and then dutifully deliver the bacteria to the enemy. Lovell worried about keeping the operation clandestine. The Moroccans had to be persuaded that finding goat droppings on their roofs the morning after Allied aircraft flew over was a sheer coincidence. Presumably a good disinformation campaign can dispel almost any suspicion, or, as Lovell intimated, if the plan succeeded there would be very few people in any condition to raise annoying questions about fecal pellets on rooftops...

In the end, however, Lovell didn't have to worry about getting caught by either friends or foes, as the secret weapon was never deployed. Just as the OSS was gearing up to launch the sneak attack, the German troops were withdrawn from Spanish Morocco. They might well have preferred to take their chances with pathogen-laden flies, given that Hitler was sending them to the bloody siege of Stalingrad.


Posted By: Alex - Sat Jul 20, 2019 - Comments (5)
Category: Insects, Military, War, Weapons, Excrement, 1940s

Downright unacceptable and illegal

Poe's Law states that it can often be almost impossible to tell the difference between a parody of an extreme belief (such as creationism) and a sincere expression of that belief.

Something like that is going on with the video below. It's apparently a sincere video statement, recently posted on the British Army's YouTube account, by a high-ranking British officer, Gen Sir Mark Carleton-Smith. But as you watch it, it's hard not to get the impression that he's parodying the popular image of a British officer. Monty Python is surely to blame for this!

More details: the guardian



Posted By: Alex - Mon Apr 15, 2019 - Comments (0)
Category: Military, Parody

Psychological warfare in Vietnam

February 1966: Congressman Craig Hosmer unveiled his strange plan for victory in Vietnam. He suggested air-dropping playing cards, plastic cutouts of women and dogs, and owl hoots onto the Vietcong. His idea was that these would trigger the superstitious nature of the Vietnamese and cause them to surrender — with no shots fired.

Some of his suggestions may actually have been done. I’m not sure.

Hosmer also suggested dropping yellow dye on the Vietcong “to identify them upon infiltration into South Vietnam.” He noted, “Dyeing the Vietcong could, in the end, prove more effective than killing them.”

Sydney Morning Herald - Feb 7, 1966



Craig Hosmer (Esquire - Jan 1967)



Arizona Republic - Feb 9, 1966

Posted By: Alex - Sun Mar 10, 2019 - Comments (1)
Category: Military, War, 1960s

The Stay-Alert Game

Briefly experimented with in 1969 as a way to motivate U.S. troops in Vietnam to stay alert, fight better, and avoid casualties. The idea was that combat would be turned into a game. Each platoon was awarded points for enemy troops killed, weapons captured, and rice caches discovered. But they lost points if they suffered any battle casualties. The winning platoon would receive two or three days off at a rest center.

Troops hated the stay-alert game, so it was quickly mothballed.

Appleton Post-Crescent - May 5, 1969

Posted By: Alex - Mon Sep 17, 2018 - Comments (0)
Category: Games, Military, War, Armed Forces, 1960s

Miss National Defense

I can't find any evidence that this contest occurred in any year other than 1941.


Posted By: Paul - Sun Sep 09, 2018 - Comments (0)
Category: Beauty, Ugliness and Other Aesthetic Issues, Contests, Races and Other Competitions, Military, 1940s

Sound Effects—U.S. Air Force Firepower

A 1962 release that included tracks such as:

• Sonic Boom: F-104 "Starfighter"
• F-100's Fire Mixed Loads Of Rockets At Ground Targets
• Mass Napalm Attack By F-100's (Ground Bursts)
• Nuclear Bomb Explosion, Yucca Flat, Nevada
• 20 MM Vulcan "Gatling Gun" Type Aircraft Cannon

You can peruse the full list of tracks at discogs.com.



The Akron Beacon Journal - Oct 4, 1962

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jul 23, 2018 - Comments (4)
Category: Military, 1960s, Cacophony, Dissonance, White Noise and Other Sonic Assaults

Ronald’s no protester

But I wonder how Ronald ever got targeted by the selective service system if he hadn't registered yet.

Press and Sun Bulletin - Mar 13, 1968

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jan 15, 2018 - Comments (3)
Category: Military, War, 1960s

Operation Fragrant Cow

Back in the 60s, the U.S. Army employed scientists to sneak into Omaha stockyards and spray cows with deodorant. The logic behind this was to test how easy it would be for Soviet agents to spread hoof-and-mouth disease among American cows.

Unfortunately, I can't find any more info about this operation, which is a shame because it raises so many questions. For instance, the important part of the operation must have been to see how easily they could gain access to the stockyards. So then, why bother to deodorize the cows? Was it just to add a touch of realism? Why not spray them with paint so that they could later count the "infected" ones?

Southern Illinoisan - Aug 5, 1994

Posted By: Alex - Sun Apr 09, 2017 - Comments (2)
Category: Military, Science, 1960s

Polar Do’s and Don’t's

From the U.S. Navy's Polar Manual (4th ed., 1965):

Number 26: Do not touch cold metal with moist, bare hands. If you should inadvertently stick a hand to cold metal, urinate on the metal to warm it and save some inches of skin. If you stick both hands, you'd better have a friend along.

The whole list is pretty interesting and worth a read. You can download the entire manual from the Defense Technical Information Center (PDF - 33 MB).





Posted By: Alex - Wed Mar 15, 2017 - Comments (5)
Category: Military, Body Fluids

Non-Terrifying Gas Mask

1941: Charles Leguillon, a manager at the B.F. Goodrich Co., invented a "non-terrifying gas mask" that a pretty girl could wear "and remain a pretty girl and not become a gargoyle."

The media proclaimed that for this he deserved "female thanks," because of course all women want to continue looking their best, even during chemical warfare.

But was the new gas mask actually non-terrifying? I'll let you be the judge.

American Legion Magazine - Aug 1941






The Akron Beacon Journal - June 11, 1941

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jan 09, 2017 - Comments (2)
Category: Costumes and Masks, Military, 1940s

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Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.

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