In a military history course a few months ago, my professor enlightened the class about Bat Bombs (more details). The idea struck me as hilarious, so I was wondering if any military buffs out there know of any other wacky, strange, or unorthodox military ideas that were rejected or are just not widely known about?
There’s always the pigeon-guided missle.
Do japanese fugu bombs count?
I submit Operation Habbakuk. A WWII plan to make aircraft carriers out of ice and woodchips. The idea is perhaps not as silly as animal guided weapons, but the name is so outstanding.
That whole homosexual policy. Who cares what people do in bed? We just want them to invade, loot, pillage, burn, and rape.
Several are mentioned in this recent article.
Also noteworthy is the idea of a chemical weapon that could be deployed in order to give enemy combatants really bad breath.
How about a real weapon that was really silly
Well, I’ll pick up the mulberry-paper glove on behalf of the Fu-go; it may seem pretty desperate in retrospect, and it certainly was never going to be a war-winner. But it did drain war resources (although not to produce any kind of effective “return.”)
I have part of one of these on display at Fort Rodd Hill (the “chandelier” and plug ring–the balloon and all explosive bits are long gone).
The only documented damage done was the poor pregnant woman and five children were killed on Gearhart Mountain, Oregon, while on their way for a picnic in May, 1945. http://www.transistor.org/personal/photos/klamath2001/mitchellmonument.jpg
Well, that and knocking out power to the Manhattan Project for a couple of days:
From this page: http://www.project1947.com/gfb/fugo.htm
Oppenheimer even spotted one over the Trinity Test site.
The balloons did create a great deal of flurry in the military in the US and Canada; several fighter squadrons were kept on standby to shoot the things down (over the ocean, when possible), troops were sent out to find and disarm the things.
There was genuine worry about the payload being changed from “harmless” incendiary pellets to something more sinister–say, anthrax or nerve gas, or even good old mustard gas. Imagine one of those coming down in Vancouver, or Seattle, or Los Angeles. Not quite so Heath Robinson (or Rube Goldberg, I should say).
Fu-go and Canada: http://www.members.shaw.ca/dmcclarty/schmidt_history/japfirecwm.htm
If the Fu-go campaign had taken place more in the dry summer months, the damage done and manpower cost of large fires could have been much more (just think of the big fires here in BC two years ago, or some of the California blazes).
Still, not a war-winner, but there was no other way to reach out and touch the North American homeland. Full marks for ingenuity and resourcefulness. Minus ten for bad timing.
Pykrete/Habbakuk wasn’t really crazy – the proposed technology was simply rendered obsolete by nuclear weapons, which would have turned the huge ice/sawdust ships into floating radioactive masses. (The end of the war also stepped down efforts on Operation Habbakuk).
I seem to remember hearing that Habbakuk was the beginning of the discipline of materials science (IANAMS).
There was the Bv-141 Asymmetrical airplane, one of many strange experimental designs the Germans came up with during WW2. Apparently it actually flew just fine, but people couldn’t get past how weird it looked.
I’ll see your balloon bomb and raise you a nuclear hand grenade.
I’m not an expert on military history or technology, and that’s a field I’m not particulalry interested in. But my guess would be that the Japanese balloon bombs are not all that silly an idea. Jrfranchi’s link says:
That’s not what you’d call “efficient” when you consider that (as the link also says) 9,000 of those things were built. But consider this:
Besides, when you take into account that the costs of producing those balloons were certainly much lower than of some of the high-tech weapons deployed in WWII and other conflicts, and that a series of reported incidents could have done damage to the national morale among American civilians, I suppose the idea itself wasn’t bad.
Back in the 1960s there was a series of books on WWII history. One was entitled German Secret Weapkns and another Allied Secret Weapons. There were a lot of dumb ideas that didn’t work. There was a sort of giant flametrhrower that was supposed to dissuade german planes from flying over Britain. This would have as much effect as a candle flame does on your finger when you swipe your finger through it. I think they decided that it could be a potent psychological weapon. Hah.
There were proposed devices to make breaches in the supposed Atlantic Wall. Fortunately, there was no wall, so they never needed the devices which, by and large, wouldn’;t have worked.
Not a weapon per se but how about a giant transport Plane.
Howard Hughes’ Hercules. AKA Spruce Goose.
That is a giant transport Plane made out of Plywood. I Hit submit instead of Preview. :o
Some of the German tanks, if not silly, were a bit over the top.
Though it does remind me of the Mammoth tank from the C&C games.
Not quite military, yet intriguing: the Magdeburg rocket, which was designed to go from Germany to New Zealand by going straight up. Straight up, you ask? Yes - the builder of the Magdeburg rocket subscribed to the theories of one Peter Bender, who claimed that the Earth’s surface was actually the interior surface of an enormous hollow ball, with the stars and planets occupying the interior of the hollow ball. This placed New Zealand directly opposite Germany on a diameter of the ball.
The project was funded by the city of Magdeburg, Germany through local Nazi contacts. The Nazi political leadership put a stop to this research, but only because they wanted all private rocket research stopped, not particularly because the Magdeburg rocket was nuttier than a fruitcake.
I just finished reading The Wrong Stuff, part of which talks about the experiments in the 50’s to replace aircraft carrier decks with rubber decks instead.
He’s got an entry in Strange Lives And Eccentric Notions. I haven’t read all of the linked page yet (It may have been the page that infected my computer. Though it was probably just a coincidence of timing), but I thought Pyke was actually a very inteligent and resourceful scientist. His problems following general rules and procedures. His refusal to shave, comb his hair, and wear a suit convinced most potential patrons that Pyke was crazy, an idiot or both.
According to The World’s Worst Aircraft, its performance was excellent. The designer knew it would be, but nobody believed him.
Re The Spruce Goose
There was nothing wrong or wacky with using the Duramold process to build planes. AFAIK, there was nothing wrong with the design of the Spruce Goose. The real problem was that Hughes had begun to lose his mind. Instead of drawing up specifications for the finished wood and having workers perform tests to see what kind of wood was the most suitable, or performing those tests himself, Hughes became obssessive compulsive. When he did decide on a species of tree, he became obssessie compulsive over exactly which individual specimens of that tree were suitable.
The Spruce Goose’s only flight happened during a taxiing run. It took off at a lower speed then expected, and without any effort at all. I don’t see how it was a failure. As for the idea of huge military transport planes, look at the Guppy.
Would Reagan’s “Star Wars” count, and the idea of a “peace shield” over the US?