The 10 Most Bizarre Military Experiments
We suspect that every military has a secret room full of stoned dudes who stare at the ceiling and just dream up shit to build. The difference is they have billions of dollars to make their dreams reality.
In support of our "secret room full of stoned dudes" theory, we offer the following actual military projects that stretch the limits of the non-stoned imagination:
The Bat Bomb
Working on the premise any weapon is cooler if it flies in the night on leathery wings, Bat Bombs were proposed by a dental surgeon in the '40s. Naturally the President thought it was awesome so a plan was rolled out to make the night unsafe for anyone that didn't want to have small explosives get stuck in their hair.
Because bats can carry a good amount of weight and tend to sneak into buildings and such, the plan was to make an army of flying rodent suicide bombers and release them over Japan. The little fellas had small napalm explosive kits made for them, which were probably the cutest incendiary devices ever, and then cases were constructed that would be dropped from B-29s, releasing the bats.
At dawn, they'd flee to buildings until the timers on their little bombs went off. So far, so fucking crazy.
What went wrong:
Things got sketchy when some armed bats were accidentally released and set up shop under a fuel tank on an Air Force base. So, yeah, that burnt to the ground. But, hey, it proved the damn things worked, so the people involved looked at that as a silver lining.
Given that the bomb casings they'd made for the bats could hold over 1,000 bats, they assumed just one bomber could hold up to 200,000 little flaming night terrors and some initial test data concluded these bat bombs were actually superior to regular fire bombs.
But after a couple million bucks in funding, the plan was scrapped. The plan was moving forward too slowly, the bats were unpredictable and the guys at the Manhattan Project were talking about having some kind of miracle bomb that could do the work of like, a million bats.
The Great Panjandrum
Getting through enemy fortifications is always tough, what with their insistence on constructing defenses out of stone and other non-meringue based substances. Sometimes conventional weapons just can't break through, and such was the case with the concrete defenses that were part of the Third Reich's Atlantic Wall that ran up and down the west coast of the European continent. So the Brits came up with the Panjandrum, insanity's answer to "what could we do to make explosives more dangerous?"
So how do you get a tank-sized hole in a concrete wall? Well, they created two giant, wooden wheels joined by a central drum stuffed with explosives. On each wheel they strapped rockets as a means to propel it forward at speeds of about 60 miles an hour. Life imitates art, and sometimes military life imitates Wile E. Coyote cartoons.
What went wrong:
You can probably guess. The rockets that moved the thing had a habit of flying off during tests, sending the entire structure off course, which we're thinking created a number of safety issues. After adding more rockets and another wheel, it was tested again and this time it turned right back to sea.
Finally, after many tweaks, it was ready to be tested in front of Navy officials, scientists and journalists. How could this go wrong?
The ridiculous thing started rolling off as planned, but then like a drunken hussy with vertigo on a dance floor, it started careening all over the place before making a beeline for the assembled Navy brass, discarding rockets and wobbling around before thankfully collapsing and exploding. Moments later, the Roadrunner went zipping by.
A real pain in the ass during WWII was the enemy constantly trying to not get bombed. Ways of jamming guidance systems for homing missiles meant a lot of targets went unblown up, so effort was put into finding a way to guide a missile that couldn't be jammed.
Every psych 101 students' favorite sleep aid, BF Skinner, proposed the idea of using pigeons. Put a pigeon in a bomb and have the target displayed on screen for it. The pigeon would constantly correct the course by pecking on the image of the target in the center of the screen. Jam that, Nazi assholes.
What went wrong:
Even though a chunk of change had been dropped on the project, the military abandoned it. Some say it was just too weird for them, while the time involved in training the pigeons had also been cited. One of the problems was the range of the weapons, as they relied on an optical system, since the pigeons had to see what they were pecking at. If the bomb went too far off course, the pigeons would have to correct for themselves and the bomb. Another problem was that it was a bomb guided by a fucking bird.
The Sun Gun
Destroying your enemies from space is the goal of every angry 4th grader and Scientologist. Unbeknownst to many, it was also the goal of the Nazis, who figured a space station/death ray combo would have been gangbusters.
Appropriating the work of less genocidal minds, Nazi physicists began work on an idea that would put a giant mirror in orbit. The mirror, which they planned to design from about one million tons of metallic sodium, would burn cities to the ground, boil reservoirs, crisp people like bacon and probably make all kinds of kids with magnifying glasses huddled over ant hills feel grossly inadequate.
The mirror would be on a space station manned by Nazi spacemen with magnetic boots to help overcome weightlessness, with oxygen provided by on-board pumpkin patches and electricity provided by solar powered steam dynamos. The cafeteria would presumably have food deep fried in love and the rec room would be structured out of the dreams of children and unicorn gonads.
What went wrong:
We did. "We" being all the non-Nazi assholes, the more colloquial name for the Allied forces. When it became clear that we were going to win the war, the US began taking German scientists out of the country and this plan, along with many others, was abandoned. Also, the epic, grand scale, and mind-bogglingly retarded nature of the entire idea was apparently a roadblock that needed to be overcome too, since we couldn't even build the damned thing now, in 2008, if we wanted to.
And trust us, we want to.
Related: Cracked Round-Up: Sun-Eating Edition
When Winston Churchill got a hankering to smite his enemies, he aimed for the sky. Actually, he aimed for the ocean, where he wanted to build Holy Fuck That's Insane island. That was renamed Project Habbakuk. It was an aircraft carrier. It was an iceberg.
Wanting to make an unsinkable aircraft carrier that would be so intense as to make enemies shit themselves uncontrollably, and with good reason, the Brits came up with the Habbakuk. Constructed from ice (ever try to sink an ice cube?) the plan was to make it 2,000 feet long with a deck to keel depth of 200 feet and walls 40 feet thick. It would displace 2,000,000 tons (compared to the Navy's current Nimitz class carriers that displace 100,000 tons). So, it was like, really big.
When ice proved to be not entirely feasible a material to build an aircraft carrier out of, they switched to something called Pykrete, which was just ice and wood pulp. It was intense stuff that deflected bullets and since this idea was already probably the craziest thing anyone had ever heard of, why the fuck not?
What went wrong:
Practicality. A small version had been constructed in Canada that weighed 1,000 tons and was only 60 feet long to show that the idea could work. It took three summers to melt the damn thing. The full-scale model would take $70 million, 8,000 people and eight months to finish, the finished product could only travel at six knots and once it arrived where it was going, it would still be made of fucking ice.
The Stargate Project
Sadly having nothing to do with fighting aliens who pretend to be Egyptian gods, the Stargate Project was the CIA's way of saying goodbye to $20 million, but getting a fun story to tell the grandkids as a result. The project was an effort to discover if psychic remote viewing was real, because if it was then that would make spying a whole lot easier.
Apparently the Commies were spending a lot of money on paranormal research during the Cold War. So if they were doing it, the CIA wanted a slice too, before the Reds whipped out some dude who could kill the President with his mind. They started the Stargate project in the '70s with a crack team of gifted psychics provided by the Church of Scientology. Seriously.
What went wrong:
They realized right away there probably wasn't anything to the whole psychic/remote viewing thing. And by "right away" we mean 25 years later. The project lasted until 1995.
Research into the project's validity concluded that while the remote viewers could get some details right, they were also doing a stellar job of getting a shitload wrong. In fact, many say the results were exactly the same as having a group of random hobos make wild guesses, and that you could just as accurately uncover enemy hideouts by having a camel spit at a wall map.
Hey, did we mention that we spent $20 million to find that out? Don't feel bad, the Soviets spent 500 million rubles to find out the same thing.
The Gay Bomb
In terms of great military plans, from the first ape-man who threw a rock at some other asshole ape and likely stretching into our Jetsons-like future with lasers and nanobots that will melt the faces of those who displease us, nothing is likely to ever top the Gay Bomb. The Gay Bomb is exactly what it sounds like; a weapon that would rend our enemies asunder with gay. Actual, weaponized gay.
Wright Laboratory in Ohio proposed a number of non-lethal weapons to the Pentagon, as methods of crowd control are highly in demand these days and tear gas is about as cool as hippie daisies and beaded curtains. Instead, why not bathe your targets in an aphrodisiac chemical so strong that it caused all the enemy combatants to line up for mustache rides?
So maybe it's not a room full of stoners coming up with these ideas, maybe it's a house full of frat guys.
What went wrong:
In concept, it's probably true that an enemy is less effective when engaged in a massive, frenzied man-orgy. However, science has not actually perfected a way to make this happen to just any group of males.
Apparently the "how" was not the job of the idea department here, as the same lab proposed other weapons that would make bugs and rodents attack enemies, give them bad breath or mark them with a stink so they couldn't hide in general population. Again, that's all fine and good, if and when ways of doing those things actually exists.
Despite that, the Pentagon kicked this idea around for at least seven years, perhaps based on nothing more than the private fantasy of one frustrated general.
Related: '30 Rock's Gay Bomb Was A Real Thing
The Pain Ray
The Active Denial System, often referred to as the Pain Ray, is a futuristic sounding way of making sure someone is about to have a really terrible day or improperly cooked microwave burritos. Designed as a method of crowd control, the ADS does just what the nickname suggests, it causes pain. At a distance!
In certain situations, it seems the military doesn't want its own people getting too close to the danger, but at the same time doesn't want to start picking off rowdy crowds with a sniper hidden on some kind of grassy knoll because that makes for very bad press. So developing non-lethals that make people do what you want has recently become very popular.
Thus the Active Denial System is born, a long-range weapon that uses electromagnetic radiation at a high frequency and can be directed at targets close to 500 yards away. It causes the water molecules in a person's skin to get "excited," which is a pleasant way of saying it microwaves you. But not in a permanently damaging sort of way. Maybe.
What went wrong:
Nothing, yet. They've built the thing, and it works. The ADS was first developed over a decade ago and after many trials and tests, the US military seems to have a hankering to get them into Iraq very quickly.
A lack of research into long-term effects or prolonged exposure to the weapon have some people wondering if it's such a great idea, since probably no one has volunteered to have their eye microwaved yet to see what that's like, but meh. It's called the Pain Ray, not the Rainbow Shooter. That's what you get for not dispersing on your own, angry mob!
Another non-lethal method of crowd control and also a psychological weapon, malodorants, or stink bombs, are supposed to create a stink the likes of which you can't imagine. Worse than rotten meat, backed-up sewage or another trip to the dump with dad to find mom an anniversary present.
Military forces have been playing with this idea for decades. A number of smells have been patented, including the smell of human feces, which makes us think we probably owe a hell of a lot of royalties to someone every day at about 8AM. In the Second World War, some intrepid people invented the hilariously named Who Me? as a way to make Germans disperse as well as humiliate them by making them smell worse than people on the bus.
The US has something called US Government Standard Bathroom Malodor which is apparently so bad, people who have experienced it actually start screaming within seconds. Written accounts describe it as smelling like every bad smell you can think of, put together, times ten. Reports say it actually creates visible cartoon stink lines in the air. The military thinks that's as hilarious as we do and wants to throw it at people.
What went wrong:
Though the ideas are still being developed, the fact is, historically, they don't work out so well on account of you're going to end up smelling like unbelievable ass too. Back in WWII, Who Me? couldn't really be effectively used since it not only made the target stink, it made the bomber stink and the entire area where the bomb went off stink.
Stink is a fickle mistress, and obeys no master.
Project Acoustic Kitty
When you think of spying, odds are you think of jamming a radio inside of a cat so it can listen in on stuff. And if you don't, you really need to have a good, long think about what kind of person you are. Anyway, in the '60s, the CIA hatched this idea to make a cat into a listening device and stick it to some dirty Commies.
The how and why of this project was probably torn up and shat on by whoever came up with it in an effort to save a shred of dignity, but nonetheless, what has survived is a plan to implant a battery and a microphone in a cat, with the antenna running up through its tail. They could let the cat loose and no one would be any the wiser of the mystery cat sitting nearby.
What went wrong:
Public transportation. It turns out, in a strange twist of logic, that once you put a battery, a microphone and an antenna inside a cat, it is not immune to taxis. So, after spending several millions of dollars and years in research, the CIA released their spy cat on its test run and a cab ran it over.
The project was then scrapped and no one spoke of it again.
If you liked that, you just might enjoy last week's article about 7 Insane Conspiracies That Actually Happened. Then go watch a smug 60 Minutes reporter get zapped with the Pain Ray. You know, for the sake of journalism.