4 Beautifully Dumb Schemes From America's Weirdest Spy Agency
As World War II loomed, President Franklin Roosevelt decided to found America's first official spy agency, the OSS. He turned to the one man in America just crazy enough to pull it off: William "Wild Bill" Donovan. Instructed to think outside the box, Donovan proceeded to hire every maniac and oddball he could find. As a result, the OSS became known for proposing the most bizarre plans this side of the Roger Moore Bond movies.
The Ultimate Stink Bomb
Shortly after the OSS was founded, Donovan hired a chemist named Stanley Lovell to run his research division. Donovan told Lovell he was looking for a "Professor Moriarty" to brainstorm "every subtle device and every under-handed trick to use against the Germans and the Japanese." Armed with his "become a supervillain" job description, Lovell turned the OSS research division into perhaps the wackiest spy agency outside of an '80s kids' cartoon. A typical project involved producing toilet paper "showing the Fuehrer in embarrassing poses," which was smuggled into enemy territory and left in public bathrooms to undermine morale. And it would certainly be discouraging for a fervent Nazi to reach for the toilet paper and find himself faced with a terrible conundrum: wipe on the Führer or stride boldly unwiped from the toilet, squelching off to oversee the town book-burning.
Another project was a powerful stink bomb called "Who Me?" The plan was to have resistance fighters in occupied territories sneak up to Nazi officers in bars and spritz them with the virtually unremovable liquid. This was supposed to "destroy morale through embarrassment," since it's very hard to command the respect of your troops while reeking like a trawler fire. Landa from Inglourious Basterds would have been way less intimidating if every other character kept accusing him of honking like a cheesemaker's jockstrap on day 40 of a national Febreze shortage.
The OSS were very serious about "Who Me?" They even made a special version for the Pacific front, due to the bafflingly racist belief that the Japanese might quite like the smell of human shit (they added some "rotting corpse" notes to compensate). Unfortunately, the original version of the stink bomb was so strong that it tended to cling to the person spraying it as well as the intended target. Resistance members were naturally disinclined to perform a stink suicide bombing, especially since the local Gestapo might start wondering why they also smelled like a cabbage farm septic tank. A new version of the weapon was produced, but by then the war was over and "Who Me? Was never used.
Lovell's division actually had something of a speciality in shitty products, as another of their proposed weapons was a synthetic goat turd with an extra-powerful smell. This was supposed to attract as many flies as possible, in order to spread disease among the enemy. Lovell wanted to secretly drop these over German troops in North Africa, who would see nothing unusual about a few goat droppings lying about the place. However, the plan hit a snag when someone pointed out that goat droppings were rarely found on the roofs of houses, or dangling from nearby trees, as would inevitably happen if the fake turds were airdropped. Lovell considered this for a while and then said "screw it, let's just do it anyway." Fortunately, the war in North Africa had moved on and no pilot ever actually had to risk his life on Operation Dung Goat Drop.
Terrifying New York With Radioactive Fox Ghosts
The year was 1943 and New York under siege by Japanese fox ghosts. The creatures raced through the city's parks late at night, glowing mysteriously and terrifying the local teenagers, who just wanted to make out on a park bench at 3 AM without having to confront the ethereal domain. This all sounds like the plot of a terrible Hellboy prequel, but it really happened, thanks entirely to the lamb-brained insaniacs at the OSS, who had been dunking enraged foxes in glow-in-the-dark paint and releasing them throughout the city as part of a secret plan to win the war in the Pacific.
The foxes were the work of an OSS agent named Ed Salinger, who had briefly worked in Tokyo before the war, and therefore considered himself a massive expert on Japanese culture. Salinger vaguely remembered hearing about Japanese fox spirits called kitsune. Convinced that the Japanese were massively terrified of the adorable creatures, Salinger thought that fake kitsune could be a powerful psychological weapon. The OSS first tried building glowing fox kites, then moved on to special whistles that marines could blow to imitate foxes while charging into battle. They even proposed spritzing everyone with a fake fox scent, in the inexplicable belief that all Japanese people knew what mystical ghost foxes smelled like.
It was eventually decided to use real foxes, mainly because nobody in the OSS wanted to stand in front of a bunch of grizzled troops and say, "Okay boys, here are your glowing kites and little whistles. Now line up while I sprinkle you with fox urine and then get out there and take Iwo Jima!" To make them glow in the dark, the foxes were dipped in paint containing highly radioactive radium. They were eventually set loose in New York to test whether they were scary enough (reports confirm that several bystanders came down with the "screaming jeemies"), but a new problem soon arose. How would the OSS actually deploy the foxes onto Japanese-controlled islands?
Airdropping them was ruled out, since the OSS had learned their lesson from an earlier attempt to develop a cat-bomb. Which was literally an aerial bomb strapped to a terrified cat and tossed out of an airplane. The hope was that the cats could be tethered to a little steering mechanism that would allow them to frantically pedal the bomb away from the ocean and towards an enemy battleship. You know, because cats hate water. The invention seriously overestimated the ability of cats to navigate around a landscape mid-freefall, and was quickly abandoned after early testing revealed that small animals just tend to pass out while plummeting through the air at 100 miles per hour. Obviously, they couldn't risk a similar situation with the fox operation. So the foxes would have to be landed by sea.
Which is how a bunch of OSS grunts ended up on a boat in the middle of Long Island Sound, throwing a bunch of howling, glowing radiation foxes overboard to test whether they would be able to swim to shore. Amazingly, at least some of them made it! Unfortunately, all the glowing dye washed off. The plan was finally abandoned, and the OSS moved on to a variety of even crazier schemes. Although their plan to dye an entire Burmese river yellow to fulfill the terms of a local prophecy also failed when the dye simply dissolved in water. Seriously, this entire organization was just repeatedly foiled by water-soluble dye, like some kind of 1940s Rudy Giuliani.
Toilet Bombing The White House
The cancellation of the fox project was enthusiastically welcomed by Stanley Lovell, who considered the whole thing idiotic. Which is saying a lot when you realize that Stanley Lovell once almost killed FDR with his toilet. Lovell's research department had invented a new type of explosive called "Aunt Jemima," because it looked exactly like pancake flour. This allowed it to be smuggled easily to resistance groups, who could simply pretend to be whipping up some delicious warzone flapjacks if caught. They actually succeeded a little too well, since at least one guy gave himself potentially explosive diarrhea after accidentally whipping up some muffins. But the real problems started when Lovell decided that he had too much Aunt Jemima cluttering up his office. Naturally, he decided to flush it down the toilet.
As a cautious man, Lovell did call an explosives expert and asked if it was okay to clog up his toilet with pounds of a high-powered explosive. The surprised expert confirmed that it probably was, and Lovell spent the rest of the morning happily cramming explosive pancake batter down the shitter, like Karen from Goodfellas if it had been written on LSD. And that's when the bomb tech called back screaming at him to stop before he killed everyone in the building. The guy had just realized that the Aunt Jemima could react with the organic matter in the sewer and explode. In fact, depending on the amount of flammable gases floating around down there, it could conceivably "blow the whole Washington sewer system sky-high, including every building over it.''
It was at this point that Lovell realized that the sewer line ran directly from OSS headquarters across the street to the White House. So he was faced with a choice: either burst into the White House screaming "I just flushed a huge bomb down the toilet, evacuate the building!" or else just ignore the whole thing and hope everything would be fine. He heroically chose option B and spent the rest of the day glancing nervously out his window waiting for the president to explode. By dawn of the next day he was slammed up against the White House fence, trying to figure out if all the explosives had been washed into the Potomac yet. History buffs will know that FDR did not, in fact, die when his toilet mysteriously blasted him into the roof, and Lovell was able to return to his most valuable project: giving Hitler huge breasts.
The Bimbofication Of Adolf Hitler, By The Lunatic Stanley Lovell
"What if Hitler was more like a woman?" is a question usually asked only by people about to be banned for life from DeviantArt. But the OSS were deadly serious about it. Under Lovell's direct supervision, they hatched a plan to lace Hitler's vegetables with estrogen. Lovell, who had somehow decided Hitler was notably "close to the male-female line," thought that a quick dose of hormones would make him more womanly and less aggressive. In the best case scenario, Lovell speculated that he might even lose his famous mustache, start speaking in a high-pitched voice, or start to develop breasts, causing him to instantly "lose his hold on Germany."
Even by the standards of the OSS research division, this was a very dumb plan. And we're talking about people who once proposed driving the prudish Hitler mad by bombing his headquarters with hardcore pornography. We're talking about people who once suggested persuading the Pope to prophesize that Hitler would be struck blind, then using a trick flower vase to spray him with mustard gas to fulfill the prophecy. We're talking about people who genuinely wondered why they couldn't just immobilize enemy soldiers by dumping glue on them. Realistic plans were not their forte, and even for them this was something.
But they went for it. An agent was sent on a top-secret mission to bribe one of Hitler's gardeners to inject his carrots with estrogen. Why not poison? Well, he had food tasters, but they wouldn't be checking for slow-acting tasteless estrogen. And Hitler's death might allow a more competent guy to take over, whereas woman-Hitler would surely just squander Germany's whole military budget on shopping trips, right fellas? Sadly, the entire operation was foiled by the gardener, who happily took the estrogen and a giant bag full of money, and was then never seen or heard from again. The OSS figured that he just threw the estrogen syringes out and escaped with the bribe, which, in fairness, was absolutely the right move in that situation.
After the war, the OSS was dissolved. Elements of the agency went on to become the CIA, which tended more toward overthrowing governments and funding creepy mind control experiments than the wacky OSS shenanigans. Still, elements of that free-spirited mindset persisted, which may explain why that same CIA once tried to kill Fidel Castro with an exploding seashell.
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