When one thinks of warfare, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the people dressed in fatigues crawling through trenches firing guns at each other. Yet soldiers aren’t the only tools countries use to defend (or attack) one another, there are plenty of bizarre stories out there of how furry, and not so furry, companions are used as well.
Bat Bombs (“Project X Ray”)
These never really saw use in actual war, but were rather an experimental weapon based around strapping small incendiaries to bats and having them fly inside buildings to hide from the daylight before detonation.
The bomb was surprisingly effective for how ridiculous it sounds, much better than the traditional incendiaries of the time. However, the development of the project was taking too long, and the U.S. had already invested 2 million in it, so the project was cancelled as it was being overtaken by funding and researching for the atomic bomb.
CIA Spy Cat (“Acoustic Kitty”)
The CIA dabbled in plenty of animal experimentation in the ‘60s, and once decided the best use of funds was to try and create a cat that could spy on their enemies.
They wired one furry little guy to a radio transmitter, but as they discovered later, “outside the lab, there was just no herding that cat.”
Unfortunately, on its very first mission, the 20 million dollar cat that took 5 years to complete testing and training on, was immediately hit and killed by a taxi on its first mission. The project was scrapped soon after.
Soviet Anti-Tank Dogs
The Soviet Union had a problem. The Germans had tanks, and they couldn’t destroy them easily without a decent amount of sacrifice from their own forces or inferior tanks (early in the war).
So the USSR came up with a (fairly stupid) solution. To train dogs for bomb drops near the tanks, and then come back to their owners.
The problem was, the dogs couldn’t be trained to drop the bomb and come back. The Soviets attempted to fix this by making the bomb simply detonate when they touched the tank, but the dogs were smart enough not to go blow themselves up for the red army, and were just scared of the tanks in general.
So, generally, they ran out and came back and took a few Soviet soldiers with them. All of this made this program a massive failure overall, though there are a few well documented successes.
Wojtek Perski, the Polish bear corporal
Anatol Tarnowiecki, a Polish lieutenant, bought and adopted a bear cub that had lost its mother. The bear initially had some trouble eating, so he had to be fed milk out of an old vodka bottle and travelled with the soldiers wherever they went, including tours to Palestine, Syria, and Egypt.
Later in his life, he was taught to salute soldiers, wrestle with them, smoke cigarettes (and sometimes eat them). Reportedly, he loved drinking beer and working by carrying crates of ammunition for the Polish army while never dropping a single case.
Following the war, Wojtek lived out the rest of his days in Edinburgh Zoo, where former soldiers would toss him cigarettes (which he ate), and guest starring on Blue Peter, a children’s show.
Sergeant Stubby was some kind of pit bull mix that wandered onto a training field, quickly taken in by soldiers and snuck onto a ship.
Once Stubby was eventually discovered, he saluted his commanding officer and was permitted to stay. Stubby served for 18 months in the trenches of France in WWI, once saving his squadron by alerting them to mustard gas attacks. He was also pivotal in the capture of a German spy (single handedly), as well as comforting the wounded and alerting the unit to mortar attacks, as his hearing could detect the shells while they were whining in the air.
He is the most decorated war dog of WWI, and was in fact promoted to Sergeant by the end of the war.
Douglas the Confederate Camel
Douglas was a camel that was part of an early Confederate effort to change from horses, as they needed less water. He was the most famous of these camels, beloved by his regiment, even after he spooked horses and caused a stampede.
The camel remained with the 43rd Mississippi infantry until the siege of Vicksburg, where he was shot and killed by a Union sniper. Six Confederate snipers attempted to avenge Douglas, but only succeeded in wounding Douglas’ killer. His grave marker remains in Vicksburg to this day.
Sinbad, Chief Dog
Blackie Roth bought his girlfriend a dog to try and make his trip to the Navy less painful for her. As it turned out, her new apartment had a no dogs policy, so he was smuggled onto the ship with Roth. He was named Sinbad, and served on the ship for years.
Once, Sinbad was officially banned from Greenland after killing local sheep by chasing them around (they died from exhaustion) during a patrol there. Even still, he was eventually promoted from Dog, First Class, to Chief Dog, after proving his loyalty by staying calm during a siege by German U boats.
He was, however, demoted after running off during a photography session. He was buried with honors in 1951, posthumously promoted back to Chief Dog.