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Outdoors Outpost
Best Laid Plans
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 • Posted October 24, 2012

Several years ago a friend sent me a story about a plan our military came up with during World War II. The plan was to drop millions of bats over Japan, with little incendiary bombs attached to them. The idea was that they would fly into buildings, the bombs would explode, and Japan would burn up.

This was a great plan, except for the fact that it was insane. I’ve always thought of that plan as just about the dumbest thing anyone could think up. Recently, however, it was brought to my attention that, compared to a lot of other military plans that have been tried over the years, the Bat Bomb Attack sounds downright brilliant.

For instance, another WWII idea was to put trained pigeons inside bombs, and have them peck a little screen with a map on it, to keep the guided bomb on course. The enemy kept jamming the radio signals for our guided bombs, and the pigeon, in theory, would be able to continually correct its couse.

This was called Project Orcon. It should have been called Project Guano. It was scrapped when someone pointed out that it was a plan to depend on a bird to guide a bomb. At least all the bats had to do was find shade.

America, of course, has no monopoly on stupid ideas. None other than Winston Churchill once came up with the astounding idea of building a behemoth aircraft carrier out of ice. Yes. Ice. It was called Project Habbakuk.

Maybe Churchill named it that because Habakkuk was the only minor prophet in the bible who asked questions of God, and God answered him. Or maybe it was because Habakkuk cried out against the violence, lawlessness, and injustice in the world. Or maybe it was because Churchill spelled Habakkuk wrong.

Whatever the reason for the name, the idea was to build a carrier from ice that would displace two million tons, when the largest one, of any kind, built to that time displaced only 100,000 tons. So we’re talking about a really big chunk of ice, here.

A prototype was built in Canada that weighed 1,000 tons and was 60 feet long, and melted after three summers. But the real McCoy was going to cost 70 million dollars and take about 8,000 people eight months to build. So the idea was finally dropped. Which is a shame, really. It might have given new meaning, later on, to the Cold War.

Speaking of the Cold War, our CIA came up with a doozie during the 1960s called Project Acoustic Kitty, known affectionately as Spy Cat. The idea was that even bad guys, our enemies, wouldn’t pay any attention to a cat hanging around, rubbing up against their legs and ignoring them. So they decided to use cats as spies.

A radio transmitter, battery, and microphone were surgically implanted in a real, live cat, with an antenna wire running up inside its tail. The plan was to turn the cat loose among the commies, evidently in Russia, and listen in on their diabolical conversations. One can only assume the CIA had reliable information that Russians often welcomed stray cats into the politboro.

Things didn’t quite go as planned. On the first trial run, Felix Bond was run over by a taxi. Several million dollars went into that one, but it didn’t fare very well. (rim shot)

There is, even now, a project that may end up being deployed in Iraq. The Pain Ray. It’s been in the works for at least ten years, and works pretty well. It’s a sort of directional microwave that causes the water molecules in skin to vibrate, or something, causing pain, from up to 500 yards away. I guess that’s why they put doors on microwave ovens.

But the biggest, most impressive, and most insane military project I’ve heard of recently is the plan the U.S. Air Force developed in 1956 to build an actual, working flying saucer.

Since president Obama signed an executive order in 2009 to declassify several mountains of documents that have been in storage for over half a century, the National Declassification Center in College Park, Maryland has been working overtime to go through over 400 million pages of documents. In one of over 100 cardboard boxes marked ‘Air Force’ workers found Project 1794, a 114-page plan to build a round, vertical take-off and landing aircraft. In other words, a flying saucer.

The craft was to have an ejector seat, was to be powered by six turbo-jet engines, and was supposed to have a top speed of Mach 4 and a ceiling of over 100,000 feet. And for all this the American UFO was going to cost the taxpayers a measley 3.2 million bucks. A real bargain, at a time when hammers were going for a couple of thousand smackers.

Is there some connection between the flying saucer plan of 1956 and the supposed flying saucer crash near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947? (hint: rearrange the numbers of Project 1794)

Uh, not that I know of.

Maybe in another 50 years or so, when the rest of the declassified documents have been sifted, we’ll get The Rest of the Story. My theory is there’s a cat involved . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who bought an official ‘I Love Aliens’ T-shirt in Roswell once. Not. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

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