Friday, August 14, 2015

Cry Havoc And Let Loose The Critters Of War

We may not think about it very often, but animals have long been used in warfare. Horses, of course, have a long and storied history of being used and abused, from medieval times through WWII. Draft animals such as mules and oxen have similarly been around since early man started thrusting pointed sticks into each other. The same goes for dogs.
...humans have been using dogs in warfare since the animals were first domesticated more than 15,000 years ago.
An ancient war dog in battle.
The first actual written record of war dogs comes to use from the ancient Kingdom of Lydia in modern day Turkey. The small empire’s first ruler, Alyattes, reportedly had his soldiers turn packs of dogs loose on Cimmerian troops in a battle sometime around 600 BCE. The Lydian attack dogs were particularly effective against enemy cavalry...
Today, of course, dogs are invaluable to our troops, particularly when it comes to detecting IEDs..
...dogs are far more than furry bomb detectors. They are force multipliers, fierce deterrents, loyal defenders... A dog's nose, which can have hundreds of millions more olfactory receptors than a human's, is so powerful it can distinguish between a wide range of different bomb-making materials and can find large quantities of explosives buried upwards of five feet underground. In 2010, after four years of failed attempts and $19 billion spent, the agency charged with the task of defeating the IED, JIEDDO, announced that the single greatest force in detecting IEDs was indisputably a dog and its handler.

But there have been other, less well known animals employed in times of war. Sticking with the middle east, camels immediately come to mind.
Camels have long taken part in combat operations, most notably in the Middle East and North Africa during both World Wars. They also took part in an improbable experiment that by all accounts failed miserably. In the mid-19th century, the U.S. Army faced the difficult task of hauling supplies across newly acquired lands in the Southwest, where the arid and inhospitable terrain proved too harsh for traditional beasts of burden such as horses and mules. Enter the U.S. Camel Corps, composed of 60-plus camels that were purchased and shipped to America in the 1850s. At first, the camels performed admirably on numerous surveying missions, impressing their military handlers with their strength and ability to survive on little food and water. But trouble soon arose when the dromedaries’ famously irritable and stubborn dispositions started spooking other army animals. Shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the Camel Corps was discontinued entirely. Some of its members fell into the hands of private citizens, while others escaped into the wild and traveled as far as Canada—where residents reported seeing feral camels up until the 1930s.

An unlikely duo - elephants and pigs - also highlight an ancient military campaign.
Elephants regularly participated in military campaigns in ancient times, most famously during the Carthaginian general Hannibal’s legendary trek over the Alps in 218 B.C. According to Greek and Roman chroniclers, the giant creatures had one fatal flaw that enemy armies exploited as a countermeasure: The sound of a squealing pig could give even the largest trained elephant a debilitating fright. Pliny the Elder, Aelian and others describe battles in which pigs were lit on fire or swung from the walls of besieged cities, produce piercing cries that scattered advancing elephants.

World War One saw the use of a couple of different animals - one for illumination, one for communication.
One of the most unlikely nonhuman contributions to World War I was made by Lampyris noctiluca, more commonly known as the European glowworm, which emits light through bioluminescence. Huddled in dank, dark trenches, enlisted men and officers alike turned to the incandescent insects for help, collecting them in jars by the thousands. These instant but ephemeral lanterns allowed soldiers to examine intelligence reports, study battle maps or simply read comforting letters from home. According to a 2010 study, just 10 glowworms can provide the same amount of illumination as a modern-day roadway light.
The use of homing pigeons as military messengers dates back to the ancient Greeks and Persians, but it wasn’t until the late 19th and early 20th centuries that birds were used in large-scale intelligence efforts. During both World Wars, the United States and United Kingdom assembled special pigeon service units comprised of tens of thousands of birds. So important were pigeons to the British war effort during World War I that the army issued orders aimed at protecting them; intentionally killing or hurting a homing pigeon could land offenders in prison for six months. More than 16,000 homing pigeons were parachuted into Europe during World War II, including Gustav (formally known as bird NPS.42.31066), who flew more than 150 miles back to England on D-Day to deliver the first official word of the Normandy landings.

Not to be outdone, the U.S. Navy has trained dolphins and sea lions for a variety of tasks, from search and rescue to detecting underwater mines to (allegedly) attacking enemy swimmers.
The program first started in 1960 when the Navy studied Notty, a female Pacific white-sided dolphin. The Navy hoped to study the dolphin's biomechanics and then use its findings for developing faster torpedoes. "But quickly the focus changed to covert training," according to NBC.

Dolphins have seen occasional use during war. In 1970 and 1971, five of the cetaceans guarded an Army ammunition pier in Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay, providing surveillance to thwart enemy swimmers.

Dolphins were also deployed from Bahrain during the Tanker War, a late phase of the Iran-Iraq war in which the warring neighbors targeted one another's oil vessels (the US got involved in 1987, to protect Kuwaiti oil exports). The dolphins were deployed "to protect the Third Fleet flagship anchored in Manama Harbor" in Bahrain, according to a SPAWAR document shared with Business Insider.

The animals even helped provide security for the Republican National Convention of 1996, which took place at the waterside San Diego Convention Center less than a month after a bombing at the summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Dolphins returned to the Persian Gulf in 2003, to clear mines ahead of coalition vessels during the US-led invasion of Iraq.

... dolphins can also be trained to kill, according to one persistent rumor surrounding the Navy's Marine Mammal Program.

In his memoir on life as a Navy SEAL, Brandon Webb writes about a training exercise in San Diego to evade enemy military dolphins. Trainers used the mammals "to track down enemy divers, outfitting them with a device strapped onto the head that contains a [simulated] compressed gas needle," Webb writes. "Once the dolphin has tracked you down, it butts you; the needle shoots out and pokes you, creating an embolism."

An air or gas bubble injected into a vein or artery can quickly travel into the organs, something that's potentially lethal. Webb sums it up: "Within moments, you're dead."
The US isn't alone in training military dolphins. Starting in 1965, the Soviet Union tried to develop its own dolphin force at a Black Sea port near Sevastopol, in Crimea.

When the USSR collapsed, "ownership was transferred to Ukraine, where it was kept afloat by switching to civilian tasks like working with disabled children," according to a Russian news agency

A bottlenose dolphin named K-Dog leaps out of the water in front of Sergeant Andrew Garrett while training near the USS Gunston Hall in the Persian Gulf on March 18, 2003.

Ukraine is also a leader in training a new war animal - raccoons.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces may soon have new soldiers, and those soldiers will be raccoons.

Reportedly, the animals will be used for combat engineering purposes. The work to train the animals look for mines are already being conducted in the Kharkov region of Ukraine.

In one of the military units of Kharkov, there is a raccoon named Hook. Dog handlers have picked a female for the raccoon - a female raccoon named Alice. After the animals produce offspring, they will be taught to search for explosives.

Goodness knows they are smart and dexterous enough. We have an ongoing battle protecting our birdfeeders, trash cans, gardens, and other items from those fury little bandits.

And let's not forget our ISIS friends. Not satisfied with employing men, women, and children as suicide bombers in their terror campaigns, there are now reports that islamist extremists are deploying jihad chickens.
Depraved jihadis fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq have started using chickens as mobile improvised explosive devices, it has been claimed.

Members of the terror group operating in and around the city of Fallujah are said to be strapping explosive belts to chickens, which are then encouraged to wander into enemy camps.

Once the chickens are successfully within striking distance without having aroused suspicion, the ISIS extremists apparently use remote controls to set off the devices, killing all those close by.
Image of the Islamic State's so-called 'suicide chicken'

It's bad enough that mankind has been waging war against itself since the dawn of time. But it's a downright shame that we have dragged innocent animals into our quarrels.


Well Seasoned Fool said...

The animals need to be cooperative.

CenTexTim said...

I thought about including the Soviet anti-tank dogs in the post, but it was long enough already. The bat bombs, however, is a new one to me.

I could have told them it wouldn't work. If you get close enough to drop the bats, you may as well go ahead and drop firebombs.