Most Uncivil

Civil War.1 At 4 30 a.m. on April 12, 1861, at the harbor entrance to Charleston, South Carolina, a cannon shot rang out from Fort Sumter. The man who pulled the lanyard was Edmond Ruffin, the editor of the Farmers' Register and a naturalist who had devoted himself to the study and control of grain moths. The bombardment continued for 34 hours, and the next day the United States officially declared war on the Confederacy. It is oddly apropos that an entomologist...

The Big Itch

The western mantra of the 1950s. And people meant it. With this sort of sociopolitical view, it is little wonder that the U.S. military pursued every conceivable means of defeating the soulless communists even conscripting insects as unwitting patriots. After all, if entomological weapons based on bungled Japanese science had killed nearly half a million people, just think what an advanced nation might be able to do with these creatures. Or imagine what a technologically...

Japans Pleas And Lies

The imminent conquest that Japan faced in 1943 had been unimaginable just a few years earlier. Indeed, 1941 had been a heady time for the Axis powers. In June, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and Japan was anxious to prepare for its part in the offensive. From the highest levels of the Japanese military came the order for Unit 731 to accelerate its work on plague. The plan was to initiate massive epidemics within the Soviet Union, softening the enemy in preparation for a conventional...

Coldblooded Fighters Of The Cold

According to the Air Observer Corps, two American planes invaded the Liaoyang area Korea at 6 p.m. of that day and again at 6 30 p.m. on March 27 1952 . At the time when Lu Li-tsun heard the noise of the airplanes, Jen Wan-ku, a militiaman of Pei-chia-ch'ang Village was on his way to the 4th group of inhabitants on patrol duty. He saw about 160 meters 175 yards away on the southeast a red object of the size of a thermos bottle dropping from the air above the houses of Chang Chia-feng,...

Cuban Missiles vs American ARth Ropods

On October 22, 1962, President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation with this chilling announcement Good evening my fellow citizens. This Government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet Military buildup on the island of Cuba. Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike...

Yankee And Vietnamese Ingenuity

Entomologists working to convert insects into weapons for the U.S. Department of Defense could not have asked for a more propitious conflict than a war in Southeast Asia. While Korea was at the latitude of northern Colorado, Vietnam was 2,000 miles closer to the equator and insects flourish in tropical climes. In 1965, the American military conducted Operation Magic Sword to assess the biting habits of the yellow fever mosquito after being released from a ship anchored off the warm, humid...

Acknowledgments

This book is the result of four years of reading, research, conversations, interviews, and writing. Although I have many people to thank for their assistance, none of the acknowledgments should be interpreted as meaning that these individuals, their agencies, or their institutions agree with any of the claims made in this book. I should begin by thanking those at my own institution, the University of Wyoming, who lent their expertise to the project, including colleagues in the entomology...

Sixlegged Guardian Angels

Following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, the United States responded with a massive retaliation against Afghanistan, followed by an invasion of Iraq. Except for the names of the some of the weapon systems (such as the F A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft, which were subject to counterattack by Stinger missiles), insects played no part in these offensive operations. Defense against terrorism, however, is another story. To prevent future terrorist attacks,...

Fear On The Farm

The role of entomological weapons in the modern world is changing as rapidly as the nature of human conflict. Conventional military engagements between uniformed troops equipped with planes and tanks battling to seize control of land have given way to insurgent forces using improvised weapons to attain cultural and political victories. Stealth, sabotage, and subterfuge even the odds. And insects can be an ideal means of waging an asymmetrical war. For decades, military planners assumed that...

Waking The Slumbering Giants

With 3 million lice-ridden Russian corpses and another 27 million people afflicted by typhus after the First World War, the Soviets could not have missed the potential of entomological warfare. In 1928, the Revolutionary Military Council initiated the weaponization of typhus. A top-secret institute was founded in the town of Suzdal under the control of OGPU, the forerunner of the KGB.1 In light of the risks associated with studying human diseases, the facility was transferred to a more isolated...

Vigilant And Ready

In today's world, entomological terrorism is not perceived as a clear and present danger. However, historical and recent events strongly suggest that western nations would be well advised to take seriously the possibility that insects could be used to attack people and agriculture. In this context, the United States has developed several lines of defense, but whether these are adequate is not at all clear. The first and arguably least effective tactic is the law.1 As early as the seventh...

Tiny Terrorist In Castros Crops

The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented the U.S. government with a written complaint of entomological warfare the day after Christmas in 1996. The allegation concerned the release of insects by an American plane that passed through the Giron corridor, a designated flight path over Cuba. Per the diplomatic drill, the U.S. State Department explained away the charge in early February, maintaining that the incident was merely the release of warning smoke not a cloud of crop-eating insects...

Japans Fleas And Flies

The scale of 20th-century conflicts led to civilians becoming strategic targets. The morale of a populace, the industrial output of a city, and the agricultural production of a farming district were all vital to protracted, large-scale warfare. The horrific toll on noncombatants from the German Blitzkrieg, Allied bombing, and V-i rocket attacks in the European theater was not lost on the Japanese, who needed no excuse to attack the Chinese populace, but welcomed the implicit acceptance of such...

Beetle Bombs

If Adolf Hitler had not forbidden offensive research on biological warfare, the Germans might have surpassed the Japanese in entomological weaponry. Scholars speculate that Hitler's aversion to unconventional arms may have stemmed from having been gassed in the First World War. Others note that among Hitler's eccentricities was a phobia of bacteria, so producing pathogens by the ton might have been too much for him to contemplate.1 The F hrer, however, was not entirely in control of his...

Koreas Hailstorms Of Hexapods

The case presented by the North Koreans and Chinese in 1952 provides either irrefutable evidence that the United States engaged in the most comprehensive and systematic program of entomological warfare in modern times or compelling evidence that the communists had the most coordinated and insidious program of propaganda in memory. Or something intriguingly in-between. All that we know with absolute certainty is that the Korean War produced the most sensational accusations of the use of insects...

Bee Bombs And Wasp Warheads

The first era of entomological warfare saw insects drafted into battle to directly afflict the enemy. More sophisticated tactics of transmitting diseases and destroying crops would have to wait for breakthroughs in human knowledge. However, we shouldn't disparage the cleverness of ancient peoples. After all, they laid the foundations for modern weaponry and insects were the first organisms used to wage biological warfare. The military historian John T. Ambrose contends that insects have long...

Toxic Tactics And Terrors

Stinging insects proved decisive in ending many sieges and battles, but few military historians know that a war was started by a bee.1 In 637 ce, a rancorous fellow named Congal, heir to the throne of Ulster, was paying a state visit to the king of Ireland and his family. Domnall, the Irish king, was a gracious host, except for one small oversight he failed to put adequate distance between his beehives and his guests. As fate would have it, Congal was stung in the eye by an errant bee. If it...

Chapter

Richard Holmes, ed., The Oxford Companion to Military History New York Oxford University Press, 2001 , entry on the Korean War. 2. Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman, The United States and Biological Warfare Secrets from the Early Cold War and Korea Bloomington Indiana University Press, 1998 , chap. 5. 9. Milton Leitenberg, The Korean War Biological Warfare Allegations Resolved, Center for Pacific Asia Studies at Stockholm University, Occasional Paper 36 May 1998 , p. 10. 10. Endicott and...

Insects As Tools Of Torture

The ancient Persians were perhaps the earliest people to use insects as torture devices. The gruesome practice of subjecting a condemned man to the boats was given the technical term scaphism based on the Greek skaphe, from which we get the word skiff, meaning a small, flat-bottomed boat .1 The victim was initially force-fed milk and honey to induce severe diarrhea. Then the poor soul was stripped, lashed to a skiff or hollowed out tree trunk so that his head, hands, and feet protruded over the...

Insect Cyborgs And Rqbqflies

Cockroach Tethered Ball

The U.S. military doesn't use the term cyborgs, although this is precisely what their scientists and engineers are developing. Perhaps this sounds a bit too much like the stuff of science fiction. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency DARPA prefers to call their futuristic, insect-machine hybrids vivi-systems.1 The goal is to merge evolution and engineering, to take insects and turn them into war-fighting technologies. DARPA's Controlled Biological and Biomimetic Systems Program is...