An Imaginary Menagerie

Despite the efforts of the communists to portray the International Scientific Commission as a team of objective scientists, the Americans weren't buying it for a minute.1 The commission had been formulated by the World Peace Council, an organization that the West saw as a communist front. Its members had made little effort to disguise their anti-Americanism and the chair of the commission, Joseph Needham, was an avowed Marxist (see Figure 16.1). According to western analysts, the report was...

The Victories Of The Vectors

Insects have carried disease onto the battlefield for more than two thousand years. For example, during the Peloponnesian War in 429 bce, flea-infested rats on Greek warships brought plague from Ethiopia and hastened the collapse of the Athenian state.1 The beneficiaries of this and other such fortuitously timed epidemics were apt to interpret outbreaks as divine interventions. The ancient Hittites and Babylonians were particularly explicit in this regard, paying homage to Irra, the archer-god...

Vectors Of Death

This land is covered with a rank, dense, tangled growth of trees, reeds, grasses and water plants. . . . Its stagnant water is poisonous, water moccasins and malaria abound flies and mosquitoes swarm. . . . Here was to be the home of our New Hampshire men, who had never sniffed malaria nor breathed miasma. Here for two months they were to dwell in the midst of alarms in this horrible place, during the very hottest of the Southern year. Journal entry of a Union surgeon recounting the conditions...

Wimpy Warmups And Real Deals

A critical lesson of the last few years is that terrorists can rely on simple weapons box cutters and car bombs. Whether simplicity is a matter of choice or necessity is difficult to know, but the latter is certainly relevant with respect to biological attacks. Without the scientific and technical support of a military-industrial complex, terrorists may be unable to culture and formulate pathogenic organisms into effective weapon systems. Insects, however, offer a low-tech, safe and effective...

Alls Lousy On The Eastern Front

During World War I, the European continent provided history's largest experiment in entomological warfare tactics. For the first time, scientific understanding of insect-borne diseases allowed these agents to be exploited as passive weapons, demonstrating that the best offense could be a good defense. Rather than forcing the enemy into infested habitats, science provided the means for military leaders to protect their own forces from the ravages of disease-carrying insects that were part and...

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...

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...

Chapter

Peterson, The Role of Insects as Biological Weapons, included on the Insects, Disease and History Web site, Entomology Group of Montana State University, .htm accessed January 23, 2008 . 2. Jeffrey A. Lockwood, Entomological Warfare A History of the Use of Insects as Weapons of War, Bulletin of the Entomological Society of America, 33 1987 76-82. 3. Simon M. Whitby, Biological Warfare Against Crops New York Palgrave, 2002 , chap. 11. 4. Author interview, March i4, 2008. 5....

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...

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...