Saturday, March 8, 2014

The gunners have this plan, sir, but...

From a 1530ish manual on military ordnance; rocket cats.

The work is by one Franz Helm of Cologne, who was an artillerist and ordnance specialist during the early gunpowder warfare period. And Franz had some ideas that seem to be some pretty outside-the-box thinking.
"Helm explained how animals could be used to deliver incendiary devices: "Create a small sack like a fire-arrow . if you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place. And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited."

In other words, capture a cat from enemy territory, attach a bomb to its back, light the fuse and then hope it runs back home and starts a raging fire."
So far as I know there is no actual evidence that Helm, or anyone else, actually tried this.

Probably not a good idea whenb you think about it, given that a flaming cat, or crow or pigeon, is just as likely to flee in panic towards the nearest cover - the nearest probably being your own mess tent.

Still. Just goes to show that the whole "bizarrely useless defense contractor gimmick" wasn't invented by Raytheon.

(Big h/t to TPM and Lawyers, Guns & Money for finding this bizarre piece of semi-military historical trivia...)


  1. Didn't rustlers (or maybe Kiowas?) use that trick to stampede cattle drives on the Chisolm or one of the other trails? Soak a cat (or a dog or even a jackrabbit or other critter) with kerosene or moonshine, light it up and throw it into the herd. And then in all the confusion they could cut out some beef for your own larder.

    Or am I thinking of a Faulkner novel about barn burning? My memory is shot - surfeited on too much golf and too much pulp detective fiction.

    In any case, the trick with the burning cat in the 1500s would have been to lob it over the castle walls instead of letting it find its own way. Surely Franz Helm as an artillerest would have realized that. Kind of like what the Mongols did by lobbing Yersinia Pestis coccobacillus infected cadavers over the walls of the Crimean city of Caffa.

  2. These chalcographs had an amazing longevity. They can be observed still cropping up in military manuals as late as the early 18th century.

  3. bat bomb.
    anti tank dog
    project pigeon

    This is one list of very similar projects. Especially the anti tank dog was an effective measure.

  4. Chief,
    To be effective you must be willing to let the cat outta the bag.

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  6. Can't seem to find anyone's email, so I'll post this here.

    I think these two pieces by Alexander Dugin go along way to explaining the Russian perspective WRT Ukraine. Might make a good post:

  7. You man Dugin is one curious cat, Andy, an oddball mix of panSlavist, neotsarist (the "man of Destiny"), anarchist, and mystic - as my kids would say; "SO Russian!".

    I agree, he's probably worth throwing out there to discuss

  8. I don’t know how you can get close enough to Dugin’s dark sort of mysticism to make sense of it. And he leaves a lot unsaid, but his critique of liberalism (actually neoliberal economics) does ring some bells. After the 1% have all the money in the world, what they do then? From the statements of a couple of them, they turn paranoid, imagining that they are Jews in Nazi Germany.

  9. Don't know squat about Gospodin Dugin excepting the articles Andy linked to. That and his wiki entry which outlines his link to the National Bolshevik Front

    He sees a tad neo-Stalinist as well as Tsarist - but then what is the difference?

  10. The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has posted a 32-page report on Dugan --

    He expounds a mix of occultism, Orthodox religious pretensions, antisemitism, Aryan racial theories, Euroasianist aspirations and and "scientific" Russian nationalism. Central to his ideas is that Russia will be the salvation of the world.

  11. The thing I wonder about, Paul, is the degree to which this joker represents an actual sort of political strain of thought in modern Russia.

    Basically if Putin is nothing more than an oligarchic neoStalin without the hammer and sickle I'm sorta-OK with that. Yes, he's a miserable depotic bastard and I wouldn't want to live in his country but that's fine; I don't. His Russia isn't economically sound enough to present more than a threat to its Near Abroad.

    But if the guy and his cronies are permeated with this sort of goody pan-Slavist neo-Rasputinism? That's a little more creepy and a little more scary. The notion of a vicious little kletocrat with pretensions of spreading the gospel of Orothdox religion and the rule of the Benevolent Tsar throughout Eurasia? Gee, I wonder what could go wrong with THAT...

  12. According to the Woodrow Wilson study, Dugan's brand of thinking has some real influence on Russian elites. Education and information are slender reeds against the pull of the past, as witness the Republican Party in this country. As for individuals, most of us are what we were at 18, with some of the edges softened.

  13. Chief,

    I think he does represent a significant political strain in Russia, which is one reason why I read his stuff. He's not a complete loon though, I think some of his criticisms of what he calls "liberalism" are spot on.

    He wrote a book (which I haven't read yet) call the Fourth Political Theory. He considers the existing three political theories to be Liberalism, Fascism and Communism. In the book he supposedly advocates for a fourth, independent theory that draws from the other three.