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Bat Bomb: World War II's Other Secret Weapon Paperback – February 19, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press (February 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0292718721
  • ISBN-13: 978-0292718722
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,453,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

One of World War II's more improbable projects was the plan to release myriads of bats bearing incendiary devices over Japan's cities. The concept worked all too well, but the whole thing came to an end shortly after the nocturnal raiders immolated a remote New Mexico air base. Couffer's account is smoothly written but not glib, and the natural humor is buttressed with official documents saved from his months on the project. More than just a funny wartime memoir, this book illustrates how the wartime military establishment handled an offbeat idea that just might have been useful. Best of all, it provides marvelous insights into the social ethos that prevailed during the wartime years. Recommended for public libraries.
- Raymond L. Puffer, U.S. Air Force History Prog., Los Angeles
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Since World War II Jack Couffer has pursued a career in film as a director,writer, producer, and cameraman. His work has appeared in numerous popular films, including Out of Africa, Ring of Bright Water, and Never Cry Wolf.

More About the Author

Date of Birth
7 December 1924, Upland, California, USA

Mini Biography
Jack Couffer was born on Dec 7, 1924, in Upland, California. While growing up near the foothills in Glendale, he became fascinated with natural history and raised hawks, owls, squirrels, skunks and coyotes. During his high school years he worked afternoons as a student assistant at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. It was on his 17th birthday, during a museum collecting trip to California's Channel Islands, that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The museum party was marooned for two weeks on Santa Rosa Island, as all West Coast ports were immediately closed following the attack. At the museum Jack's mentor, an expert on bats, was approached by the War Department to research a secret project that would use bats as carriers of miniature incendiary bombs. As part of this team Jack was drafted into the army in June 1943, a few months before high school graduation. Half of his military service was spent on this seemingly nutty, but surprisingly valid, idea. Jack has written of this bizarre scheme in his book "Bat Bomb, World War II's Other Secret Weapon". The remainder of his military duty was as a crewman on high-speed PT-type air-sea rescue boats.

After the war he worked for a few years as a commercial fisherman and paid crewman on yachts. In December 1947 he married Joan Burger. Shortly thereafter, while living aboard their schooner, he enrolled at the University of Southern California to major in zoology. However, he attended a lecture in the new Department of Cinema Studies and fell to the exciting teaching gift of department head Slavko Vorkapich. Jack collaborated with two fellow students, Conrad Hall and Marvin R. Weinstein, in a class project that won the first (now annual) ASC student film award and sold to TV. Flush with this success, the partners formed a production company, Canyon Films, and became entrepreneurs while still university students. At USC Jack became friends with practicing filmmaker/instructors Irving Lerner, Andrew Marton, Laslo Benedek and Stirling Silliphant. Lerner employed the partners of Canyon Films as the production team on a feature shot in South Carolina called Edge of Fury (1958). There Jack met young actress Jean Allison, who 45 years, three husbands (and two wives) later he would meet again. His son, Mike Couffer, now a biologist, was born January 7, 1962, and, as a teenager, collaborated with his father on a series of natural history adventure books for children.

With his abilities as both a naturalist and film maker, Jack joined Walt Disney Studios as a cameraman on the early "True-Life Adventure" series. One of the great experiences of their early careers was a Disney assignment in what was then one of the most remote and least-visited spots on earth. Jack and Conrad and a helper sailed a 32-foot ketch to the Galapagos Islands where they lived off the land and filmed wildlife for nearly a year. Jack worked at Disney for more than ten years in a variety of functions--writer, director, producer, cameraman--and participated there in the making of more than two dozen movies. He separated from Joan in 1975. Since then, he has worked on TV and feature films for most of Hollywood's major production companies and many independents. He has published 11 books of both fiction and non-fiction. His travels took him to Africa in 1972, where he fell in love with the country and a lady at the same time. He lived in Kenya for 32 years and 'Marchesa Sieuwke Bisleti' was his companion until her death in February 2005. Jack is now sharing his life in California with retired actress Jean Allison (Toorvald) who was the ingénue in the first feature film he shot.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By John C. on January 18, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Bat Bomb is the story of a small group of people shortly after the beginning of World War II, involved in an unlikely scheme to defeat the Japanese. The plan is to strap small incendiary devices (napalm) to millions of bats and drop them at dawn over Japanese cities. Written by a young member of the team, the story of their eccentric scientist leader, how money was obtained from Washington, and their first encounter with the now-famous bat caves in the Carlsbad area is sometimes sobering, often hilarious, and always fascinating. For example, they were particularly disturbed to find out that the government was spending millions on atomic research in the same part of the country. To quote the bat scientist, "We got a sure thing like the bat bomb going, something that could really win the war, and they're j--ing off with tiny little atoms. It makes me want to cry." A wonderful and mostly overlooked book.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 8, 1998
Format: Hardcover
BAT BOMB covers a quite unknown but important part of World War II history. It got good reviews, but the public seemed to neglect it (I don't know why). This book is not only an important history lesson, it is also a wildly entertaining read. Don't YOU neglect this book. Read it. You'll love it.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By R. N. Keil on May 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I read this at about the same time I discovered Richard Rhodes' "The Making of the Atomic Bomb". The contrast between the seemingly insane bat bomb and the almost farcial nature of it's builder's quest contrasted wonderfully with the serious and dark tones of the Manhattan project. This book has parts that made me laugh out loud, which is something that few history books can do.
The story of prospecting the cave is priceless, and it gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it...
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Gregory D. Sloop on October 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book contains the funniest line I have ever read, already quoted by another reviewer: "We got a sure thing like the bat bomb going...." But there is much more to this book. The writing is incredible. For example, the author describes what happens when they use movie lights to illuminate the inside of one cave for the first time in its history. The description of almost being suffocated by clouds of bats so thick is first rate. Also, the tender retelling of his romance with Arlie is top notch. Who would have expected such deft handling of first love in a book about bat bombs? It made me want more of this material. I also treasured the retelling of the tiger mascot, "Top Sarge." Or when our hero tries to beat the cowboys at their own game in calf-roping. I could go on and on. I think the key to the success of this book is how the author treats all the characters with upmost respect. There is nothing snarky about how the author treats the self-important Patsy, who was Capone's driver, or the guano salesman.

Read this book. You won't be disappointed.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By S. Kayton on October 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An unknown but funny and very well-written chapter in history. The bat bomb carried zillions of bats, each of which had an incendiary device tied to it. The goal was to burn down Japanese towns. During its first test, it accidentally burned down the building housing the project! Talk about just desserts. This will cure anyone who thinks history is boring.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By PlanktonEater on September 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
This edition doesn't have the photograph of the original letter addressed to Eleanor Roosevelt with her marginalia and then FDR's marginalia saying "This man is not a nut - FDR" But it's a MUST for any history buff.

GREAT book!
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