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Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War Hardcover – October 10, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1St Edition edition (October 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195333055
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195333053
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.5 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,335,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Few people think of flies, scorpions or potato bugs as weapons of war, but entomologist Lockwood (Grasshopper Dreaming), winner of a Pushcart Prize and a James Burroughs Award, details in this fascinating study how creepy crawlies have been used against the enemy since antiquity. The Romans' siege of a desert fortress ended abruptly when buckets of scorpions were dumped on their heads. Many a medieval army catapulted beehives or hornets' nests over a castle's ramparts to drive out the defenders. The Vietcong used a version of this trick, setting off small explosives near huge beehives when American soldiers walked by. Lockwood tells how the Japanese used Chinese civilians as human guinea pigs in their program to weaponize plague and other diseases. And Lockwood explores charges by the North Koreans and Fidel Castro that America has called out insect troops on occasion as well. Fortunately, as the author points out, insects aren't very cooperative soldiers, and using them to deliver diseases is much easier said than done. Both science and military history buffs will learn much from Lockwood, a self-described skeptic with a sense of humor. 49 b&w illus. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Insects have been recruited for war since biblical times and are currently scientifically bred for the nefarious purpose of spreading disease, according to Lockwood. Prior to the control exerted by medical doctors and entomologists, disease galloped well enough on its own, which Lockwood illustrates in accounts of armies felled by epidemics, such as several French forces of the Napoleonic period. In the twentieth century, most industrial nations have conducted research on the suitability of insects as deliberately deployed vectors of disease, with Lockwood going into extensive detail on biological weapons notoriously used by Japan in World War II. He is also animated by the proposition that some nations—particularly the U.S.—dropped infected bugs on China or Cuba while acknowledging the cold war propaganda temptation the Communist regimes of those countries had in claiming so. Concluding with the vulnerability of American agriculture to an insect-borne attack by terrorists, Lockwood offers a scientific history that leaves readers better informed, albeit with a severe case of the creepy-crawlies. --Gilbert Taylor

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Customer Reviews

This is a book that can be highly recommended to those interested in both military and general history genres.
Maybe that's why I really liked this book: it points to the horrid things that people can do AND it shows the ugliness inside of a minute world of warfare.
Lockwood writes on a very captivating subject; I was so into this book that I think I read through it in only a few hours.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Zekeriyah VINE VOICE on October 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Now this is good stuff right here. Sure, we've all heard about how the ancients used to launch jars filled with scorpions or how the Plains Indians would torture enemies by burying them up to their neck near a fire ant nest, but who would have thought that insects could be used as weapons in the modern era? This book takes a look at an odd, but surprisingly effective, history of insects and their military applications, both experimental and in practice, as well as some less than savory miscellanea.

The book starts off from the beginning, approrpirately enough, looking at a wide variety of insects (and other arthropods) being used by various generals throughout antiquity. The above mentioned examples are par for the course, but we also get mention of other anecdotes, such as the mythical venomous dikairon bird of India (which Lockwood identifies as a particularly nasty rove beetle), the use of bees and wasps to deter invaders, launching plague infected cadavers from trebuchet, and my personal favorite, the story of Nasrullah Bahadur-Shah, the Emir of Bukhara in Central Asia, who used assassin bugs and sheep ticks to torture his enemies. Lockwood is very attentive to the role that plagues, disease and poisons from insects have played in military history as well.

He continues on, however, into more recent historical applications of insects in warfare, going through the various attempts by the United Sates, Japan and Soviet Russia to use insects during World War II and the Cold War. In particular, he examines attempts to use insect vectors to spread the bubonic plague and malaria in Asia. Even so, older tactics remained in use, as he points out that the Viet Cong would set off explosives near bee hives to get them to attack American troops. The American response?
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Replete with all the suspense and intrigue found in the best spy novels of Ian Fleming and John Le Carre, Jeffrey A. Lockwood's "Six - Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War" is not just a gripping, exceptional account of humanity's usage of insects as military and economic weapons of war from antiquity to the present. It is quite possibly, the definitive exploration of this very subject, and one that deserves as wide a readership as possible, for rather obvious reasons. Trained as a biologist with substantial expertise in ecology and epidemiology, Lockwood combines these gifts, along with a sound understanding of history and his exceptional writing, in weaving together a most beguiling narrative that reads more like a Cold War spy thriller than a superb piece of nonfiction. In this rather timely book, Lockwood makes a most compelling case explaining how and why insect usage in warfare has often changed the course of not only battles, but indeed, entire campaigns, citing as notable examples, the Mongol conquest of much of Eurasia, and more recently, Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812, the American Civil War and the Western Front during World War I.

Among the most compelling chapters in Lockwood's book are those devoted to the infamous Japanese general Ishii Shiro and his Unit 731, based in Japanese-occupied Manchuria (Northeastern China) during World War II, and responsible for countless crimes against humanity against both Chinese civilians and military prisoners of war.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Peter J. Ward VINE VOICE on October 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is simultaneously a fascinating piece of military history, applied entomolgy (the study of "bugs"), and contemporary security issues. All of that would be good enough to recommend this book but the fact that it is written in an engaging and conversational manner makes it an extremely fine intellectual diversion. From the ancient use of bees to block up the walls of cities against invaders to the potential use of plague-fleas and rats against civilian targets, this book brings the pespective of a professor and well-informed amateur historian to a mass audience. This is easily the best piece of popular science writing I've read this year.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Andy in Washington TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but ended up being pleasantly surprised. Six legged soldiers is a very readable book that is almost a macabre sense.

The book starts with some worst case terror scenarios, some of which can raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Some of these are quite thought provoking, and it makes you wonder if the Homeland Security folks should be using fly-swatters instead of radiation detectors.

The book then proceeds into a number of warfare scenarios, some ancient, many from the 19th and 20th century. While much of the info from earlier stories is anecdotal, the tales are certainly believable and ring true. Later stories from more modern history are items that I had never heard of...somewhat surprising since I am a bit of a history buff.

The tales included attacks on population, economies, agriculture...society in general. There were great tales ranging from the civil war widow who protected her farm with booby-trapped beehives to the general who outwitted his enemy into camping in a malarial swamp. As historian Hans Zinsser put it, the famed battles of early modern warfare "are only the terminal operations engaged in by those remnants of the armies which have survived the camp epidemics". Just ask Napolean...or Robert E. Lee.

Later parts of the book, especially on the Japanese operations in China against civilians are especially horrific, and include some of the most devastating bio-attacks in history. I had never heard of many of these stories, or only saw them in passing. It is devastating to realize that these occurred less than 100 years ago, supposedly during our "civilized" period.

There are quite a few chapters on US involvement with insect warfare, both as an initiator and target.
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