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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You probably won't look at a bee the same way again..., February 22, 2009
This review is from: Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War (Hardcover)
Our local library got a copy of Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War by Jeffrey A. Lockwood, and the subject intrigued me. How would one use insects as war weapons, or more accurately, how have they been used in the past? Lockwood goes into both in this book. It's rather dense reading at times, and suffers from a "he said, she said" problem in that admissions of biological warfare are few and far between, and documentation is sparse. Even so, the scenarios here are real, and it makes you wonder exactly what has happened in the past when it comes to insects as disease vectors for warfare.

Contents:
1 - Stinging Defeats and Venomous Victories: Bee Bombs and Wasp Warheads; Toxic Tactics and Terrors; Insects and Tools of Torture
2 - Vectors of Death: Horseshoes and Hand Grenades; The Victories of the Vectors; A Most Uncivil War; All's Lousy on the Eastern Front
3 - Bringing Fever and Famine to a World at War: A Monstrous Metamorphosis; Entomological Evil; Japan's Fleas and Flies; Japan's Pleas and Lies; Beetle Bombs; Waking the Slumbering Giants
4 - Cold-Blooded Fighters of the Cold War: Korea's Hailstorms of Hexapods; A Swarm of Accusations; An Imaginary Menagerie?; The Big Itch; Yankee (and Vietnamese) Ingenuity; Cuban Missiles vs. American Arthropods; A Tiny Terrorist in Castro's Crops
5 - The Future of Entomological Warfare: Medflies, Fruits, and Nuts; Fear on the Farm; Wimpy Warmups and Real Deals; Six-Legged Guardian Angels; Insect Cyborgs and Roboflies; "Vigilant and Ready?"
Epilogue; Suggested Readings; Notes; Index

Even though the author attempts to go back 100,000 years to cavemen throwing insect containers at each other, you really start seeing the first documented use of insects in a warfare sense in the Old Testament times. Bees, wasps, and scorpions were seemingly the weapon of choice, followed by the use of locusts to strip crops of your enemy. Even in the US Civil War, armies would try to position the enemy in swampy areas where the mosquitoes would be able to spread malaria amongst the troops. Things started to turn dark during the second World War, when Japan had a full-fledged biological warfare division being used to drop plague-infested fleas on enemy areas to decimate the population. While that should have constituted a war crime, the head of the unit was actually shipped off to the US, where it's thought that he helped the US military develop similar programs. As we move through the Korean War, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War, there's also plenty of evidence to lead one to believe that both sides had no moral qualms about experimenting with biological weapons...

While I thought the subject matter was fairly interesting, it was somewhat difficult to draw the line between truth and accusation. Cuba blames us for dropping insects on the island, and of course we deny it. Groups investigate and report their findings, but quite often they have definite ideological leanings that color their conclusions. And if you're waiting for the "smoking gun" to prove anything, it's generally not there or is countered with other evidence. Rather frustrating when you're trying to find out what actually did happen. But at least you'll get a different look, a different angle on how insects interact in our environment, and how they can be turned against us without much trouble...
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