TABLE OF CONTENTS
A Guide to the Jack Couffer Bat Bomb Research Papers, ca. 1940s-2000s
Jack Couffer was the youngest member of the small Army Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps unit that researched and developed the bat bomb. The University of Texas Press published his book on the project, Bat Bomb, World War II’s Other Secret Weapon, in 1992.
Bat bombs were an experimental World War II weapon developed by the United States. Lytle S. Adams, a Pennsylvania dentist who happened to be a friend of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, conceived the idea for the bat bomb. Dr. Adams submitted his proposal to the White House in January 1942, where President Franklin D. Roosevelt subsequently approved it. Dr. Adams observed that the infrastructure of Japan was especially susceptible to incendiary devices as many of the buildings were made of paper, bamboo, and other highly flammable materials. His plan was to release bat bombs over the Japanese industrial cities of Osaka Bay. The bats would spread far from the point of release, then at dawn they would hide in buildings across the city. Shorty thereafter, built-in-timers would ignite the bombs, causing widespread fires and chaos. The project was considered serious enough that Louis Fieser, the inventor of military napalm, designed incendiary devices to be carried by the bats. A bat carrier similar to a bomb casing was also designed.
A series of tests to answer various operational questions were conducted. After several experiments and operational adjustments, the Chemical Warfare Service at their Dugway Proving Grounds test site in Utah carried out the definitive test on the “Japanese Village” a mockup of a Japanese city built. More tests were scheduled for the summer of 1944 but the program was cancelled by Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King when he heard that it would likely not be combat ready until mid-1945. It is thought that development of the bat bomb was moving too slowly, and was overtaken in the race for a quick end to the war by the atomic bomb project. Dr. Adams maintained that the bat bombs would have been effective without the devastating effects of the atomic bomb.
The Jack Couffer Bat Bomb Research Papers are comprised of personal and government documents, correspondence, photos and negatives, CDs and DVDs related to Jack Couffer’s experience as a member of the military team to develop the bat bomb and his later research on the project, known as Project X-Ray, for his book, Bat Bomb, World War II’s Other Secret Weapon.
Organized into two series, the first series is comprised of materials related to the development of Project X-Ray, including government documents, research materials such as articles, and correspondence. Correspondence about the project’s development includes letters from President Franklin Roosevelt, wartime Head of the OSS, William Donovan, General Hap Arnold, Louis Fieser, the National Defense Research Committee, and Inventor’s Council members. The second series comprises research, correspondence, and publication records related to Couffer’s book, Bat Bomb, World War II’s Other Secret Weapon, including correspondence with the University of Texas Press and various film producers, a finish film script, and photographs and negatives.
This collection is open for research use.
The donor retains copyright on all materials by the creator. Written permission must be obtained from copyright holder in order to photocopy or publish from the collection.
Jack Couffer Bat Bomb Research Papers, ca. 1940s-2000s, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by Stefanie Lapka, December 2013 and January 2014.