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Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as…

Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War

by Jeffrey A. Lockwood

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896213,351 (3.32)1
From the Publisher: The emir of Bukhara used assassin bugs to eat away the flesh of his prisoners. General Ishii Shiro during World War II released hundreds of millions of infected insects across China, ultimately causing more deaths than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. These are just two of many startling examples found in Six-legged Soldiers, a brilliant portrait of the many weirdly creative, truly frightening, and ultimately powerful ways in which insects have been used as weapons of war, terror, and torture. Beginning in prehistoric times and building toward a near and disturbing future, the reader is taken on a journey of innovation and depravity. Award-winning science writer Jeffrey A. Lockwood begins with the development of "bee bombs" in the ancient world and explores the role of insect-borne disease in changing the course of major battles, ranging from Napoleon's military campaigns to the trenches of World War I. He explores the horrific programs of insect warfare during World War II: airplanes dropping plague-infested fleas, facilities rearing tens of millions of hungry beetles to destroy crops, and prison camps staffed by doctors testing disease-carrying lice on inmates. The Cold War saw secret government operations involving the mass release of specially developed strains of mosquitoes on an unsuspecting American public-along with the alleged use of disease-carrying and crop-eating pests against North Korea and Cuba. Lockwood reveals how easy it would be to use of insects in warfare and terrorism today: In 1989, domestic ecoterrorists extorted government officials and wreaked economic and political havoc by threatening to release the notorious Medfly into California's crops. A remarkable story of human ingenuity-and brutality-Six-Legged Soldiers is the first comprehensive look at the use of insects as weapons of war, from ancient times to the present day.… (more)

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Who can resist a title like this? I thought this would be just a curious and funny subject, but it is fascinating, very well written, and I learned a TON about history and bugs. The humans are far creepier and more disgusting than the insects are. Even the footnotes are not to be missed, and the suggested reading well organised. No doubt Lockwood is a favourite professor with Natural Science and Humanities students at the University of Wyoming, as his abilities to be simultaneously educational, interesting, accessible, and discussion-provoking are flawless. Warning: if you read this in the presence of another person, you might become the type that is constantly interrupting with, "Oh my god, listen to this!" However, you can have confidence that whatever you share with them from this book will elicit so many "Whoa!"'s and "No way!"'s that eventually if you even whisper "Damn..." under your breath, they will demand to know what you just read. ( )
  gunsofbrixton | Apr 1, 2013 |
The title of this book is enough to catch any student of military tactics attention. The author claims not to be a historian and his writing bears this out. The book is easy to read and flows. But all the information comes from secondary sources and over one-third of the book seems to take conspiracy theories devoted to accusations that the United States has allegedly used this form of warfare. Even though as the author even admits you cannot control the movement of insects and they cannot tell friend from foe. Yet Mr. Lockwood makes a good case for the potential danger and havoc that insects pose to every country.

The beginning chapters start off with some credibility of when he writes about the use of insects being used by various units throughout antiquity. Even the brilliant tactical use of pathogens without knowledge of how they were actually transmitted like malaria to debilitate and army by maneuvering them into stagnant swampy areas where they thought the bad air (instead of the mosquito we know are responsible) would all the enemy to contract the disease. And the various peoples who used insect toxins on arrows to make their weapons more lethal. And then of course he retells the infamous story of Nasrullah Bahadur-Shah, the Emir of Bukhara in Central Asia, who used assassin bugs and sheep ticks to torture his enemies in the black pit; a pit that makes me shudder as I read about it. The author is attentive to the affect that disease had on the world and military history and how a small attack could spread to cause unexpected consequences.

If his writing would have continued in this vein the book would have been considerably better. Perhaps if he had collaborated with an historian this would have been a truly classic book. I did enjoy reading this book and the dangers described are very real and can occur through accidental, natural or man assisted events. Of course his last sections are almost a blueprint on how a single person can cause devastation or at least wreak economic disaster to an area. ( )
1 vote hermit | May 22, 2010 |
This is an extremely interesting book and written in a lively, engaging way. Who can resist the image of Gatling guns firing beehives at the enemy, or little electronic backpacks on bees? The author's wit spiced up all the facts crammed into the text, with bits like:

"When Ishii lit up the 'Applause' sign for biological warfare, Japanese leadership gave him a standing ovation." (page 98)

"Releasing tens of thousands of live pests over Germany to test an entomological weapon system had the same downside as aiming a gun at one's own head and pulling the trigger to see if it is loaded. The beetles falling on the German countryside in the name of military science had no allegiance and were more than happy to bite the hand -- or the fields -- of those who bred them." (page 134)

"The Moroccans had to be persuaded that finding goat droppings on their roofs the morning after Allied aircraft flew over was a sheer coincidence." (page 151)

This book will appeal to people interested in the following things: history, war, entomology, medicine, and technology. And probably more things; those are just those I pulled off the top of my head. ( )
  meggyweg | May 3, 2010 |
This book is full of interesting information on the use of bugs as weapons of war. From such low-tech methods as chucking beehives at the invading army to releasing insects infected with deadly diseases, this book covers it all. At times, the book was a little slow reading, but Mr. Lockwood makes a good case for the potential danger bugs can pose. ( )
  tjsjohanna | Apr 5, 2009 |
A great title but a buggy execution. The author is neither a writer nor a doctor nor a historian, but a bugman. His specialty is the least important (and the creatures themselves are not given much space too) for the project. The writing is bad, the history filled with mistakes and the book focuses too much on details and personal quirks. For want of an editor ...

Insects as weapons have two essential weaknesses. Firstly, as living beings, they require care and can not be stored (unlike other weapon systems). Secondly, they do not discriminate between military and non-military, friendly and enemy targets. Insects thus are imprecise and uncertain in their military use (in all but committing war crimes). ( )
1 vote jcbrunner | Jan 25, 2009 |
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To John (Jack) E. Lloyd -
Genuine Friend, Patient Mentor, and Exemplary Scientist
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Releasing tens of thousands of live pests over Germany to test an entomological weapon system had the same downside as aiming a gun at one's own head and pulling the trigger to see if it is loaded.
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