Thursday, April 06, 2017

The Biological Warfare Plot to Kill War Horses

Today is the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. entering World War I, and this piece from NPR is about the era when one horses were far more common on the battlefield than tanks:

April 6 marks 100 years since the U.S. Congress voted to declare war on Germany, entering World War I. The war took the lives of 17 million people worldwide. What's not as well-known is the role that animals played at a time when they were still critical to warfare.

Horses, in particular, served alongside troops on both sides, and several million died during the war. The animals were so crucial to the war effort that they also became military targets.

"You need these horses to move, to fight, to exist," says Christopher Kolakowski, director of the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Va. "It would be like maintaining your car today."

Hundreds of thousands of horses and mules were shipped to Europe from Newport News, Va., the largest departure point for horses and mules, during war years....

...Horses and mules were so valuable that Germans devised a plot to sicken some of them, as they waited in the pens at Newport News.

The plot to spread anthrax, and a naturally occurring disease called glanders, was developed by Anton Dilger, an American-born German sympathizer who spent much of his youth studying science and medicine in Germany.

"These diseases — anthrax and glanders — are so virulent that if he could infect them before they loaded onto the ships, that by the end of their journey most if not all of the mules would probably be dead," Rainville says.

The good news is that this biological warfare plot was not successful, perhaps because the dock workers he tried to recruit would not cooperate.

Thanks to Nathan S. for sending me the link!

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