The battlefield has always been at the mercy of the climate, but there was a time in U.S. military history when we did more than just pray for advantageous weather. We tried to create it.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent invisible I'm roman Mars August. Twenty eighteen fourteen marked the first and only time Washington DC was occupied by outside forces. States was two years in the warm eighteen, twelve they taken on Great Britain, which then the greatest naval power in the world and weren't, looking great for the american troops depending DC. Producer vividly british first overtook the city and set fire to his North american landmarks, including the Treasury building the capital building, and even the White House, the seat, became known as the burning of Washington, but them Rick occurrence, which, in any other situation, would have been a total disaster for Deasey, say the city. Dark clouds began to form which turned into a thunder, enlightening, which then turned into a full blown tornado. That headed straight for the British, who are setting fires around the capital. A number
a british soldiers were killed by falling debris, and the fires works by the rain. The british retreat their ships, which had been severely damaged by the storm, thanks to a simple act of whether the occupation of our nations capital was over within a little more than a day, the storm that save Washington was just one of countless times that whether played a crucial factor in war. Napoleon's army was defeated by russian forces, but by a russian winter enduring world war, two general patent, famously distributed two hundred and fifty thousand prayer cards the army to him, as many men as possible to pray for an end to the rain. The bottle It has always been at the mercy of the climate, but there was a time and you as monetary history, when we did more than just pray for advantageous, whether we try to create it. Fighting communist guerrillas inside Vietnam continues as low grind pictures from
while we may come gather your government troops trying to ferret out to get caught in beginning in the nineteenth of and continuing in the nineteen Sixtys and Seventys the. U S became deeply. Tangled in a war between North and South Vietnam Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China and other Communists allies. South Vietnam, supported by the. U S and other anti communist allies and the Vietnam WAR or, as the Vietnamese called it. The american war was, unlike any, the United States had ever engaged in are tradition and our heritage and are education and our history, all preparedness for a different kind of war, and we to fight in the late sixties, General Merrill Mc Peak former chief the staff of the air force. There was a front line, and we north facing a enemy at least of the beginning. That was with tanks in flame drawers and eyes
in our computers and so forth. Was a total Mitt mismatch from that standpoint. It was us against day a gorilla army that showed up occasionally in and disappeared, vanished and wind spent the next. No months looking forward and it showed up suddenly and was gone again back or allow me was the Vietcong a communist allied with North Vietnam, but fighting primarily in the south one of your colleagues it is. The advantages was the whole team trail a supply, throughout that ran from North Vietnam to parts of louse in Cambodia into South Vietnam hundreds of thousands of north vietnamese troops, used it to infiltrate the south with weapons and supplies a trap. Through an isolated region, full of rugged mountains and dense jungles. The trail itself was made up of Patsy handmaid tunnels, along the aid. There were hidden bunkers, barracks and even hospitals, really camouflaged from above
It was a engineering marvel it wasn't. A single road I was a network of a maze of roads, we're a trail system dramatically shortened the journey from north to South Vietnam. Many more troops, more weapons and more north vietnamese support could be made available to communist forces in the south The key thing was that how all their supplies supplied both of yet com and also their own forces, I had to come down the trail, this Lieutenant General Ed's, oyster and in order to cut off supplies, which are of course, very important for a military operation. We had to close his trail by various means, the? U s military tried disrupting the trail with bombing campaigns and by play the jungles district, the land they also use ITALY, chemical defoliants, like agent orange, but none of these tactics seem to work at least
for very long. So, whenever we punched a hole in one part of it, simply moved over to bypass There was only one thing: significantly slowed the flow of supplies and people on the whole human trail rain. The reality was that Because of the nature of the trail, it was goodbye heavy rainfall, so at the same problem. Of course, as we did in terms of trails at were very, very muddy with rain. The merger would make the trails difficult to navigate. And so during one monsoon season. In the mid but the war. Somebody certainly not me, came up with the idea let's see if we can increase the rainfall enough to stop vehicular traffic, the Department of Defense design it that they should try to control the weather this was the beginning of a top secret military project called Operation Popeye. The goal was to actually crew
eight more reign in Southeast Asia by artificially extending and intensifying the naturally occurring monsoon season. The monsoon season, typically lasted from April two October, The? U S military believe that if it could extend it by a month on either side, it would create a huge did, he take advantage humans, especially military humans, have one to control the weather for a long time. It goes to traditional rain, making two ceremonies. Mrs Jim Fleming, he's study the history of human attempts at whether and climate modification heed don't think very highly of our abilities, turns out there You do a rain dance for up to two weeks, it'll, probably rain, and then you could take credit for that. You do anything long enough and consistently it'll rain and you can claim responsibility. Funding but in the nineteenth century, after the civil war, a theory began to develop
that major military operations were somehow disrupting the clouds and causing big rainstorms and so of the theory was that we could shoot Cannon fireworks set off hydrogen balloons. Wicked sort of battle in battle in order to create reign, the federal government attempted this in Texas in eighteen, ninety stern, a drought they show the department of your culture funded and they had a weather bureau observer there and the locals loved it. They love the fireworks. They love the spectacle they love to go out on the hillside and watch the cannonading, but it was, the monsoon seas, and so there was a really good chances that arraign anyway, this of experimentation continued from the eighteen nineties into the early twentieth century, and it the accelerated after nineteen. Forty five we'd enter the Cold war era, and we just invented the bomb that signal.
She made people think they had power over nature, but also nor paranoia that other countries were trying to develop their own nature. Controlling technologies like the Russians before the spy this race with the Soviet Union. There was a kind, of whether race we thought that they might get ahead of us and if they, the nefarious purposes. They might be able to change our whether in climate and possibly caused unlike there does forward for drought or something if they really could do it. So those agreed- rush to get into this field. Again. It was driven by Military concerns there was a lot of money being poured into scientific research on whether control and well we have these experiments didn't yield very promising results. One actually did in nineteen. Forty six, this time. In all his worry, there is now open to man exerting some control over the winner. Probably the most remarkable achievement of the year
remarkable achievement happened in Schenectady, New York at the offices of General Electric, yet the same company, that made your dishwasher also invented whether control G It was where a scientist and Nobel Laureate Name Irving Langmore, was working in collaboration with a colleague, name, Vincent Schaefer, who develop day technique of dry ice put into a cloud that would make it super cool and force it to be. Conditions to go away below freezing and alive The device in the cloud could cause a cloud to glaciated or create snow. Engaging in quite get that here a quick lesson in eighth grade cloud physics, clouds are essentially just tiny droplets of water suspended in the atmosphere when the right conditions occur. Water molecules in these Osborne, condensed together and become heavy enough to fall to earth as rain or snow. Women's would favour figured out how to do. He figured out how to cook the conditions in the clown such that it would produce rain or snow in parallel with that break through there
as another guy doing instrumental work at G, his name, was Bernard or Bernie Vonnegut, the brother author, Kurt Vonnegut, who also the g in the PR department, and it's interesting you can actually see the ways that G influence sum of honor gets. Writing hurt was Einstein, a writing his report, that's what he was also working on novels. You know like cats, cradle who, in which the Mad scientist, kind of like unnerving language person, develops ice. Nine, which messes up the environment ice and it was kind of like cloud ceiling on steroids, its clear that Bernie and curt these two brothers were uneasy about some of the breakthroughs they were involved. And I think you you'll see some a burning issue- concerns reflected incurred. Vienna gets novels which occur We must show against militarization of nature, Barneys reckoned G action. It helped lay the groundwork for that militarization. Along
with lingering Schaefer. He made another critical discovery. He thought a new weather related use for a compound called silver iodide it. How hexagonal structure like a snowflake, any found that if you spread it into a cloud, it would trick the cloud indignation aiding the soap Armed with a Nobel Prize winner attack need to super cool cloud with dry ice entity. Need to trick a cloud with silver. I died. They really felt they had the basis for chemical cloud ceiling. Gee was understandably, very proud of their discovery, and so they issued a great big, surely that said, we can control the weather, but shortly after claiming responsibility. First storm that caused eight inches of snow, fallen. Upstate New York, the east suddenly realised that they might not want to be known for controlling the weather, especially if that, whether was destroying people's property
with several months. Their lawyer says: no, you better better keep that quiet, because it could be too many lawsuits. Given the risk of negative public reaction and liability, weather, codification research continued quietly, scientists explored how it could be applied, Hurricane intervention and drought, relief and, of course, warfare lying near himself, was excited. About the military applications of his research, and I think he to have a kind of a gigantic role by using whether as militarized weapon, a hurry in its multiple h, bombs and incredible destructive power. If you could directed against an enemy so let me was making these kind of clams and so where our political leaders with nuclear weapons now in play the? U S, was looking forward and imagining how we can give ourselves an edge in future wars, this is from a speech. Vice President Lyndon Johnson gave in nineteen sixty two.
The person, the foundation for the development of a leather satellites that will permit man to determine the cloud layer, aldermen to control whether an EU who controls the weather will improve the world I'll, be J or bond villain. You decide but the time rain making had made its way to the coachman Trail in South EAST Asia. It wasn't new technology, but it was still a closely held secret operation pop. I was a Navy programme and missions reform by airforce pilots and those pilots Given the limited information about what they were doing. I never never even imagine that that's what the group was doing until, we got over there and showed up for the briefing and then told us what this project is about.
This is Brian Hechtman, a former airforce pilot. He belonged to the fifty fourth, whether reconnaissance squadron they can tribute to the two thousand six hundred and two clouds eating missions. Floundering operation popeye. We just went around looking for clouds to cede whence they found a cloud to fly. Thrill did flip a swim, to ignite silver or lead iodide flares. Then they'd wait to see if the cloud produced rainfall. There were times when we left an area that we have been working, and it was obvious that there was a lot of rainstorms going on operation Bob, I had four main objectives to turn them. Was denied to cause land It's a long roadways to wash out river crossings and to keep roads, mud here for longer than usual. It seemed Hackmen. That operation pop. I was working, but it's really hard know for sure cloud sitting at the time and even today is far An exact science at best them taken measure three things: what the
Dream fall for that area was what the estimate Rainfall would have been and what I We fell at receiving mission, but they couldn't collect that much data like it to really rigorously analyze the outcomes. Here's Fleming again that the rain, fleetly of variable. You have tremendous term RO variability spatial everybody, and that means statistics are not robust about what your particular intervention did to that particular rainfall and even if they could make it brain. They couldn't precisely control where that rain landed. One official described accidently dumping. A ton of rain on an american special forces camp still, programme, was deemed effective enough to continue for five years from ninety. Sixty seven to nineteen, seventy two but the biggest
With operation pop, I wasn't so much the lack of want success. It was the many ethical concerns. Whether modification, especially in the context of war, raises a lot of thorny questions. Military justified the programme by arguing that increasing rainfall, degree, mud and wash our roads was preferable, two more bombing, but the reality is: U S. Military still dropped a lot of bombs on South EAST Asia during the Vietnam WAR, over seven million tonnes of them. So many in fact that, to this day roman of louse is still trying to clean up all of the undead needed bomb scattered across the country general male MC peak again we or bombs louse them we did on Germany in Japan altogether in world war. Two, so that honey just of bombs dropped. Was enormously, and the heavily used parts of it
Don't you, men trail, looked like the face of the moon, marriage just a lunar landscape, nothing but dust, but just does it unclear how much rain was generated by operation Povey? It's also unclear. If pop, I actually prevented the military from dropping more bombs or if they just did both en masse with another country's, whether system that has potentially big and unpredictable consequences. The city, especially for doing it on a long term basis in there are documented cases in which, whether modification cause harm the silver iodide, if you're doing it on a long term basis in there are documents This is in which whether a modification may have caused harm the over iodide sprayed into clouds can be toxic to humans and concentrated doses, but it been shown to have negative health effects when used for clouds eating. Nevertheless, cloud seeding may have caused other problems in nine in forty seven
Irving Lang, Meares Research team, a g tried to break up a hurricane by dumping a lot of dry ice into it to see if it would collapse, but instead, it changed. Trajectory became stronger than him the Georgia coast. One death was port it as a result of the hurricane in nineteen. Fifty two British Royal AIR force, was conducting cloud sitting tests in Lynn, myth, England and may have accidently cos devastating floods that killed thirty five people It was this kind of ethical ambiguity that ultimately ended the: U S militaries entire, whether weapon is programme in nineteen. Seventy one jack, Anderson or Order for the Washington Post, published in article revealing that the U S was engaged in covert whether warfare in Vietnam, this report was corroborated, information leaked in the Pentagon papers. The following year in July nineteen, seventy two Seymour Hirsch reported in the New York Times about Operation Popeye within two days the stories publication the entire programme
was officially ended and all cloud seeding missions stopped when the programme was finally declassified and it came out that the U S had been secretly engaging in hostile, whether manipulation in Vietnam, it was dubbed the Watergate of whether warfare, but they really should have called it, whether gate this bloodshed. Kind of an embarrassing tremendously embarrassing moment for the for the: U S: here's doom Fleming again since perceived as a big mistake system, an embarrassment then he would try to our to intervene and donations, whether like that research, money for control rapidly disappeared, and nineteen, seventy seven, the? U S signed in international agreement, called the Environmental Modification Convention Treaty or in Maud. For short along with the Soviet Union and many other nations they agreed. Who ban modification of the environment for hostile purposes? The treaty outlawed cause earthquakes and soon armies steering hurricanes. Orton
bring with the eye on his. It also and any other widespread long, lasting and severe damage to the environment, but there are questions whether the end my treaty was even that relevant, was very easy: a ban environmental warfare. The reason it was easy to ban is because you not giving up anything because Those things no longer were considered to be important parts of the arsenal. They were During a time when the? U S, one, to develop lots of different weapon systems, but by the time we get to the nineteen sixties, if there was gonna your war with the Soviet Union, it was gonna, be a nuclear war. There's gonna be be a war in which thermonuclear weapons were used. Intercontinental Bliss the missiles were probably going to be used, and so Hamblin believes that giving up environmental warfare was more. A gesture of global cooperation rather than an actual step towards disarmament. After all, it's define something that can cause more widespread, long, lasting or severe damage to the environment than nuclear weapons. Those certainly were not bad, so the
treaty- you can argue yes sure its progress, but I would incur us all taken more cynical view of that in and see that it was signed for very political purposes and really gave virtually nothing up. The military interest in whether control had run its course. The clouds eating is something that still takes place all over the world. For another reason, money each a percentage of the economy is whether sensitive from agriculture energy to insurance, to the truth. Industry, more than fifty countries openly have some form of whether a modification programme, China attempted to use cloud seeding to clear skies over the Beijing Olympics, there's even Company in the UK, that offers a wedding baggage that includes clouds eating which can be used. To burst rain clouds and make them disappear. The company claims they can guarantee arraigned free wedding day.
That will only set you back about a hundred fifty thousand dollars. As the conversation shift away from the cold war to the present day. Threat of climate change. People are so to talk about the use of GEO Engineering to fix the problem Suggestions have been thrown around like brightening the clouds too, reflect radiation back into space or sprain reflect particles into the stratosphere to cool down the planet. People prefer giant space umbrellas or even trying to change the orbit of the earth so that its lately, are from the sun changing the weather is one thing, but changing the climate on a permanent scale is next level meddling. Many people are highly doubtful that GEO Engineering can be used effectively to stop the warming of our planet? Anything we try The extremely experimental with unknown consequences fast, an issue. Do we have a right to mess around with a right to tinker with things and allowing just happen. Well, it's the framework
or some some GEO engineer who wants to try some new trick. Do we have. Right to do that when we know it's gonna have global consequences weathers. Some are so complex that its pre but hubris to think we can intervene in predictable ways But as long as the stakes are high, It's a war or you know the fate of the planet. People will probably keeps I'm yeah drew closer
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but in reality you s airplanes, dumped tons and tons of bombs in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam WAR Era, many experts who did on impact, but correct course is here to talk about the ones that didn't and the unex ways they were reused and incorporated into the bill landscape and he Sixtys and Seventys the. U S covertly dropped hundreds of millions of bombs over louse, more bombs. Them are dropped in Europe during World WAR. Two and in the wake of this conflict, which can become. The secret war, this small asian nation gained the morbid distinction of being the most bomb country per capita in world history, and it still holds that record. It's hard to rub my mind around the concept of hundreds millions how's, that even possible well. Allow devices that got dropped were cluster bombs, basically
These consist of hollow metal shells that open up on the way down and deploy hundreds of smaller explosive bomblets, which are about the size of tennis ball and the? U S, while they were designed to at least but they actually had a really high failure rate. Does So the larger shall the big bomb is really the casing in its has little bomblets inside the bigger shell that would spread out in explode when they hit the ground, while they were designed, to at least, but they actually had a really high failure rate, as many as a third of those bomblets didn't detonate on impact leaving the country littered with close to a hundred million unexploded devices. And when the bombing finally stopped in nineteen thirty three LEO Those were left to deal with the aftermath, so they began cleaning the landscape, but they also started collecting the shells and the scraps they ve. And putting them to use in other ways- and you mean the bigger outer shell- ok scenes or these little bomblets. Well, it's a bit above and other types of bombs to those
big hollow metal shells in particular yeah. They turned out to be really useful, at least the ones that were relatively intact, Some of the larger ones have been turned into things like canoes. Other middle sized ones have been lined up to form the walls of buildings or used is still. To lift up houses off the ground or cut open to make pots for plants? even the really small scrap- can be melted down her other purposes like making jewellery or silverware or cowbells or other things. And over time finding in recycling these shells and scraps is actually grown into this unlikely national industry. So around the laotian countryside, you can see tons of bombshells baked into the built environment. This story has this patina of this uplifting swords sub ploughshares story. But really is this refine legacy that they have to deal with these deadly device. Says that we drop down in the first place, yet it's really very sad and aside from the people who died.
Our national, even those bonds or dropped. Tens of thousands of people have actually died due to that nations in the decades Hence, and even now hundreds of people are injured or killed each year from explosions, sometimes while him to gather up bombs for reuse So they've been cleaning up for EVA since one thousand nine hundred and seventy three: are they anywhere close to clean up all the bones, not really profit organizations that are working on this problem actively still estimate that it will take decades or even a century to clean up the rest of these and it's this legacy in part that has caused over a hundred nations? the gamble with this convention of cluster munitions, which is an intern. Shall agreement not to make or use or transfer cluster bombs, and I take it. The United States is not one of the country that signed under the convention on cluster munitions. Correct: U S, military coup, we didn't take away some the same lessons that other countries did from what happened the Vietnam WAR and while it
fascinating to see how people in less have manage to make something useful out of these devices there. So this really tangible, Pervasive reminder of the horrors of war, A few years back photographer Mark Watson encountered this phenomenon on a journey through louse you can watch a video of the reuse samples that he found on our website and ninety nine p. I dot org Ninety nine percent invisible was produced this week by Vivian Lee edited by Delaney Hall Mix egg production, by Sharif use of music by Sharia, critical stance is the digital director. Katy mingle is our senior producer. Recipe is in it that circled, Avery, terraforming, Terran, Massa and me roman Mars. We are project of ninety one point: seven K, L W in San Francisco and produced on radio row in beautiful, downtown, Oakland, California.
We are part of radio utopian from Europe's collective of the best most innovative shows in all of broadcasting. We are supported by our listeners. Just like you, You can find any nine percent invisible enjoying discussions about the show on Facebook and Twitter me at Roman Mars and the show at ninety nine p I or run Instagram tumblr, and let it too, but you know it's better than all of those things are website It's ninety nine e, our daughter radio, do.
Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.