5 animals that became paratroopers

What, you think only humans can become paratroopers? Okay, so humans do lead most airborne operations but the military often brings along animals — everything from bats to bears — they think might be helpful in a target area.

Check out this list of animals who have conducted jump operations:

1. Dogs

paratroopers, k-9

(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Vince Vander Maarel)

Being “man’s best friend” is a double-edged sword. While domestication has allowed dogs to spread across the entire planet and cohabitate with humans while other species were pushed out of our sprawling cities, it has also resulted in dogs having to help defend those habitations.

And since nearly the invention of airborne operations, dogs have defended those habitations via paratrooper insertions. The British brought parachuting dogs with them on D-Day and Navy SEALs and other special operators bring dogs with them on missions today.

2. Bears

GIF: US Air Force Archives

Yeah, airborne bears. Bet no one knew that was something they had to worry about. Luckily, bear paratroopers are pretty rare. Engineers working on the ejection capsules for B-58 Hustlers needed something to simulate a living human for tests after a bunch of bleeding hearts protested their use of poor people.

They settled on bears since their weight and dimensions were close enough to humans for the capsules to work similarly. At least six bears and one chimpanzee took the flight.

3. Beta fish

paratroopers, airborne fish

(Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Matthew Tattersall)

The “beta fish” title is singular for a reason. The military never sanctioned a beta fish airborne operation but Army Spc. Matthew Tattersall took “Willie Makeit” with him on a jump anyway, took a selfie in the air with the fish, and then landed. Willie was granted a meritorious name change to “Willie Did Makeit.”

Tattersall got extra duty. Sheesh, you would figure the man who single-handedly stood up the Airborne Beta Fish program would get more respect than that.

4. Bats

Tadarida_brasiliensis_outflight_Hristov_Carlsbad_Caverns-bats

(Photo: National Park Service Nick Hristov)

Bats are probably the only animal on this list capable of conducting an entire airborne operation on their own (except for piloting the aircraft). The Army, then Navy, then Marine Corps experimented with dropping bats in specialized bomb casings that carried up to 1,040 bats a piece.

These bomb casings, and the bats inside, would parachute down to 1,000 feet before the bats disperse across the target area and begin actions on the objective. Their “actions on the objective” were to find a nice place to sleep and then go up in flames thanks to the incendiary devices on their legs.

5. Beavers

 

Beaver airborne operations were not military affairs, unlike these other entries. The idea to teach beavers to parachute started with a few researchers at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game which needed to establish new beaver colonies for fur production and watershed conservation in remote areas.

After horse and mule trains proved to be an expensive way to transport the beavers, the department decided to experiment with parachute operations. Seventy-five beavers ended up taking single-flights, but one beaver had to act as his species’ version of the test platoon. “Geronimo” conducted many experimental jumps before making his final, operational jump with three females to establish a colony.

So, yeah, there’s a decent chance that a polygamist beaver in Idaho had more jumps than you do.

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