Gas masks worn in the 1940s to combat chemical warfareAt the sheer mention of the “stink bomb,” many of us are taken back to middle school. Panic ensues as adolescents run from a growing reek. But before they were a prank, before kids and adults were dropping stink bombs for fun … or just to cause a stir, they were actually a weapon. In fact, stink bombs of all strengths have been detonated against militaries, citizens, and in a variety of countries. Though they come in a variety of stench types, they are almost always unpleasant. They can most often be described as a rotten egg to ammonia smell, even including those that burn or irritate the nostrils. Stronger versions can cause victims to cough or have difficulties breathing.
Here’s how the stank weapons were created in the first place, and how they became a mainstay in crowd control to date. Some of the earliest stink bomb prototypes can be traced back to Leonardo da Vinci; he and his men would send their contraptions via arrow, and upon impact they would begin to release an unpleasant smell. Though it’s unclear when the arrow-bound weapons were used and how badly they stunk. Hundreds of years go by without stink bombs making any real history waves, or having tracked how they advanced throughout the years. Then, during World War II, they had a glow-up. In a then-top-secret mission, American spies were set on a mission to develop and drop stink bombs as part of a new era of chemical warfare.The formula for such “S liquid” AKA stench liquid, was passed between American and British intelligence branches, along with two forms of delivery. One, poking a hole and discreetly spritzing a person in odor, and the second a perfume spritzer. Only rather than cologne, the diffuser would spray an incredible stink.
From there, the U.S. military spent years researching and developing the perfect unpleasant smell. The goal, of course, was to discredit and upset the enemy by dousing them in an awful note. It was also predicted to embarrass Japanese soldiers through the release of a fecal smell. However, by the time the product was developed, WWII was complete. What’s worse is that millions of dollars were spent on the research, as it included top scientists and chemists to create not only the perfect combination of oils and smells. One of their inventions, the Standard Bathroom Malodor, is said to be the worst-smelling combination. It consists of: dipropylene glycol, various acids and compounds, and Skatole, which accounts for fecal smells in bird and mammal waste. But it wasn’t for nothing, in years since, stink bombs have been weaponized and used as a riot control technique, channeling crowds away from the direction of their terrible smells.
An example of crowd control where stink bombs can be used. In most cases, law enforcement wears gas masks before the gasses are released.
In 1972, four stink bombs were dropped, interrupting the presidential campaign of hopeful Edmund Muskie (who lost to Richard Nixon). Stink bombs were reported at the Florida presidential primary, picnics in Miami and Tampa, and at campaign phone banks in Tampa.
In 2004, Israeli forces made their own “Skunk Bomb,” which produces a synthetic smell designed after studying the anal glands of the skunk. Its emissions are shown to last on clothes for five years, even after they are washed.
owever, the most common use of stink bombs remains as pranks, tricksters who use them can either make the stink bombs on their own or purchase them by the masses in various forms. This includes the original liquid in glass/plastic casing, spray bottles full of the stench, or individually packaged stink makers. Though these items are easily accessible in consumer markets, they are far less powerful than their military grade counterparts. Time will tell if they will be used in a military or war setting in the future. But for the time being, stink bombs remain a regular crowd control proceedure.
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This British infantry rifle is one of the quietest rifles ever made
In 1943, at the height of World War II in Europe and beyond, two men met at a building overlooking the River Thames in the Westminster area of London. One of the men was Air Ministry engineer William Godfray de Lisle and the other was an officer of the British Combined Operations Department, Maj. Sir Malcolm Campbell. Campbell’s office oversaw raids on German positions throughout the European theater. De Lisle was there to show the officer a new weapon he’d designed. It was a .22-caliber rifle designed with an internal suppressor, supposedly one of the quietest weapons ever made. The men decided the best way to test its volume would be to fire it over the heads of the Londoners below and into the river. No one heard a single shot. Campbell ordered De Lisle to create a 9-millimeter version, and later a .45-caliber version of the same weapon. The .45 would be just as quiet and even produced no visible muzzle flash. At 50 yards, no one would hear the weapon’s discharge. It seemed to be the perfect clandestine weapon.Its firing test revealed a decibel range that topped out at 85.5, the same volume of a truck passing by. Without any kind of suppression, a normal handgun will create upwards of 168 decibels. Most suppressed firearms will only be slightly lower, between 117 and 140 decibels, which is the same volume as many firecrackers. Not exactly the level of noise a secret operation might prefer. The bolt action of the De Lisle weapons was actually louder than the shot it fired.
The newer weapons created by De Lisle were a kind of Frankenstein weapon. It was a shortened Thompson submachine gun body and ported it from the front of the chamber to the bore. It slowed the bullet down, but it was still lethal – all without too much noise or muzzle flash. It used a Lee-Enfield bolt, a modified M1911 magazine to feed round, and was accurate at 50 feet. From there, De Lisle produced versions of his weapon that included carbines for British commandos, along with rifles with folding stocks for airborne use. They were handmade by De Lisle, by the automobile factory Ford Dagenham, and by the Sterling Armaments Company. Less than 200 were made, but those that used the weapons in combat found them extremely useful.
Sir Malcom Campbell.
Campbell used the weapon in the Combined Operations “Red Indian Raids.” that’s what the Germans called their quick cross-channel attacks. Field trials during the war reported its efficient use, and at least two high-ranking German officers were killed by the Special Operations Executive using the De Lisle Rifle. It could even fire more than 5,000 rounds with being disassembled for cleaning. All told, the effort produced an efficient killing machine, and quite possibly the world’s quietest firearm, which it still might be today. New variants of the weapon never made it to the field during World War II, because the war ended before they could be introduced or mass produced. Still, British Intelligence, commandos and special operators had a new, silent weapon, one that would soon be used all over the world to clandestinely devastating effect. The British Special Air Service would use the weapons in the Korean War, the Malayan emergency, and the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It was also probably used by MI-6 operations during the Cold War and there are even photos of Americans using the weapon in Vietnam.
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