Today we have unmanned vehicles as small as a hummingbird that can search and spy in war situations, and drones. But during the cold war (1960’s) we did not have technology like that, we had something almost as good. At the I.Q. Zoo at Hot Springs, Arkansas, tourists could watch all kinds of animals perform amazing feats, such as chickens playing baseball, parrots riding bicycles and a variety of other animals performing. What people did not know was that the same people who taught these animals, also worked for the CIA.
It is true that animals have been used in military and intelligence since ancient Greece, but not like the cold war of the 60’s. Imagine that you are holding a secret meeting in a secluded room of a hotel. You move your meeting periodically from one location to another so it is impossible for the enemy to plant “bugs” to listen to your conversation. No one pays attention to the raven that flies to the ledge of a building across the alley. The raven walks around for a minute and flies away, totally unnoticed. The raven is a spy working for the CIA and has planted a listening device on the ledge of the nearby window. After your meeting is over and you have moved to another location, the raven can go back and retrieve the bug.
A column of soldiers are quietly moving through the jungles, and a flock of pigeons fly ahead of them, looking for the enemy. If they see the enemy they land, if not they keep flying. This was labeled the “Squab Squad,” but they were never actually used in real life situations.
However, cats, ravens and other animals were used. Dolphins were used to detect submarines, locate mines and retrieve equipment.
All of these animals were trained by a special team headed by Bob Bailey at the I.Q. Zoo.
For the complete Smithsonian article by Tom Vanderbilt go to: