In an effort to weaponize the psychological effect of terrifying sounds to break the morale of our enemies, the Air Force began work, in 1964, on “Pyrotechnic Harassment Devices,” or PHDs.
It has been scientifically proven that human screams contain unique acoustic properties that are highly effective in triggering the brain’s fear center, and the Pentagon wanted some of that ju-ju.
Essentially the PHDs were bombs that would create the sound of horrific human screams in an effort to scare the hell out of our foes. The idea being that if you can break the mind of your enemy, you can break him in battle. One imagines the unnerving effect of hundreds of screams on the front-lines would be similar to that of the infamous Aztec Death Whistle.
Joseph Trevithick, writing at the fantastic military blog, War is Boring, details the the idea behind the weapon:
“This device is an air deliverable unit that generates noise over a six hour period to harass, by generally upsetting enemy troops and thus lowering their efficiency for fighting,” technicians at the Air Force Armament Laboratory explained in their final report. “By dropping a number of units around an enemy group under attack, the PHD may cause general confusion.”
The Air Force hired a company called Special Devices, Inc. to build the prototypes. At first, the flying branch hoped that the pods would boom, bellow and shriek out gunshots, human and animal screeching sounds and the clanging of industrial machinery. Engineers recorded a host of specific samples to analyze, such as people firing .30- and .45-caliber guns and male and female screams.
The recordings also included a “neutral scream” consisting of a mix of the male and female versions and the cries of elephants and panthers, according to the official report. But after experimenting with a variety of mechanisms, Special Devices could only build pods that spewed out shots, whistles, whines and other white noise.
Ultimately the devices were not deemed practical: “There appears to be no way to make a pyrotechnic scream simulator with satisfactory characteristics for the PHD unit,” lamented the engineers. The idea of a “scream bomb” was looking less and less plausible.
Unable to come up with a practical scream generator, speaker boxes were built that could broadcast any recorded sound. Cargo planes were to drop these “screeming meemies” into enemy territory as a sonic disruption.
The box-shaped Screaming Meemie consisted of five major components. The primary element was the siren, which generated what was described as a “warbling tone,” plus four loudspeakers—one for each side of the box.
The siren could be set to function continuously or intermittently. The battery could keep it running for 12 hours.
There was a self-destruct and booby-trap function. The 25-pound high-explosive charge would detonate if someone pushed the device over or tried to open it, or if the battery dropped below a certain level.
The guts of the Screeming Meemie. Visible is (1) the audio system, (2) the dummy high explosive charge, (3) the battery pack, and (4) aluminum cushion. Air Force photo
It seems the military had switched gears from scaring the enemy to death with blood-curdling screams, to annoying them to death with a “warbling tone.” Ultimately, these tests were also ineffective, and the Screaming Meemie project was abandoned in 1967 when the Air Force cancelled its requirement for a “noise-making weapon for psychological warfare.”
A Screaming Meemie in position to be dropped from a C-47. The black arrow points to where the static line connects to the aircraft. Air Force photo
Still, the idea of using noise to disrupt the enemy had not been totally abandoned. Military troops have famously used blasts of loud noise and music against Manuel Noriega and David Koresh. Recently the band Skinny Puppy made headlines with a lawsuit against the US Government for using its music as psychological warfare “torture music” against the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Perhaps there’s still room for research and development on a bomb that screams at the enemy…
or perhaps one that blasts dubstep…
Just wait for the drop.
Via: War Is Boring