World War II resistance fighters used government-developed stench as a weapon

It was the early 1940s. A war stretched across the globe. Times were desperate, and there was no method people were too proud to use - including a stink bomb.

There are plenty of books, shows, and movies about the French resistance movement during World War II. Other countries are quick to point out that they had as dedicated resistance movements as France did. It's true. But let's face it, if you want a story told about your resistance movement, you should really have based it in Paris. In war stories, certain tactics are generally omitted. Sure, any weapon that works will be used at the time, but it doesn't look good on screen. 'Who me?' is one of those non-cinematic weapons.

'Who me?' was developed by the American Office of Strategic Services. It was given out in pocket-sized atomizers, so it could be used by ordinary citizens in a crowd. And it stunk. Literally. A resistance fighter was supposed to saunter up to a German officer, spritz him with the compound, and walk away.

The smell of the compound was compared to that of a garbage dumpster in summer, bad eggs, or rotting carcasses, but it was designed to closely resemble the smell of human feces. The German officers was meant to be humiliated as he walked around smelling like he'd pooped his pants, his men were supposed to lose confidence in him, and the entire army was meant to be demoralized before the mighty stench of the French Resistance and American Allies.

Sadly, the compound stunk metaphorically as well. The sulfur in the compound didn't just cling to sprayed, but also the sprayer. If 'Who me?' were sprayed in a crowd, the entire group would stink. If it were sprayed one-on-one, the German officer would probably noticed who spritzed him - and the compound would mark the spritzer. Most importantly, since it was developed for the resistance by the Americans, if the person got caught spritzing an officer with it, they'd be identified as a resistance fighter. It's unlikely that anyone would take that kind of risk only to spray an officer with nothing more than a bad smell. There weren't any reports of 'Who Me?' being successfully used.

Still, it's a little inspiring to think of the ingenuity of the people who came up with that as a legitimate fighting tactic. Vive la résistance!

Via About.com and Oddee.

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