TIME History

Rocket Cats? Rocket Cats

Matt Rourke / AP

Note the dove, as well, which is ironic

There is an a-mewsing illustration in a guide to artillery written around 1530 that appears to endorse strapping explosives to cats and doves and igniting the ammunition during a rebellion, the Associated Press reports.

Matt Rourke / AP
Matt Rourke / AP

Digitized by the University of Pennsylvania and translated by researcher Mitch Fraas, the German manual penned by artillery master Franz Helm of Cologne — whose experience included fighting Turks in south-central Europe — appears to say:

“Create a small sack like a fire-arrow . if you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place. And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited.”

Fraas said he has not found evidence that cats or birds were used in this way and told the AP that it would be “very unlikely the animals would run back to where they came from. More likely they’d set your own camp on fire.”

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