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Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War Paperback – 22 Jul 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA; Reprint of 2009 edition (22 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199733538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199733538
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 3 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 408,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Highly informative...Lockwood certainly succeeds in making a specialised academic subject fascinating. (Nicholas Lezard, Saturday Guardian)

Compelling. (Simon Schama, Financial Times)

Lockwood's approach is fresh. (PD Smith, The Guardian)

The book is an excellent read. (Michelle Harvey, Times Higher Education Supplement)

About the Author

Jeffrey A. Lockwood is Professor of Natural Sciences & Humanities at the University of Wyoming, where he teaches in the department of philosophy and in the MFA program in creative writing. His work has been included in the popular anthology Best American Science and Nature Writing, and he is winner of both a Pushcart Prize and the John Burroughs Award. He is the author of Grasshopper Dreaming: Reflections on Killing and Loving and Locust: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect that Shaped the American Frontier.

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John Kwok on 12 Mar. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Replete with all the suspense and intrigue found in the best spy novels of Ian Fleming and John Le Carre, Jeffrey A. Lockwood's "Six - Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War" is not just a gripping, exceptional account of humanity's usage of insects as military and economic weapons of war from antiquity to the present. It is quite possibly, the definitive exploration of this very subject, and one that deserves as wide a readership as possible, for rather obvious reasons. Trained as a biologist with substantial expertise in ecology and epidemiology, Lockwood combines these gifts, along with a sound understanding of history and his exceptional writing, in weaving together a most beguiling narrative that reads more like a Cold War spy thriller than a superb piece of nonfiction. In this rather timely book, Lockwood makes a most compelling case explaining how and why insect usage in warfare has often changed the course of not only battles, but indeed, entire campaigns, citing as notable examples, the Mongol conquest of much of Eurasia, and more recently, Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812, the American Civil War and the Western Front during World War I.

Among the most compelling chapters in Lockwood's book are those devoted to the infamous Japanese general Ishii Shiro and his Unit 731, based in Japanese-occupied Manchuria (Northeastern China) during World War II, and responsible for countless crimes against humanity against both Chinese civilians and military prisoners of war.
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Is this book a sober history of insects and warfare since classical times to the present day, or a conspiracy theory, a paranoid fantasy, a small boy's adventure or a grant application to Homeland Security? Lockwood's not fussy whether his subjects have six, eight or no legs at all, so maybe the answer is "all of the above". It makes for a book which is entertaining but varies wildly in tone.

Bugs have been on battlefields since men had battles. As the scientific revolution developed protective measures improved. Humans being only human, scientists started to wonder whether, given that disease generally causes more casualties than conflict, the diseases could be targeted at the enemy via their natural vectors, insects.

The buzz I get from this book (sorry, Lockwood's gruesome puns are catching) is probably the reverse of the author's intention. Despite the huge investment by Japan and the US there is scant evidence that vector borne disease can be efficiently targeted, delivered and have lethally precise effects much better than dumb luck. And the possibilities for defence (releasing sterile male mosquitos in case of yellow fever attack, for example) are far more promising than the potential for offence.

Put yourself in the sandals of a village chief in Swat or Somalia. However fervently you pray for the victory of the terrorists, would you really help Al-Quaeda develop a bio-terrorism lab in your back yard? Thought not.

Vigilance for the threats described in this book is probably warranted. Getting phobic about it is not. For a less hectic history on the same subject you might try the classic Rats, Lice and History (Penguin Classic History)
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Ramos on 23 May 2010
Format: Hardcover
The title of this book is enough to catch any student of military tactics attention. The author claims not to be a historian and his writing bears this out. The book is easy to read and flows. But all the information comes from secondary sources and over one-third of the book seems to take conspiracy theories devoted to accusations that the United States has allegedly used this form of warfare. Even though as the author even admits you cannot control the movement of insects and they cannot tell friend from foe. Yet Mr. Lockwood makes a good case for the potential danger and havoc that insects pose to every country.

The beginning chapters start off with some credibility of when he writes about the use of insects being used by various units throughout antiquity. Even the brilliant tactical use of pathogens without knowledge of how they were actually transmitted like malaria to debilitate and army by maneuvering them into stagnant swampy areas where they thought the bad air (instead of the mosquito we know are responsible) would all the enemy to contract the disease. And the various peoples who used insect toxins on arrows to make their weapons more lethal. And then of course he retells the infamous story of Nasrullah Bahadur-Shah, the Emir of Bukhara in Central Asia, who used assassin bugs and sheep ticks to torture his enemies in the black pit; a pit that makes me shudder as I read about it. The author is attentive to the affect that disease had on the world and military history and how a small attack could spread to cause unexpected consequences.

If his writing would have continued in this vein the book would have been considerably better. Perhaps if he had collaborated with an historian this would have been a truly classic book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 69 reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Swams, Stings and Robot Insects 28 Oct. 2008
By Zekeriyah - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Now this is good stuff right here. Sure, we've all heard about how the ancients used to launch jars filled with scorpions or how the Plains Indians would torture enemies by burying them up to their neck near a fire ant nest, but who would have thought that insects could be used as weapons in the modern era? This book takes a look at an odd, but surprisingly effective, history of insects and their military applications, both experimental and in practice, as well as some less than savory miscellanea.

The book starts off from the beginning, approrpirately enough, looking at a wide variety of insects (and other arthropods) being used by various generals throughout antiquity. The above mentioned examples are par for the course, but we also get mention of other anecdotes, such as the mythical venomous dikairon bird of India (which Lockwood identifies as a particularly nasty rove beetle), the use of bees and wasps to deter invaders, launching plague infected cadavers from trebuchet, and my personal favorite, the story of Nasrullah Bahadur-Shah, the Emir of Bukhara in Central Asia, who used assassin bugs and sheep ticks to torture his enemies. Lockwood is very attentive to the role that plagues, disease and poisons from insects have played in military history as well.

He continues on, however, into more recent historical applications of insects in warfare, going through the various attempts by the United Sates, Japan and Soviet Russia to use insects during World War II and the Cold War. In particular, he examines attempts to use insect vectors to spread the bubonic plague and malaria in Asia. Even so, older tactics remained in use, as he points out that the Viet Cong would set off explosives near bee hives to get them to attack American troops. The American response? Try and develop chemical phermones that would turn bees into allies against the Communists! This is all fascinating stuff, some of which worked out better than other applications, but all innovative nonetheless. The real meat of the book, the REALLY scary stuff, is what he gets to by the end of the book.

The latter chapters start going into today's uses of insects, including the very real concern that insects could be used as agents of biological terrorism. Think that's far-fetched? Lockwood cites not only how easy it would be to reintroduce the exterminated screw worm to the United States, but also points out that domestic terrorists extorted the government in the late '80s by threatening to release the medfly into California. Insect pests cause billions of dollars of damage each year, and as the author notes, terrorist groups might very well consider destructive scenarios that conventional governments and militaries would never engage in in. Equally fascinating (and scary), he also takes a look at government experiments into controlling insects through cybernetics, and the potential ramifications of such practices. Cutting edge stuff that!

The entire book is absolutely fascinating, and completely understandable from the civilian and/or layperson end of things. At the same time, he is very careful to use proper Latin names for all of the medically significant insects (and occasionally, arachnids) mentioned in this book. Lockwood writes on a very captivating subject; I was so into this book that I think I read through it in only a few hours. Whether you are into entomology or military history, this book will be right up your alley. But what really wins him points is that Lockwood not only wrote a fascinating book, but also has a recommended reading list at the end, citing articles and books that will keep you up to date on much of the material that he writes about.

If you liked this book, I would also recommend checking out Adrienne Mayor's 'Greek Fire, Scorpion Bombs and Poison Arrows,' which Lockwood mentions in his recommended reading list. It's an equally fascinating book covering biological warfare in the classical world. Both books are going to appeal to the same audience, so if you like one, you'll like the other.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Riveting, Quite Exceptional, Look at Humanity's Usage of Insects as Weapons of War 12 Mar. 2009
By John Kwok - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Replete with all the suspense and intrigue found in the best spy novels of Ian Fleming and John Le Carre, Jeffrey A. Lockwood's "Six - Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War" is not just a gripping, exceptional account of humanity's usage of insects as military and economic weapons of war from antiquity to the present. It is quite possibly, the definitive exploration of this very subject, and one that deserves as wide a readership as possible, for rather obvious reasons. Trained as a biologist with substantial expertise in ecology and epidemiology, Lockwood combines these gifts, along with a sound understanding of history and his exceptional writing, in weaving together a most beguiling narrative that reads more like a Cold War spy thriller than a superb piece of nonfiction. In this rather timely book, Lockwood makes a most compelling case explaining how and why insect usage in warfare has often changed the course of not only battles, but indeed, entire campaigns, citing as notable examples, the Mongol conquest of much of Eurasia, and more recently, Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812, the American Civil War and the Western Front during World War I.

Among the most compelling chapters in Lockwood's book are those devoted to the infamous Japanese general Ishii Shiro and his Unit 731, based in Japanese-occupied Manchuria (Northeastern China) during World War II, and responsible for countless crimes against humanity against both Chinese civilians and military prisoners of war. In painstakingly graphic, often gory, detail, Lockwood traces Ishii's "path to infamy", demonstrating how this idealistic Japanese army doctor - who had shown early promise as an important epidemiological researcher on diseases - used his connections in the upper echelons of both Japanese military and civilian elites in creating a vast military-industrial complex in Manchuria devoted to biological warfare. A "path to infamy", which led ironically to Ishii's salvation at the close of World War II, sparing him the hangman's noose for his heinous war crimes, after his extensive interrogation by United States military officers interested in creating a viable American biological weapons program. Lockwood compares and contrasts Ishii's diabolical programs with other, almost as elaborate, research conducted by Canadian, American and British military scientists during World War II, implying that all were as morally suspect as Unit 731's efforts at "weaponizing" virulent diseases like bubonic plague.

While still compelling reading, Lockwood's historical recollection of Cold War entomological weapons research practiced by both the West and the East reads more like a litany of "Just So" Rudyard Kipling-esque tales. I found especially fascinating allegations of economic entomological warfare practiced by the United States against Fidel Castro's Cuba, but, as Lockwood himself notes, these were merely allegations not firmly supported in the 1970s and 1980s by sufficient scientific evidence. He is on much surer footing at the very end of "Six - Legged Soldiers", chronicling potential usage of insects in war, ranging from using them as disease vectors to causing substantial disruptions in agricultural economies from pest infestations of crops. His nightmarish scenarios are those well worth pondering by anyone interested in ensuring ample defense from biological terrorist attacks upon the United States.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Spectacular scholarly work on warfare and entomology 26 Oct. 2008
By Peter J. Ward - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is simultaneously a fascinating piece of military history, applied entomolgy (the study of "bugs"), and contemporary security issues. All of that would be good enough to recommend this book but the fact that it is written in an engaging and conversational manner makes it an extremely fine intellectual diversion. From the ancient use of bees to block up the walls of cities against invaders to the potential use of plague-fleas and rats against civilian targets, this book brings the pespective of a professor and well-informed amateur historian to a mass audience. This is easily the best piece of popular science writing I've read this year.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
It makes you think! 24 Oct. 2008
By Andy in Washington - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but ended up being pleasantly surprised. Six legged soldiers is a very readable book that is almost fun...in a macabre sense.

The book starts with some worst case terror scenarios, some of which can raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Some of these are quite thought provoking, and it makes you wonder if the Homeland Security folks should be using fly-swatters instead of radiation detectors.

The book then proceeds into a number of warfare scenarios, some ancient, many from the 19th and 20th century. While much of the info from earlier stories is anecdotal, the tales are certainly believable and ring true. Later stories from more modern history are items that I had never heard of...somewhat surprising since I am a bit of a history buff.

The tales included attacks on population, economies, agriculture...society in general. There were great tales ranging from the civil war widow who protected her farm with booby-trapped beehives to the general who outwitted his enemy into camping in a malarial swamp. As historian Hans Zinsser put it, the famed battles of early modern warfare "are only the terminal operations engaged in by those remnants of the armies which have survived the camp epidemics". Just ask Napolean...or Robert E. Lee.

Later parts of the book, especially on the Japanese operations in China against civilians are especially horrific, and include some of the most devastating bio-attacks in history. I had never heard of many of these stories, or only saw them in passing. It is devastating to realize that these occurred less than 100 years ago, supposedly during our "civilized" period.

There are quite a few chapters on US involvement with insect warfare, both as an initiator and target. There isn't a whole lot of proof, or facts, backing up some of these suppositions, and it sometimes get to the "there is no proof it didn't happen" stage. Mostly it is a lot of circumstantial evidence with a generous helping of paranoia.

I ended up reading this in two or three sittings...it was that captivating. I'd recommend it for history fans, and anyone looking to enjoy some of military history's dark-side and lesser-known tales. If nothing else, it provides a great jumping off point for thinking about some very nasty scenarios.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating, and creepy! 13 Nov. 2008
By Laura I - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I got this book, because frankly, the title fascinated me. I'm interested in military tactics and history, but didn't know too much about the role that insects have played in war. As shocking as it was to learn how insects have been used in the past, it was surprising to learn about more current, and perhaps ongoing, applications. If you like the History or Discovery channel programming, I'm sure you'll find the content of this book thrilling. After I was done I gave it to my husband, who's active duty to read and he was pretty shocked! I hope no one figures out a way to use those camel spiders against us in Iraq!
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