This Pigeon Guided Missile System Was (Thankfully) Never Deployed

By Maddie Stone on at

This past Friday, in 1904, pyschologist B.F. Skinner was born. His contribution to the world? This pigeon-guided missile system, among other things. Yes, actually.

According to the Smithsonian American History Museum's official Instagram:

During World War II, the US military needed to find accurate ways to guide missiles to their targets. University of Minnesota psychologist B. F. Skinner suggested that a missile nose cone be supplied with three compartments, each with a window. A pigeon would be placed in each section, and trained to peck on the window when the target appeared. If all three pigeons pecked, the weapon would be released. This prototype was never developed, but influenced later work on animal training.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's a good thing this particular weapon of war was never deployed. First off, I can't help but feel like someone would quickly find a way to subvert pigeons from their correct target. Moreover, suicide bombing birds is just plain cruel. Still, the idea of pigeons hurling across the sky, raining judgement down upon our enemies in this adorable little retrofuture contraption is worth a laugh. People are nothing if not inventive.

[American History Museum via Instagram]