Conducting research for historical fiction is usually interesting, sometimes dull, but occasionally yields an odd or funny story. I found this little story while reading The Army Air Forces in World War II, Volume 1: Plans and Early Operations: September 1939 to August 1942 by Wesley F. Craven and James L. Cate (Washington DC: Office of Air Force History, 1948).
When the Italian army invaded Ethiopia in 1935, they faced a serious supply issue. The army was operating hundreds of miles inland from ports, with few good roads for transporting supplies by ground, and few good airfields for supply by cargo planes.
At the same time, the Italian Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) had developed a fleet of bomber aircraft. Italy’s General Giulio Douhet had published the controversial book, Command of the Air, in 1921, which called for aggressive aerial bombing. His doctrine stated that prolonged bombing of a civilian population could break the will of the people so that they would convince their government to surrender, thus making ground armies completely obsolete.
However, the Regia Aeronautica found few targets in Ethiopia. Instead the bomber aircraft were used to drop supplies to ground troops, including food, water, and ammunition.
In an odd twist – one that would never happen today! – the Italian Air Force experimented with dropping live sheep and goats in parachutes. The animals then joined the march through the desert until they were needed for fresh meat.
Let the jokes begin…or let the protests begin…