November 13, 2019
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The Great Emu War
of 1932 Emus are native to Australia, and as everyone
knows, nearly everything in Australia seems capable of killing you. If the sun doesn’t do it, there are still
redback spiders, funnel webs, and Taipans, and others to contend with. It should come as no surprise, then, that
the emu—part ostrich, part velociraptor—is also an annoyance bent on making the lives
of people living in Australia miserable. Emus more strongly resemble ostriches. They are large, tall flightless birds with
long necks and fluffy feathers. They live and breed in the middle portion
of Australia which is largely uninhabitable by anyone with sense. However, they don’t mind traveling far and
wide in search of food and water. In the wake of World War I, over 5000 veterans
had set up camp on the fringes of the emus’ habitats in Western Australia. It was part of a soldier settlement program
to help the soldiers make a living farming the land. However, drought caused many of the crops
to fail, and emus had a tendency to gobble up what was left. Unfortunately, prices of things had skyrocketed
after the war, meaning many of these ex-soldiers couldn’t afford fences to keep the birds
out. Being soldiers, they grabbed their guns and
started shooting the birds. Some 3000 emus were killed in 1928. However, despite these killings, by 1932,
an estimated 20,000 emus invaded the farmers’ fields and the bountiful food supply they
provided. The farmers knew they had to do something. The usual way to lodge a complaint about farming
conditions would have been to appeal to the Minister of Agriculture. The ex-soldier farmers didn’t trust the
Minister of Agriculture, though, so they approached the Minister of Defence instead, who more
or less declared war on the birds. He granted the farmers the use of two Lewis
machine guns and 10,000 bullets, plus the expertise of two gunners and Major G.P.W. Meredith. Given these resources, this was sure to be
an easy victory. Meredith led the assault on the emus, only
to find that the enemy was quick and cunning. Emus enjoyed the shade of nearby trees when
they weren’t chomping on the wheat crops, and with the vegetative cover, the gunners
couldn’t get a clean shot. In addition, after a few battles, the emus
seemed to work out the range of the guns—they always stayed just out of that range. One of the first battles ended in a spectacular
failure on the part of the Australian farmer-soldiers. About 100 emus had gathered in one place,
and the soldiers decided to ambush them with one machine gun, thinking that they could
take care of most of them pretty quickly. After about a dozen bullets fired, the machine
gun jammed, giving the birds ample opportunity to run off, escaping to fight another day. When Meredith and his Merry Men realized how
fast the emus could run, they had the idea to attach a machine gun on the back of a moving
vehicle and chase after them. Again, this tactic failed. The gunman was too busy attempting to hold
on to shoot the gun. The emus raced to the relative safety of the
trees, regrouped, and scattered. Even if the gunner had been able to shoot,
the vehicle would only be able to chase after one bird at a time, making it impossible to
kill off a large number of birds at once. Not a single bird was killed using this tactic. The end result of the war was arguably that
the emus won via outlasting the humans. While there were no human casualties, only
986 of the roughly 20,000 emus were killed, and 9,860 bullets had been used up. With an exact 10-1 ratio of bullets to dead
emu, the soldiers and the government were rightly embarrassed by the whole event and
refused to repeat the experiment in later years. Someone asked in parliament whether or not
medals would be given out for this war—another noted that medals should be given to the emus,
who had “won every round so far.” Major Meredith went on to attest that the
birds could take several bullets without batting an eyelash. In fact, one bird was hit by a truck some
days after the initial shooting. The truck killed it, but when the emu was
examined they found five bullets in it. Meredith is on record as saying, If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying
capacity of these birds, it would face any army in the world. They could face machine guns with the invulnerability
of tanks. They are like Zulus, whom even dum dum bullets
would not stop. The emus did wander off eventually, but that
was because the wheat was harvested and they had little left to eat—not because they
couldn’t stand up to the might of man and his machine gun.

Tony wyaad