Ever wondered why our governments spend millions of dollars on ‘anti zombie apocalypse’ strategies? I mean it’s a joke, right? It’s Hollywood stuff. Zombies don’t exist, do they? It makes a decent film – of which there are hundreds, and a good TV series (I am told, I’ve never watched it) – but hang on, let’s answer something: Why is a serious and respected military historian even entertaining this concept and writing about ‘Soldiers versus Zombies’?? – Well, let me tell you.
This started as something quite casual as I read an account from an American Civil War veteran who claimed that he had encountered zombies – actual flesh-eating undead type zombies during the war. Typical me, I hate mysteries and decided to look at how much the US Department of Defense spends – to this very day – on ‘anti zombie apocalypse’ strategies. I mean, I don’t have to believe this stuff, right? But someone high up does, and it got me to wondering why. So it’s a rainy Friday here and my mind gets to wandering and thinking this American veteran was obviously high on goober-pea coffee or something. However, being me, I just had to go and look for myself, and the evidence is actually there from soldiers around the globe who have experienced the same! I’m not saying I believe all of this – let’s not shoot a good reputation to bits in under a minute – but it’s good fun nonetheless and, we have to allow, some major world governments are actually spending taxpayer’s money on this stuff…the plot thickens!
Now tales of zombie attacks date back to cave paintings dated at 60,000BC – it isn’t a new concept. In Haiti they actually exist; one can legally be classified as living, dead or zombified. Haitian zombies seem to be the victims of tribal voodoo with-doctors and a concoction known as ‘zombie powder’ largely made up from the toxins of puffer-fish. The ‘zombies’ are actually pronounced dead and wake up three days later with vacant stares, low moaning and necrosis. But they don’t have the compulsion to eat brains. They just stand there, moan and smell a bit. One guy famously died and turned up in his local village 18 years later where he found his sister. When American scientists got hold of some of this ‘zombie powder’ and tested it on laboratory rats, the effect produced was very similar. But these aren’t real zombies like we see in the movies or like we are discussing here.
Now let’s make this a bit military shall we? – Governments have experimented for decades with viruses and concoctions to cause ‘zombie outbreaks’ as a form of warfare. In Russia in the early 1950’s there was an experiment carried out on five prisoners. Sentenced to death but promised freedom if they would undergo an experiment (which was a lie, by the way, they planned to kill them anyway) they were to be shut in a room and subjected to a gas which would keep them awake for thirty days. All they had to do was last 30 days to prove this gas would work. Russia planned to build super-soldiers who needed no sleep. The prisoners did not last 30 days; soon they became unhinged, talking in strange whispers and making crazy noises. They began to grow suspicious and killed one of their cell-mates and then ate him! Then they started to gnaw at themselves. The scientists looked in and found the men to be ghoulish creatures, grinning from ear to ear with their organs showing through their rib-cages where they had pulled the skin from their own bodies. They tried to stop the experiment but the prisoners fought them with a super-human strength and soon the army was called in who dragged the nightmarish creatures from the cell after a savage fight in which a Russian officer shot one of them in the head and killed him. When they retrained the remaining three, doctors tried to patch them up desperately. The three creatures screamed to be put back and for the gas to be turned on and, when two were given knock-out gas, they died straight away. The third man they had to operate on without anaesthetic and he sat grinning at the doctors as they operated on him. One of the doctors stopped and stared at what was once a man and the prisoner’s grin widened. “Keep cutting” he said. In the end, they shot him. But they did take his picture first:
Still interested to read on? – Well rumours are that Russia has carried this on and Japan’s own experiments codenamed Projects “Cherry Blossom” and “Sturgeon” have been well-documented – more on these later. And should we be so surprised? Even the USA experimented with a ‘gay bomb’ back in the 70’s and 80’s to cause widespread disruption. In short, everyone has been at it, and the hunt for a ‘zombie apocalypse’ weapon has been ongoing since at least 1944.
Zombies in ancient history: In 2003 a fictional zombie-making virus ‘Solanum’ was dreamt up by ‘World War Z’ author Max Brooks but in 2007 traces of just such a virus were found in the brain of a mummified body in Hierakonpolis, Egypt by a British expedition whose findings were even recorded in the respected Archaeology magazine of the Archaeologic Institute. Ancient carvings and writings from this time – 3,000BC – indicated a great battle won against, of all things, an army of zombies! In 500BC Hanno of Carthage recorded on his voyages just seven men escaping out of a party of 35 sent ashore who reported crazed and rotting zombies who ate his crew. In 329BC Alexander the Great’s soldiers in modern-day Afghanistan recorded zombies who bit their victims who then died only to rise up and attack their comrades. In China a fragment of manuscript was found dated at 212BC during the Qin Dynasty which gave a remedy for those affected with what it termed the “Eternal Walking Nightmare” – a sickness with no cure, which gave the infected ‘an unquenchable desire for human meat’ – it recommended decapitation, dismemberment and burning. There are, in fact, hundreds of accounts of soldiers in ancient times fighting zombies – too many to list, and even the Romans recorded a battle in Scotland against a horde of several thousand Pictish and Celtic warriors who were infected with a strange contagion which made them impervious to damage and highly contagious to all they bit. The Romans, outnumbered, made a fort and a ditch filled with lamp oil and other combustibles and fought – as they recorded, for nine hours. Of 480 Romans in the cohort, 150 were killed. There were no casualties because those who were bitten were quickly decapitated by their comrades. Emperor Hadrian issued Army Order XXXVIII following the battle, warning against the contagion and recommending a line of defences. Many attribute this to the real reason behind the building of Hadrian’s Wall.
Zombies in modern history: It would be possible to list hundreds more accounts, however I thought it might be fun to stick with some more modern accounts from the last 150 years or so and find out what they said.
1) 1893 – Fort Louis-Philippe – French North Africa – Foreign Legion Vs Zombies.
In 1890 a detachment of the French Foreign Legion under Colonel Drax was surrounded by a horde of crazed locals and quickly took to their key stronghold of Fort Louis-Philippe, a square stone-built fort near the coast. With a good well and ample supplies, the detachment was surrounded for no less than three years against a foe whom no rifle ammunition seemed able to kill except for by a shot to the head. By 1893 and at the end of their supplies, the garrison opened the gates allowing the zombies to flood into the central courtyard as meanwhile they scaled down the walls and closed the gates, locking the zombies inside. A number who were outside were quickly overpowered with head shots and bayonets. The men of the foreign legion then marched an incredible 240 miles to Bir Ounane, an oasis where there was another French garrison who had believed them all lost to the plague. Some 50 years later a US B-24 crew was forced to make a landing in the desert and found the remains of the fort.One of the gunners, Anthony Marno recorded in his journal that; “What we found inside looked like a kiddie’s nightmare. We walked to the courtyard and found skeletons, mountains of them!”
2) 1942 – Atuk – Central Pacific – Imperial Japanese Army Vs Zombies.
In 1942 a special naval landing platoon of Japanese soldiers was put ashore at Atuk, one of the Caroline islands in the Central Pacific. After several days on the island, the party was attacked by a horde of seemingly-crazed locals who, emerging from the jungles unarmed, seemed impervious to rifle fire and who attacked their victims with bites which soon became infected. Those infected now joined their former attackers against their own comrades and the Japanese soldier retreated to a base they had fortified on a rocky outcrop to the north of the island. Here they held the zombies off until Ashi Nakamura – a platoon sniper, found that a head-shot would keep the creatures down for good. After two weeks of virtual imprisonment, and almost starving, the Japanese soldiers had dispatched the zombies and now advanced across the small and narrow island, killing all they saw with head shots, finally being relieved by a larger force several days later.
3) 1944 – Manchuria – Chinese Army Vs. Zombies.
It is considered that the Japanese experience with zombies on Atuk had been recorded and studied, for later in 1942 they managed to capture eight of the creatures for study. What transpired was a secret operation codenamed “Cherry Blossoms at Night” – a plan to attack the west coast of America with a plague. All sorts of human experiments were carried out on prisoners and rounded-up Chinese civilians and tested with biological warfare involving bubonic plague, cholera and anthrax which killed as many as 580,000 Chinese. The Japanese attempted to train the zombies, but when 10 out of the 16 ‘handlers’ were bitten, they abandoned the project and decided instead to simply drop the zombies from a plane instead. In 1944 in Manchuria a Japanese plane carrying these zombies was shot down and crashed. The zombies came out of the aircraft intact but were quickly surrounded by the Chinese army who, with some prior intelligence, managed to despatch them quickly with head shots.
4) 1957 – Mombassa – Kenya – Gikuyu Rebels versus Zombies.
In the 1950’s the Mau-Mau uprising had taken hold in Kenya and British soldiers were sent to quell the insurgents. when one was captured, he insisted that he had surrendered to the British for protection and told a British Intelligence Officer the story of a battle he and his party had had with zombies. The following transcript is from that intelligence report:
Q: How many did you see? – A: Five.
Q: Describe them. – A:White men, their skin grey and cracked. Some had wounds, bite marks on parts of their bodies. All had bullet holes in their chests. They stumbled, they groaned. Their eyes had no sight. Their teeth were stained with blood. The smell of carrion announced them. The animals fled.
Q: What happened? – A: They came for us. We drew our lalems and sliced off their heads, then buried them.
Q: You were not wounded? – A: I would not be here.
Q: You were not afraid? – A: We only fear the living.
Q: So these were ‘evil spirits’? – A: Evil spirits are invented to frighten children. These men were walking death.
The full transcript appeared in a story in a British tabloid newspaper some months after. Little was made of it.
5) 1960 – Byelgoransk – Siberia – Russian forces Vs Zombies.
When Russian forces overran Japanese-held Manchuria in 1945 they captured a great many Japanese scientists involved in zombie and plague-warfare experiments from Project “Cherry Blossom” and many of the zombified test subjects. Realising a potential military use, the Soviets took these to a research laboratory in remote Siberia for further study in a project they codenamed “Sturgeon.” When the contagion broke out, a number of staff were infected, and a group of scientists, soldiers and prisoners retreated to the prison ward where they held out for a siege, radioing for help and continuing a running dialogue of reports. The Russian army did arrive, but instead simply encircled the remote Siberian town and observed what was happening. Finally a one-megaton nuclear bomb was dropped on the town, obliterating it completely. Russia passed this off as simply one of its early nuclear tests, at first denying the town had ever existed and then stating that it had been evacuated and used to gauge the effectiveness of the blast.Only in 1992 with the onset of free press did some former KBG and Army officials begin to tell a story of some form of virus outbreak. The story finally came out when Russian mobster and former KGB Archivist Artion Zenoviev leaked a wealth of documents to the West to the tune of 643 pages, including the full radio transcripts, before and after aerial photographs, official army and air force reports, signed statements and laboratory data. Russia still maintains that the entire case is a hoax.
6) 1968 – Eastern Laos – American forces Vs Zombies.
During a psych-evaluation in a Military Hospital in Los Angeles of former US Special Forces sniper Peter Stavros – a Vietnam War veteran who had turned to substance abuse, an incredible story emerged. He had been, as he recalled, part of a team operating along the Vietnamese border tasked with eliminating a village across the border in Laos which was being used as a staging area for Communist forces. He reported that, upon approaching the village, he and his team witnessed the townsfolk under siege from several dozen people whom he described as ‘the walking dead.’ Quickly withdrawing, the US soldiers called in an air-strike which was delivered by two Skyraiders equipped with napalm bombs. Most of Stavros’ former team were later either killed or missing in action in the war, or had died of natural causes. Those few who remained refused to give evidence to corroborate the claim.
7) 1975 – Al-Marq – Egypt – Israeli special forces Vs Zombies.
In 1975 the small Egyptian village of Al-Marq suffered an outbreak of zombie-plague with the village quickly being overrun by flesh-eating creatures. Calls to the police went unheeded, even calls to outside police units from the overrun officers of the town, and even an appeal to the Egyptian 2nd Armoured Division, stationed only 35 miles away at Gabal Garib went unheeded. As fate had it, the radio commander at Gabal Garib was an Israeli agent of the famed ‘Mossad’ intelligence service who reported the incident back to his homeland. In Israel, the call was treated as a hoax – perhaps some Egyptian ploy to see, by a fantastic story, if their security had been breached. There it might have stayed had the information not been passed to Colonel Jacob Korsunsky, an American Jew in Israeli service and an aide to the then-president Golda Meir. Korsunsky persuaded Meir personally that zombies were in fact a real human plague and that if left unchecked they might quickly spread. By some miracle, he received the go-ahead to lead a small covert team into Egypt to investigate. It had been 14 days since the first report of the outbreak at Al-Marq when the Israeli special forces parachuted into the town and fought a twelve-hour battle to eliminate the threat. Of the town’s population there were only nine survivors who had barricaded themselves into the local mosque with barely and food or water. By now, the Egyptian 2nd Armoured Division and other units had closed in around the town and forced the Israelis to surrender where they were now to be executed. However the pleading survivors showed the Egyptians the zombie corpses and swore their own testimony, pleading for the soldiers’ lives and curiously, the Egyptians gave them safe passage home. This fantastic story was corroborated by several international journalists who interviewed the survivors, by nine sworn statements from Egyptian military personnel and Gassim Farouk – a former Egyptian Air-Force Intelligence Officer who later emigrated to the United States.
8) 1979 – Sperry – Alabama – US State Police Vs Zombies.
On a quiet day in Sperry, Alabama, mail-man Chuck Bernard was delivering the mail to the Henrichs Farm when he heard gunshots and screams fro inside the house. terrified, he drove ten miles to the nearest payphone and called the police. Two deputies arrived with a Paramedic team and found the Henrichs family slaughtered, save for one; Freda Henrichs, who seemed to be in a crazed state. The deputies called for backup and tried to restrain her and she bit both Paramedics resulting in a third deputy – just arrived, to panic and shoot her in the head. The two Paramedics were taken with a fit and were driven to the local hospital where they subsequently died, only to get off of the table during the autopsy, attack the coroner and his assistant and to run into the street. By nightfall, no less than 22 zombies were reported and 15 people eaten almost whole. The town panicked as residents armed themselves and barricaded themselves into their homes.A local arms enthusiast Harland Lee, now determined to free the town and, arming himself with an Uzi sub-machine gun, a double-barrelled shotgun and two .44 Magnums (one revolver, one automatic) he ventured into the street to combat the creatures. Lee was seen to run towards a group of twelve zombies, emptying his Uzi then his shotgun at close range into their bodies but causing no real damage. Backed up against a car, he was then seen to empty his two pistols into them before being attacked and overcome. By morning the state police had arrived, backed up by a number of deputies and armed locals. Armed with hunting rifles, the state police engaged the zombies with head shots and finally killed them all. The bodies were cleared away and ‘men in black’ quickly arrived to confiscate any footage or recordings from the locals and to quieten the press. The Department of Agriculture followed up with a statement explaining the cause as “Mass hysteria caused by accidental pesticide release in the local water table.” One hundred and seventy five lawsuits were issued by the townsfolk. Ninety two of these have been settled out of court by hefty payments. The rest – including some requesting the return of their property and media footage, are still outstanding to this day.
9) 1987 – Khotan – China – Chinese Army Vs Zombies.
In March 1987 Chinese dissident groups informed reporters in the West of a near disaster at the Xinjiang Nuclear Power Station in Khotan and after several months of questioning, the Chinese government had finally admitted what it termed a ‘malfunction’ at the site. The month following, they released a new story, stating that there had been “attempted acts of sabotage by counter-revolutionary terrorists” – however in August of that year, a Swedish magazine ‘Tycka!’published a story which had leaked from the USA that an American spy satellite had captured images of Chinese tanks and other armoured vehicles firing point blank into a great crowd of what looked like unarmed civilians and several images of these ‘unarmed civilians’ looking very much like they were feasting upon their victims. The US government threatened ‘Tycka!’ with a lawsuit, stating of course) that it had no such spy satellite, and the magazine retracted the story. Later, however, a Chines Professor Kwang Zhou reported that he had spoken to one of the soldiers involved in the incident. The soldier had confirmed the incident and told him that the Operation was codenamed “Eternal Walking Nightmare” and that all soldiers involved had afterwards been sent to a ‘re-education camp’. Zhou later surmised that China has captured some of the Japanese “Cherry Blossom” experiments and had begun its own investigations into an army of the undead.
10) 1996 – India / Pakistan border – Srinigar – Indian Army Vs Zombies.
In 1996 Indian soldiers along the ‘Line of Control’ – the border between India and Pakistan, Lieutenant Tagore of the Indian Security force noticed a man approaching his outpost. Here is his post-action report: “The subject approached at a slow stagger, as if ill or intoxicated. I could observe that he wore the full uniform of the Pakistan Rangers, odd since none were reported to be operating in this zone. At three hundred metres we ordered the subject to halt and identify himself. He would not comply. A second warning was given. Still no reply. He seemed to be moaning incoherently. At the sound of our calls his pace increased slightly. At two hundred metres he tripped the first mine, an American “Bouncing Betty.” We observed the subject receiving shrapnel wounds to his upper and lower torso. He stumbled, fell on his face, then regained his footing and continued forward. . . . I deduced he wore some type of body armour. . . . This action occurred again at one hundred and fifty metres. This time the shrapnel tore the subject’s jaw from his face. . . . At this range I could observe that the wound did not bleed. . . . The wind shifted in our direction. . . . We detected a putrid odour from the subject similar to decomposing meat. At one hundred metres I ordered Private Tilak (platoon sniper) to dispatch the subject. Tilak placed a direct shot through the subject’s forehead. The subject dropped immediately. He did not rise, nor make any further movement.” – The body was quickly taken for autopsy to the military hospital at Srinigar before being removed by the National Security Guard.
These ten cases raise some questions – yes there are hoaxes, of course, and conspiracy theories, but if I added in all of the civilian cases, and particularly in the USA, China and Siberia, there would be hundreds. So is there something in this? Why does the US Government spend millions of dollars on anti-zombie-apocalypse strategies? Even in the UK in December 2012 the British Government and Ministry of Defence announced that they do actually have an anti-zombie strategy in place. In the USA, a document dated April 30th 2011 and called CONOP8888 (sub-titled ‘counter-zombie dominance’)is a detailed plan ” to undertake military operations to preserve ‘non-zombie’ humans from the threats posed by a zombie horde … zombies pose a threat to all non-zombie human life, (Strategic Command) will be prepared to preserve the sanctity of human life and conduct operations in support of any human population — including traditional adversaries.”
So Romans, Carthaginians, American Civil War veterans and a whole host of others seem to tell us that they have fought against actual, real-life zombies, and our governments are actually spending lots of money on this. Is it a virus, perhaps something ancient and eradicated and brought back to life – which the excavations in Egypt seem to have confirmed? Sherpurs in Nepal have reported seeing ‘grey people in clothes from last century’ and a Canadian family hiking in the Swiss Alps in 2006 called police after a grey man with dead eyes shuffled towards them on a pass, ignoring a shower of rocks hurled at him. I hate zombies and zombie movies myself. I want to disbelieve this entirely. But sometimes being a historian is about asking those questions, regardless of the subject matter. It seems that there is something and that the stories all seem to be the same for hundreds, even thousands of years.
So next time a friend asks you that timeless question; “So what’s your anti zombie invasion plan?” – and most of us have actually considered one – just remember that it might not be that stupid a thought.
Your government doesn’t think so either 😉