Absurd WWII Plot “Operation Fantasia” Included Glowing Foxes

The saying “all is fair in love and war” comes to mind when you hear some of the outlandish ideas floated around for beating the enemy — whomever that may be. Going into great detail on the number of them bandied about throughout history would take reams of pages. But one idea that was actually given serious consideration during World War II concerned glowing foxes for the purpose of terrorizing the Japanese.

Office of Strategic Services

The OSS was the intelligence agency of the United States during World War II. Led by William Donovan, aka Wild Bill, the group was tasked with trying to come up with effective strategies for throwing our enemies off their game and ultimately defeating them. One idea included painting foxes with glow-in-the-dark paint containing radium supplied by the United States Radium Corporation. Used for painting watch dials, apparently, the logic was, “so, why not foxes?” But why?

Photo: Pixabay/peaksignal


At some point, the OSS brought on a man by the name of Ed Salinger, who would be their psychological warfare strategist. Salinger was a bit of an oddball who’d run an import/export business in Tokyo prior to the war. In 1943, he pitched Operation Fantasia as a tool for destroying morale using a Shinto harbinger of doom. The one he had in mind was the kitsune, a fox-shaped spirit with magical powers. The thought process behind it is too convoluted to even contemplate, but the plan was toyed with for a period of time.

30 Glowing Foxes

After covering a raccoon with radium paint at the Central Park Zoo to see if it would stick, the Einsteins at the OSS decided to paint 30 foxes and release them into Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park late one evening in 1945 to measure the response of locals. When it was determined they were sufficiently freaked out, the OSS decided to move forward with their plans. But how to get them to Japan? Airlifting them wasn’t an option, but could the creatures swim in? And if so, would the paint wash off?

Photo: Pixabay/ArtTower

Chesapeake Bay

Using an early morning fog to their advantage, OSS personnel took a group of foxes aboard a small boat out to the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. Shockingly, one by one the frightened animals were tossed overboard to see if they could or would swim to shore. Much to the team’s delight, they made it ashore, but of course, most of the paint had washed off by then. To make matters worse, within minutes of their arrival, the drenched foxes licked what was left of the paint off.


Fortunately, the plan was never put into action, and the war would soon end. It’s questionable whether the military would be able to get away with that now. On August 21, 1980, animal rights advocates Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco would found People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Known predominantly as PETA these days, they’ve helped put an end to a lot of that nonsense by raising awareness among the public, who no longer tolerate the unethical treatment of animals. On the other hand, never underestimate the lunacy of the powers that be…

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