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   xoxoxoBruce  Saturday Jan 7 08:35 PM

Jan 8th, 2016: Parasheep

In 1938 the Italians changed the face of war forever.

Taking place between 1934 and 1936, the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, occurring in the Horn of Africa, ended in the creation of the relatively short-lived Italian colony of Italian East Africa. During the conflict, a large force of Italian soldiers were tasked with crossing the Danakil Desert located in what was then north-east Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia).

Largely considered one of the most unforgiving landscapes on Earth, the Danakil desert, or at least the 120 or so miles of it the Italian army were scheduled to cross, represented an impractical barrier using classic supply line methods. Realizing that every additional pound of equipment each man had to carry would increase the odds of dehydration or heat stroke under the glare of the harsh, oppressive sun, the decision was made for none of the soldiers in the Italian advance to carry a significant amount of food or water at all. Instead, it was agreed that a contingent of 25 specially chartered planes would support the advance from the air, dropping necessary supplies at set points. These supplies consisted of water, cooking materials that could be discarded or left behind after each use (more would be dropped ( later), and, most unusual of all, live sheep.

Exactly why the decision was made to drop live sheep, instead of packaged and pre-prepared meat rations, isn’t entirely clear, with some opining that fickle Italian ground troops refused to eat the standard-issue rations they were given, prompting the military to instead send them live animals to slaughter and eat fresh. It has also been speculated that the military wanted to keep morale as high as possible by supplying troops with fresh meat while also using it as an excuse to test the effectiveness of experimental parachutes (a technology that was still in its infancy at this point) carrying live subjects.

In total it’s reported that by the time the Italian advance had cleared the perilous desert some 72 sheep and 2 live bulls were airdropped for the hungry troops waiting on the ground. While the animals were intended for slaughter, footage of the airdrops (yes, there’s footage) shows that the sheep, or at least the ones shown, survived their fall with no apparent injuries and were quickly herded together by the soldiers.
This proved air supply was feasible and became common for smaller forces.


sexobon  Saturday Jan 7 08:43 PM

Just the other day I was wondering when you were going to introduce Mutton from Heaven to IOTD.

xoxoxoBruce  Saturday Jan 7 08:48 PM

I don't remember that, my bad.

sexobon  Saturday Jan 7 08:56 PM

That's the reason I went to become a qualified French military parachutist and wearing French wings on my uniform. Too many sheep walking around with an Italian military parachutist badge.

Snakeadelic  Sunday Jan 8 09:02 AM

"Grandpa, what did you do during the war?"

"I had a very important and difficult job. Air support for the supply lines in Ethiopia."

(Wife, from the kitchen)"You threw sheep out of an airplane, dear. Don't forget to tell him that part."

"You...threw sheep...out of an airplane?"

Grumble grumble "picky damn enlisteds..." grumble..."Don't look at me like that, kid--you got any idea how hard it is to get a sheep into a parachute harness?"

Diaphone Jim  Sunday Jan 8 12:30 PM

Did they drop some Sangiovese grapes so that they could have a nice Chianti with their sheep livers?
Oh, and fava beans.

sexobon  Sunday Jan 8 07:48 PM

Ground troops had difficulty keeping track of the sheep. They knew how many were going to be pushed out of the aircraft; but, when they tried to maintain accountability of those sheep in the air, the soldiers kept falling asleep.

Griff  Monday Jan 9 07:03 AM

I've come to expect better sir.

Gravdigr  Monday Jan 9 04:38 PM

To Mr. Sex O. Bon:

Sir, I applaud your audacity in relating that joke.

Now go stand in the corner.

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