I was glancing through the news this morning and came across an article that caught my eye. It was in regards to the recent tornado that ripped through Oklahoma killing at least 24 people, 9 of them children. Besides the toll taken in human life, the area is devastated with homes, schools, hospitals and businesses virtually wiped off the map.
Leave it to nut job and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to speculate that the government might have used a “weather weapon” to create the carnage that just occurred. He went on and stated that it’s pretty much a given the government “can create and steer groups of tornadoes” if it felt like it.
At least it got me to thinking and wondering if the United States has ever tried to manipulate the weather during war and lo and behold, it seems we have.
”Make mud, not war.”
The year is 1967 and the United States is mired in the Vietnam War. The North Vietnamese had been using the Ho Chi Minh Trail as a pipeline to resupply the NVA and Viet Cong with food, weapons and all of the other niceties that go along with conducting a war. It was thought the if we could increase the rainfall during the monsoon season, we could at least cut off or slowdown the traffic on the trail by softening the road surfaces, cause landslides and wash out many of the river crossings.
Enter Operation Popeye.
Long as I remember
The rain been comin' down.
Clouds of myst'ry pourin'
Confusion on the ground.
The goal of the plan was to extend the monsoon season for an additional 30 to 45 days via cloud seeding in Laos. Even though we weren’t technically at war with the Laotians and didn’t bother to inform their leaders of our intentions, it was thought that the country was just a haven for the North Vietnamese and their sympathizers and that was reason enough to go ahead with the plan.
The first tests began in 1966 were wildly successful. Fifty cloud seeding missions were authorized and it’s estimated that 82% of the clouds that were seeded with silver iodide produced additional rain. Some accounts claim that one of the clouds found its way over the border to Vietnam and parked itself right above a US special forces camp dumping nine inches of rain on them in a four hour period.
Starting in March of 1967 and lasting through November of each year through 1972 cloud seeding missions went into effect. The aircraft were purportedly doing “weather reconnaissance” but instead were dumping tons of silver iodide into the clouds. By most accounts, the operation was considered moderately successful since traffic on the trail was noticeably slowed or otherwise impaired.
Good men through the ages,
Tryin' to find the sun;
And I wonder, still I wonder,
Who'll stop the rain?
As with any good undercover or otherwise covert operation, the details of Operation Popeye were never made available to the general public. A reporter for the New York Times by the name of Jack Anderson broke the story when he came across a brief mention of the operation in the Pentagon Papers and decided to do a little digging. He went public with his findings in an article in the newspaper on July 3, 1972.
On July 5, 1972, Operation Popeye came to an abrupt halt.
Of course Congress had to get into the act and before you knew it, resolutions were passed in the House and the Senate recommending banning the use of environmental warfare.
Apparently they were successful because to date 76 countries have ratified a treaty called the Environmental Modification Convention which forbids tinkering with the weather for military purposes.
Lyrics come courtesy of John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival fame and their fine song called “Who’ll Stop The Rain".