The Great Emu War of 1932
That one time the Australian Army faced off against a pack of wild Emus… and lost.
“If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world… They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks.” – The Sun Herald (1953)
So yeah, that happened.
The Australian Outback is a wild place fraught with hundreds of marsupials and various venomous creatures, most of which seem to be specifically engineered to kill humans. But only one particular species was formidable enough to take on the Australian army:
Yes, as in the Ostrich-like flightless bird.
I kid you not… %$#& Emus.
Australia, 1932 – Following the First World War, many Australian veterans took up farming wheat on the west coast. When the Great Depression struck, they were hit the hardest. To make matters worse, the Australian government wasn’t holding up their end of the bargain and skimping on their promised subsidies.
That’s when the first attack came: a formidable wave of 20,000 (!) Emus migrating to the sea, swarmed the farmlands and decimated their crops. They destroyed fences, ran amok and ate everything in sight.
These hardened WWI vets were hopelessly outnumbered and no match for the rampant stampeding Emus. The government quickly reclassified the protected species as ‘vermin’ and even put a bounty on their feathered heads to no avail! They needed backup.
The Minister of Agriculture was flabbergasted, so the Minister of Defense stepped in to take care of the rampant Emu problem. Re-dubbed the ‘Minister of the Emu War’, Sir George Pearce ordered the Australian army in to take out those pesky birds.
Major G.P.W. Meredith of the Seventh Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery led a pair of troops armed with Lewis machine guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition into battle against their fearsome foe: the dreaded Emu.
On November 2nd, they spotted a group of 50 emus but were out of range. With the help of local settlers, they attempted to heard the emus into an ambush, but the birds split off into two formations and outmaneuvered their flank. Then, on November 4th, the soldiers engaged the enemy (i.e. flightless birds) and managed to mow down 12 emus before their gun jammed giving the birds an opportunity to flee. The Major devised a plan to mount one of the guns to the back of a truck, but the cunning emu forces outran them on the rocky terrain.
Again and again, the emus seemed to out think them!
“The machine-gunners’ dreams of point blank fire into serried masses of Emus were soon dissipated. The Emu command had evidently ordered guerrilla tactics, and its unwieldy army soon split up into innumerable small units that made use of the military equipment uneconomic. A crestfallen field force therefore withdrew from the combat area after about a month.”
Despite not sustaining any casualties, the Australian troops retreated with very little to show for it.
The emus continued their assault on the veteran farmlands, like over-sized locusts. Wave after wave, in greater numbers than before. So once again the military launched a campaign in a desperate attempt to cull their numbers. Although they had greater success the second time around, the operation barely manage to dent the onslaught of emus.
These badass birds would not go down without a fight. One particularly hearty Emu took five bullets without slowing down! The report claimed 986 kills with 9,860 rounds, at a rate of exactly 10 rounds per confirmed kill… Think about that for a second: 10 bullets for every dead emu. For the record, that’s not very effective.
Farmers again called for help in 1934, 1943 and 1948, but this time the Army conceded defeat.
You win this round, Emus…