Weapons of war can take many forms familiar to all. We have guns, knives, cannons, tanks, bombs, bomber planes, and chemical weapons. The list goes on and on, and they are tons. There is only one purpose: To kill or incapacitate the enemy. Those all proved to be effective, but have you experienced being in an enclosed room, and somebody ripped a fart? The reaction is akin to someone dropping a live grenade at your feet. That smell can clear a room to incredulous questions, “Did you just fart?” usually answered by, “Who, me?” Perhaps that was the inspiration of the Office of Strategic Services (now called CIA) and the other nations when they decided to include stinking oders as weapons against the enemy
During World War II, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) wanted someone to create the stinkiest smell in the world for them. Entered Ernest Crocker, a chemical engineer, and was one of the pioneers of the budding flavor science. He was tasked to do that job, and so he accepted it. Here’s the idea: The OSS wanted a stink bomb that they could distribute to French resistance troops so they could make their target Germans “a source of derision or contempt.”
The researchers immediately went to action and formulated some formulas of abomination that contained smells that could knock down an elephant. This would be used to disperse crowds, alarm the targets and even contaminate enemy supplies.
The project began in 1944 and was called “Who, me?” After seven months of continuous research, Crocker was able to come up with his first formula— a mixture of skatole, amyl mercaptan, butyric, valeric, and caproic acids. It smelled like “vomit, rotten eggs, rancid butter, excrement, foot odor, and urine.” He then designed a second formula for the Japanese, customizing the stinky weapon based on the Japanese’s costumes and odors. This time, he used the alpha ionone in place of the skatole, and the result was a smell that resembles that of a rotting body.” As written in an article published by Science Daily,
According to the article’s author, senior editor Maureen Rouhi, Ph.D. Tests show the putrid odors “are potent in making people want to flee in disgust,” notes the article. The odors also cause shallow breathing, increased heart rate and can lead to nausea, it adds.
Everything was smelling good, as far as OSS and Crocker’s success was concerned, until they had to test these “Who, me?” and determined that the stench would stick to whoever tried to employ and the stink was very hard to get rid of.
During this period, British intelligence conducted a lot of studies on the aromatic composition of excrement to create this Stench Liquid or simply S-Liquid. They wanted to use the smell as psychological warfare, at the same time a non-lethal weapon. The final S-Liquid result was a concoction of skatole, an organic compound belonging to the indole family. The unknown compound was similar to those found naturally in the feces of birds and mammals and was also the main contributor to the pungent smell. Intrigued by what it might be.
The Israeli government also wanted to try using bad smells. Their idea was to use what was called “skunk water” to keep demonstrators in the West Bank at bay, and if you’ve been sprayed by a skunk, you’ll understand why. They didn’t have the same problem with “Who, me?” because they used vehicles with water cannons to spread the mixture to the targets. The company that collaborated with the Technological Development Department of the Israel Police to create “skunk water” was called Odortec. According to their website:
Although classified as “non-lethal”, Skunk can cause considerable harm. The Skunk mist, which is fired from a water cannon, is usually yellow and leaves a stench of sewage in the mouths, hair and clothes of the sprayed people – a stench very difficult to remove.