- During World War II, spies needed a compact, disguised explosive to issue to resistance forces in occupied Europe.
- One solution was “explosive coal,” which could be infiltrated into enemy coal supplies.
- A similar program in Vietnam introduced defective, exploding bullets into enemy ammunition.
In 1940, as Hitler’s armies consolidated their hold on Europe, Britain’s spymasters charged with keeping the resistance alive came up with a novel concept. The result was “explosive coal,” an explosive charge that appeared to be an innocuous piece of coal. The explosive charge would wreck the boilers of a factory or a ship, causing severe damage. A similar project undertaken during the Vietnam War seeded exploding ammo among Viet Cong guerillas.
In 1940 UK’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) began looking at ways to sabotage German forces in occupied Europe. Tasked by Prime Minister Winston Churchill to “set Europe ablaze,” SOE smuggled weapons, explosives, and agents into occupied Europe to assist resistance forces fighting back against their German occupiers.