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Military Device Disguised as Dog Poop

Everybody left these transmitters alone
By Karen B. London PhD, January 2015, Updated June 2021

Over the winter break, my family visited the Washington D.C. area, and like my children, I find myself writing the “What I Did During My Vacation” essay. At the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the great displays include the Space Shuttle Discovery, the Enola Gay, a Concorde airliner, and the 1903 Wright Flyer that was the first plane ever to take flight. Despite these historical marvels, the item I remember most from our hours in the museum was much smaller and far less impressive in appearance.

I’m referring to a military transmitter that was used successfully during the Vietnam War to help soldiers in need of rescue, to help pilots determine where to deliver military strikes and to monitor activity along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This homing device is officially known as the T-1151 Radio Transmitter, but was more commonly called the Doo Radio Transmitter. Many of them looked like dog feces, although others resembled feces from animals that were native to the area such as monkeys.

The genius of this piece of military equipment is that because it was disguised as feces, nobody was likely to mess with it. It could be put in place even weeks before a mission and remain undisturbed. They lasted as long as the battery power allowed, with discovery being an unlikely reason for them to cease being operational.

I never knew dog poop served such an important function—making the camouflage of military equipment possible.

Photo courtesy of the author

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life