In 1932, Australia Declared War On Emus—And Lost

The Great Emu War in Western Australia was a bizarre and futile effort.

Here is a sentence that is at once absurd yet unsurprising: in 1932, Australia declared war on emus.

This is not an early April Fool's joke; the above video shows the very real Great Emu War of Western Australia, in which soldiers with machine guns were deployed to fight off the flightless birds.

What did the emus do to deserve armed combat? Western Australian farmers had been facing hard times with their crops following the Great Depression, and their difficulties increased tenfold with the arrival of some 20,000 emus migrating inland during their breeding season. 

The farmers relayed their concerns to the government, which called upon a deputation of ex-soldiers from the first World War, who requested the use of machine guns to fight off the emus. 

The ensuing Emu War has been summarized thusly by ornithologist D.L. Serventy: 

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 the above clip, in which the human soldiers fire their Lewis guns with vigor, it was the emus that came out victorious in the Great Emu War of 1932. The birds remain plentiful in the areas outside of Perth to this day. 

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