“Carrots are divine… You get a dozen for a dime, It’s maaaa-gic!” – Bugs Bunny
In classic Bugs Bunny form, moms and dads, and even the British government have touted the advantages of eating carrots. Beta-carotene, the substance in carrots that helps to provide its orange color, does indeed have healthy benefits. The night seeing claims, however, are (unfortunately) inaccurate.
The urban legend of carrots generating super-human sight dates back to the British propaganda machine and an age-old intelligence tradecraft tactic of disinformation to deceive Nazi Germany.
Following Italian air force theorist, General Giulio Douhet’s model of bombing “vital centers,” rather than strategic infrastructure or wartime elements like factories and supply depots, the Germans focused bombing runs on civilian population centers. In the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force, carried out incessant nighttime bombing raids intended to break the will of the British populace.
Even under intense and logistical bombardment, the British Royal Air Force was not deterred and kept sending up fighter aircraft to intercept German bombers. RAF pilots were highly trained and skilled professionals, and eventually, with great success, were able to inflict great damage on the Luftwaffe.
The explanation for the almost sudden change in British dogfighting success was attributed to RAF pilots’ superior skill. While RAF pilots were experts at their craft, the explanation of suddenly overwhelming dogfighting skills mismatched the events taking place.
The RAF, in fact, had a tactical advantage which allowed RAF pilots to determine where inbound German aircraft were using a secrete defensive countermeasure – the Airborne Interception Radar.
This technological advancement was so sensitive that British Intelligence created a cover story to parlay German suspicion of a new radar system being deployed. In turn, British Intelligence decided to create a cover story and put out a disinformation campaign.
In one newspaper article, John “Cat’s Eyes” Cunningham, Royal Air Force Officer, cited his love of carrots as the reason he was able to be so successful against the Germans. In fact, Cunningham claimed that eating carrots allowed him to see at night. New stories started to appear about RAF pilots and their carrot eating habits. The disinformation campaign and heroics of carrot-eating RAF pilots worked so well that ordinary Brits began to gobble up carrots.
And thus the legacy of carrots and its superhuman imparting qualities began.
To read more about the role of carrots in WWII, please visit the World Carrot Museum: http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/history4.html.
*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the Lint Center Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Lint Center for National Security Studies, Inc. or any employee thereof. The Lint Center for National Security Studies, Inc. is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Lint Center Bloggers.
About the Authors:
Tim Coleman received his BA from Georgetown, MBA from Barry University, and Master of Public and International Affairs, Security and Intelligence Studies from the University of Pittsburgh, and serves as the Center’s Director of Communications.
Brittany Minder received her BA in International Relations from Stanford University and she serves as the Lint Center’s Public & External Affairs Associate.
- Photo Source: http://www.carrotmuseum.co.uk/dig4victory.html
- Snopes.com, Carrots, Accessed on April 3, 2012, http://www.snopes.com/food/ingredient/carrots.asp
- Wikipedia, John Cunningham, Accessed on April 3, 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cunningham_(RAF_officer)