They called it Project Orcon. U.S. Forces faced an engineering dilemma: missiles could now travel about 160 miles, but it was pretty hard to target anything more specific than, say, a city because the missiles didn’t have guidance systems yet. Targeting was done by soldiers doing a lot of trigonometry and applying it to propulsion systems that varied quite a bit from one to another, at least by today’s standards. But B.F. Skinner–the father of behaviorism–thought “pigeons are smart and strangely calm, so what if we could train them to guide missiles?”

Here’s how it was supposed to work: inside the nose cone of the missile, there would be 3 tiny pigeon cockpits with small electronic screens in them. An image of the ground in front of the rocket would be projected onto the screens, and the pigeons–having been trained to recognize the pattern of the target–would peck the screen when they saw that pattern. If all 3 of them pecked, that would be a pretty good indicator of the missile being on course, and cables attached to the pigeons’ heads would guide the missile to the target. It didn’t work out in the end, but, well, it was something.