The Great Depression was the largest economic recession in the history of the word, and every nation on the planet felt its effects. Farmers were among those most affected by the financial swing, but in Australia, a different battle was being fought in the fields.
The land Down Under
In 1932, Australian soldiers returning from WWI were given land by their government to take up farming. When the depression hit, the farmers were encouraged by the Australian authorities to increase their wheat production, which they could sell back to the government in exchange for subsidies.
Farmers were already struggling around the time of the harvest as the promised subsidies were nowhere to be seen, but their troubles were only beginning. 20,000 migrating emus stormed the fields and trampled the farmers’ crops. The wet and fertile fields attracted the birds, who decided to stay and enjoy the harvest leftovers, causing massive property damage.
A call to arms
The farmers, nearly all veterans of the Great War, requested munitions from the Australian government, who obliged, sending machine guns and troop transports to the western frontier. Troops were also deployed under the stipulation that they, not the farmers, would be the ones using the weapons, and the farmers would provide food, shelter, and cover the cost of ammunition.
A cinematographer was also sent to the war zone to record the events. Officials argued that, while the troops would be there to help the farmers, the emu would also make good target practice to keep the soldiers sharp.
Several attacks were waged individually on the emus, killing only about a dozen at a time. The military attempted to divide and conquer, but the birds were quick to strategize, breaking into smaller groups, each with a leader as a designated lookout. In spite of trained military intervention, the birds managed to outsmart and evade the soldiers for several days in a row, continuing their tactics until the government decided to withdraw their forces.
By the end of the attacks, a total of about 3,000 emus had been dealt with, and the farmers were left on their own to find a new solution to their bird problem. For the next decade, the farmers requested further military reinforcement but were declined each time. Eventually, the farmers learned to build better fences to keep the devious fowl out of their fields.