During the Battle of Britain, a battle in which the German Luftwaffe (air force) expected to simply sweep the RAF (Royal Air Force) out of the skies, the Germans were baffled as to how the British were able to put up such a staunch defense. What was most confusing of all was that the British seemed to know where all their attack were coming from. British pilots were even able to intercept and shoot down German bombers in the pitch black of night.
What the Germans didn’t know was that the British had an ace up their sleeve. British radar technology had advanced to the point that British fighter pilots could find and shoot down enemy bombers directed by an onboard radar interception unit. Knowledge of Britain’s radar technology was top secret, and the Brits certainly didn’t want the Germans to find out. The British War Ministry quickly cooked up a cartoonish and bizarre cover story for their success.
The Ministry single out a successful pilot named John Cunningham for a unique propaganda campaign. John Cunningham, nicknamed “Cat Eyes” had shot down 19 German bombers at night using the new onboard radar system. Cunningham was also a man loved to eat carrots, sometimes eating dozens at a time in one sitting. Thus the British War Ministry cooked up an ridiculous carrot of their own; the reason for the RAF’s night fighting success was because British pilots ate carrots. Chalk full of Vitamin A, the carrots gave British pilots almost superhuman night vision. To cement their story, a propaganda campaign was started to convince the British people that carrots were good for eyesight. They printed posters claiming carrots gave people nightvision, necessary for survival in blackouts and bombing raids. They advertised on the radio, they printed leaflets, they even introduced a special carrot pop for children.
While today scientific studies prove that carrots, at best, might improve vision a little bit, the propaganda campaign was certainly pumping out a steady stream of over-exaggerated BS. However, the British public certainly bought it. More importantly to some degree the Germans bought it as well. While it is unknown if German High Command accepted the “carrot theory”, there are recorded instanced of German Luftwaffe pilots eating an excess of carrots to improve their vision.
After the Battle of Britain the carrot campaign continued to the point that even other Allied Powers were printing their own carrot propaganda. Today the myth is still alive and well, and millions of children around the world are forced to eat their carrots due to World War II propaganda.