World War II Propaganda Pushed Myth That Carrots Improve Night Vision

World War II Propaganda Pushed Myth That Carrots Improve Night Vision

Carrots, by virtue of their heavy dose of Vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene), truly are good for your eye health. But the truth has been stretched into a myth that carrots can improve your night-time vision, Smithsonian Magazine reports.

John Stolarczyk, curator of the World Carrot Museum,found out how the myth became so popular: British propaganda from World War II.

In 1940 the Luftwaffe often struck under the cover of darkness.T o make it harder for the German planes to hit targets, the British government issued citywide blackouts. The Royal Air Force was able to repel the German fighters partly because of  a new, secret radar technology. The on-board Airborne Interception Radar (AI), first used by the RAF in 1939,could pinpoint enemy bombers before they reached the English Channel. But to keep that secret, according to Stolarczyk’s research, the British government provided another reason for their success: carrots.

In 1940, RAF night fighter ace, John Cunningham, nicknamed “Cat’s Eyes”, was the first to shoot down an enemy plane using AI and racked up 20 kills, 19 of which were at night. The Ministry of Information told newspapers that the reason for the RAF’s success was because pilots like Cunningham ate a lot of carrots. 

“I have no evidence they fell for it, other than that the use of carrots to help with eye health was well ingrained in the German psyche. It was believed that they had to fall for some of it,” Stolarczyk wrote as he reviewed Ministry files for his upcoming book, tentatively titled How Carrots Helped Win World War II. “There are apocryphal tales that the Germans started feeding their own pilots carrots, as they thought there was some truth in it.”

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