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The Great Emu War
A Reading Comprehension Passage by Common Core Texts

In the history of military defeats, one of the most comically strange is the Australian Army’s defeat at the hands of a flock of emus in “The Great Emu War.” In 1932, a large number of emus began destroying the wheat fields of Western Australia. These heavy flightless birds consumed farmers’ crops and ruined their fencing. The situation became so bad that the Australian government was called in to help.

The government dispatched Major G.P.W. Meredith of the Seventh Heavy Battery, who arrived with two machine guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition. When the local farmers saw Major Meredith and his huge guns, they jokingly titled his campaign “The Great Emu War.”

At first, Major Meredith and his men approached the emus on foot. They tried to herd the emus into a group in order to make them an easier target, but the birds proved to be uncooperative prey. They scattered into small groups or ran away, and the men went home with only a few kills to show for their effort.

On the next day, the men tried a different approach. They mounted their machine gun onto a truck so that they could take the emus by surprise. But the crafty birds had a plan of their own. Each group of emus appeared to have a lookout: a tall bird that warned the rest of the group upon the military’s approach. Once again, Major Meredith’s men ended their day in defeat.

Eventually, the Seventh Heavy Battery admitted that they were no match for the emus. After two weeks of effort, they had failed to hunt down even a small fraction of the birds. Major Meredith later commented that if only the Australian military had a division of soldiers as resilient and crafty as the emus, they could face down any army in the world.


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