Controlled demolition of unexploded WWII bomb in Munich

During WWII the allies dropped millions upon millions of tons of explosives upon Germany, to halt German war production. Its not infrequent for German authorities to remove, destroy or incapacitate old ordnance. This bomb was found in Munich's lovely Schwabing neighborhood and could not be defused. It was decided to explode the bomb in place rather than risk an uncontrolled detonation.

Thanks Zac!


    1. It only looks impressive because the explosion was carried out at night. 

      And because there wasn’t any dense fog.

      1. No, it was impressive alright. It took out a way bigger area than was expected and fire crews had to put out a lot of surrounding buildings. 
        Must have been some bad memories and restless sleep in the old folks homes that night.

  1. I’m not sure if you want to characterize Allied goals as involving simply halting German war production.  No doubt civilian morale had a lot to do with it, also the Germans don’t appear to me to be the only ones who were waging a “war of annihilation.”

    1. If you were British and doing a bombing run at night it wasn’t to keep you hidden, as much as it was to keep you from knowing that the target was civilian.

      Americans of-course didn’t do that. They flew in day and night to fire bomb civilians.

      1. Garbage history. The Avro Lancaster was primary a night bomber because it didn’t have the gun emplacements (only 3 gun positions) to protect itself against enemy fighters as well as the B-17, which was primarily a day bomber. (8 gun positions). The big civilian firebombings were a joint effort: British at night, followed by Americans during the day. And because the Lancasters had a heavier payload, a larger amount of ordinance tended to be dropped by the British.

      2. A bit more in perspective:
        The Germans had obliterated Exeter before that, also using incendiary bombs. In response the British did bomb inner cities later, when they could. This is as much “demoralizing” as it was revenge, but you can’t really blame them for being angry, can you? This wasn’t just two buildings, it was the whole effing inner city.
        The US forces were much less focused on civilian targets but more industrial ones. They also had better (and more) planes afaik, so they took the more dangerous daytime missions.
        Little known fact: Although at the end of the war much of the German economy was indeed in ruins there were still more factories working than in the 1920’s. So while some places were hit really badly (really really badly!) overall there was still a lot left.

        I don’t approve of the British strategy but after what Germany had been doing in the years before, I can’t start pointing blame in any direction. I think any politician who had said “oh come on, let’s try and not kill more of our mortal enemies than we absolutely need to” wouldn’t have found many supporters at the time. Which I also don’t approve of, but there have been wars with much much weaker justification and a worse collateral damage balance in more recent history, and I will gladly go into a rage about those at any time.

        I hope a few people learn from this whole thing that a war isn’t over when you declare it over. There will still be minefields, unexploded bombs, radioactive ammunition and old grudges (and stupid jokes, and the pointing of blame, and distorted accounts of history), for centuries or longer. Please don’t do it.

        On the positive side: The German unexploded bombs disposal* service is so well-equipped, trained and practiced that they have developed many techniques, devices and trained people who are now used in many other countries to clear minefields and the like. 


        *insert Monty python joke here

        1. Exeter wasn’t quite obliterated (it takes a nuke or a firestorm, really) but it was pretty damn messed up.  The Beiderbecke Raids serve as the prototype for “OMG Google Earth terrorists!” paranioa today. 

          War makes everyone do bad things.  That’s part of why it’s so bad.  That and all the blowing up and killing and the powdered eggs.

        2. Agree. “to halt German war production” didn’t work. War production was higher near the end of the war than at the beginning, based on what i’ve read but can’t find to cite at the moment. USA industrial production was much larger than German or Japan, and pretty much determined the outcome.

          It didn’t help that Hitler had the womenfolk staying home with the kids while my grandmother was busy riveting airplanes.

          – arbitraryaardvark

        3.  The 500 year old Krupp armament factories were hit repeatedly by the Allies, yet it really didn’t slow them down all that much. [see: Manchester, ‘The Arms of Krupp’]

        4. If the Allies had put all those resources into fighters that could control the air, they could controlled the skies, and skipped the saturation bombing.  With total fighter superiority, they could have concentrated on strafing and dive bombing strategic targets to much greater effect as well as close air support. 

          Air superiority definitely works, saturation bombing doesn’t.

          Th Germans never really developed a heavy bomber but they were very close to creating practical jet fighters in useful numbers. 

      3. The British bombed at night, and really didn’t aim at all (in theory they had a specific target in a city, but they knew full well they were bombing at random). The Americans bombed with an attempt at precision in the daytime. The German civilians could tell the difference, and it really affected how they treated airmen when captured.  

        At best, the bombing campaigns were ill considered, and a huge waste of human life (if nothing else, they way they were done was a pointless waste of the air crews lives, even if you believe that the raids were worth it).

        Now, Americans did drop fire night and day on the Japanese.

      4. If you were British and doing a bombing run at night it wasn’t to keep you hidden, as much as it was to keep you from knowing that the target was civilian.

        Americans of-course didn’t do that. They flew in day and night to fire bomb civilians.

        What a ridiculous comment. British pilots didn’t know what they were bombing because it was dark?  They didn’t know if a target was industrial or not? Do you think, in the middle of WW2, after weathering the Battle of Britain, any British bomber would’ve cared what the designation of his target was? Go read a book. Or read @Aurvondel’s comment. Anyway, good troll.

        1. way to prove the point.

          Though I really don’t think that soldiers British or otherwise were as willing to wholesale slaughter civilians as you suggest.
          At least not as much as those giving the orders.

          1.  I’m not so sure — remember, the common belief both then and for a *long* time afterward was that Germans in general were evil barbarians by nature.  It didn’t help that there was already left-over prejudice among the British from WWI**, so that by the time Britain was making airstrikes on Germany, the soldiers probably regarded it as the equivalent of killing rabid dogs.

            **something I didn’t understand deep down until I saw the play form of “War Horse” the other night in San Francisco — most of it is on the battlefield, and left very disturbing images/scenes in my mind that I could do without.

    2.  Fun fact – we didn’t have smart bombs like we do today. Bombing was sloppy and effective only because of the shear amount dropped.

      1. Not so fast. Many of the bombs dropped were area-of-effect weapons, while still more were incendiary weapons. It’s comforting to sip the Norden bombsight Kool-Aid, but attacking population centeres was part of the strategy. The most cursory look into WW2 strategic bombing will reveal that this is true.

    3. People hating on the parent comment would do well to read up on the doctrine of total war. It is about destroying production capacity as well as the will to sustain the war. Sherman’s march wasn’t just about tearing up rails and burning crops because those serve the war effort; it was also about hunger and demoralization.

        1. That you could.

          All sides committ atrocities. One of the reasons why war is so bad. 

          Just look at…..well, any war.

        2.  I remember seeing an interview with an old army airforce general who gave the orders during WWII his answer was, ‘ is is it worse than stabbing a young man who was drafted in the belly with a bayonet? Really?”

          1. My answer would be yes, of course. Pushing a button that burns hundreds alive and starves thousands is, for me worse, than cutting open one person’s gut. But, then again, I didn’t give any orders, so it’s easy for me to say.

          2.  @boingboing-735aaef1db861376025f836b1828f6b7:disqus  Dying of a bayonet/knife to the abdomen might be worse, depending on which part of the belly it hit — if it wasn’t somewhere that caused severe hemorrhaging, the victim could be left intensely suffering for hours before dying.  (I’ve had the kind of infection that would’ve killed them, and it blends the sharpness of a deep knife wound with very intense burning, but magnified to a severity on par with or worse than childbirth.)

    4. This is history. It is undeniable fact that the Allies performed bombings which had no actual military benefit. In one example, the firebombing of Dresden which very nearly killed Kurt Vonnegut and was the incitement for his later novel “Slaughterhouse Five”. 

      Some of these bombings, according to historical data, were performed for the truly horrifying purpose of continuing to use up a quota of bombs until the war was finished.

      Yes, the Nazis were worse. But that doesn’t make the Allies actions good. If we’re going to pay real attention to reality, we have to take the bad with the good.

      1. That is simply not true. Dresdeners were early and enthusiastic supporters of the Nazis. They persecuted their resident Jews with gusto. Furthermore, the city was a rail and manufacturing center that was vitally  important to the war effort. The historian that was source of this story was revealed to be a Neo-Nazi in an English slander trial.

        1. You might claim a certain justice/karma being at play here, which is fine, but the allied war effort had nothing/zero to do with stopping the Nazis from killing Jews.

          Also Munich was the capital of the Nazi movement not Dresden.

        2. Even if half of Dresden could be proven uncontestably to have been maniacal murdering savages, that doesn’t condone bombing the other half.

          War has a way of getting people to make massive sweeping generalisations. “Dredeners” is a big group of people, with countless degrees of involvement in the war effort. Some were soldiers, some were industrial workers supporting the war, some were politicians trying to sway the public in favor of continued warfare.

          But some were children. Some were elderly or crippled. Most were just ordinary citizens trying to keep their heads down. Few were directly involved in the war, few made the decisions which resulted in German war crimes, few were guilty. But for the sake of annihilating a few bad apples, the entire barrel was destroyed. For the sake of undermining the cruel or misled, an entire city was charred alive.

          I feel no one has the right to make a judgement on war until they’ve watched an innocent person die a horrific, tortuous, undeserved death.

          Likewise, what a peaceful world we would know if no one had the right to declare war unless they offered up their own lives as the first to be lost.

        3. Lots of children, old folk and young women in Dresden who had *zero* say on these matters. 

          Implying that they somehow deserved it is simply wrong.   It may be unavoidable – that’s why war is commonly called “horrible” – but it’s the same kind of rationalization that blames parents whose children get shot during a midnight cinema visit.

        4.  I stand by what I wrote. It is not true that the bombing of Dresden had no military benefit. It is true that the city of Dresden as a whole was not an innocent bystander to the war. Area bombing is morally suspect at best, but in the context of the war at that time, doing whatever you could do to end the war as quickly as possible was the right thing to do.

          1.  It’s *not* accurate to say that the “city…as a whole” was non-innocent.  There would have been countless kids and animals that wouldn’t have understood was going on, plus people that didn’t agree with what the Nazis were doing (especially those that lost loved ones that were sent to the concentration camps for having a disability or being gay) but knew that anybody that dared speak out was being killed or sent to a concentration camp.

      2. Hard to believe that it was only about using up stockpiles. After all, in this specific case the bomb was a booby trapped one as well, designed to go off days after it had been dropped, or if anyone tried to defuse it. The whole purpose of the bomb was to kill cleanup crews and eventually scare people away from the rubble.

        That the Allies did such horrific things then should lend some weight to arguments against doing those things now. “Yes, they did that and so did we, so we know both as victim and as perpetrator that these things don’t help you win.”

  2. I can’t imagine hundreds of those things going off, all more or less at the same time. What a hell to (try to) live through.

    Would be nice if this video is the closest anyone ever has to get to that sort of thing ever again, but that’s probably a bit naive. 

    1.  It isn’t naive to wish for war machines to go unused. If anything, it’s remarkable that so many of us have the capacity to prefer peace over conquest at such an early point in our species’ existence. Just think how far we’ll advance in another quarter-million years.

    2. Actually, the blast was a lot stronger than expected, and the two people who triggered the detonation were missing afterwards for 15 minutes. Several of the surrounding houses caught fire and a lot of windows were destroyed.
      Ususally they try to direct the blast straight upwards by building a funnel out of sand, but, well, the blast was stronger than expected.

      The fires were under control within an hour, though, and noone got hurt.

      We’ve had three bombs found in my (much smaller) town in the last few years, but usually if the detonate them, it’s not quite as spectacular.
      I think the frequency of this, even almost 70 years later, should remind people of what a stupid idea war generally is, but I’m afraid the effect is lessened over time.

      1. It’s easier to cheer when the war is long ended and the once bitter enemies are now staunch friends.

        Don’t begrudge those who live in peace today their safety and security. Let the old ghosts fade away. The pain of past crimes should eventually be forgotten. It can serve as a reminder at times, but no sadness should be carried forever.

      2. It’s easier to cheer when the war is long ended and the once bitter enemies are now staunch friends.

        Don’t begrudge those who live in peace today their safety and security. Let the old ghosts fade away. The pain of past crimes should eventually be forgotten. It can serve as a reminder at times, but no sadness should be carried forever.

  3. i want to hear more about this.  who found the bomb and where?  assuming it wasn’t just sitting in someone’s back platz for the last  70 years.  is there a link?

          1. Holy carp!  Only so much you can do to control a blast that big in such a densely populated area.  What they need to do is create some sort of WWII bomb disposal dome that is lined with the reactive explosive armor to try and counter the blast to direct it more into the ground immediately around the bomb.  Then you build the big wooden frame around that dome and stuff it with straw, pillows, mattresses, and teddy bears to lessen the shock wave even more. 

      1. so they built a wooden formwork around the thing, stuffed it with straw to lessen the shrapnel.    here’s what happened:  flaming wooden and straw shrapnel set neighboring buildings on fire.

    1. Surprisingly common to find during renovations or construction work.

      I lived in Cologne for a year some time ago.  I remember one day a digital display that normally told you the #3 streetcar would be there in 6 minutes, saying the service was indefinitely interrupted to allow for bomb defusing.  I walked home, where my host family had heard on the radio that some water mains maintenance or something had turned up a huge bomb buried right next to a pillar of the bridge that the trains crossed.

      As far as I could tell, I was the only person the least bit astonished by this.

      1. It is relatively common in my hometown in Italy too, which was bombed just once (or twice) during WWII: sometime they find a bomb lying there, but normally they don’t explode them in the middle of the town, they take them somewhere else and then have fun.

        And defusing them is sooo boring…

        1. more incredibly dangerous then boring.

          it’s not like you’re cutting the red wire here, it’s an old mechanism that you need to Jam up with salt water and hope it doesn’t blow you the smeg up before the clock runs out.

          Heck, I bet coughing at it too hard will set it off.

          1. There was a fellow a year or so ago who was killed by an old US Civil War shell he had dug up and had brought back to his garage.

            They still find old munitions around decommissioned US military bases.  I even found old AA rounds while hiking around Silver Mtn ski resort in WA once.  I think they used the area for training in WWII.

          2. You don’t say :-) 

            I really believed there was a sweaty guy with a pair of scissors trying to guess which wire to cut. The blue or the red?

            Just kidding, of course it isn’t. 

      2. In Playa del Rey, CA (a beach community of Los Angeles), construction on new condos (Playa Vista) was taking place when workers found a live WWII bomb. Several blocks were evacuated. Apparently during the time of the war, there was an air force training base there.

  4. [marvin the martian voice] Where’s the earth-shattering kaboom? I was expecting an…

    Oh, there it is.  [/mmv]

  5. That was an awesome explosion. (Awesome as in it inspires awe, not that it was cool). It makes you wonder how many more of them are sitting in Europe right now.

    1. Every year farmers across Europe harvest a crop of unexploded munitions.  Farmers in France leave them by the roadside for the uxb troops to pick up and destroy.  A few demolition troops die every year or so dealing with old munitions.

      I even saw an old news report of a guy who travels around Austria with a portable thick walled furnace.  People give him old gun ammo they’ve dug up and he destroys it in the furnace.  It sounds like extra loud pop-corn.

      1. I recall reading about the giant mines that the Allies planted beneath the German trenches during WWI in Ypres. They planted 5, I believe, and detonated 4. The explosions could be felt in England, and they pretty much wiped out the German front lines.

        Alas, the 5th mine is still there to this day. No one is quite sure where.

      1. And it’s a small 250kg bomb. British were using 5.4t bombs towards the end of the war. The term blockbuster comes from this: “The term Blockbuster was originally a name coined by the press and referred to a bomb which had enough explosive power to destroy an entire city block”. Check Wikipedia for the ghastly details.

  6. “Not infrequent” is a nice way to put it. “Daily” would be more straightforward, though.

    Admittedly, most aren’t that spectacular, but apparently this will become more common, since the bombs deteriorate and become more unstable with each passing year.

      1. I don’t see why a cluster would be necessary. The long the stuff lies underground (or under water, for that matter), the more it deteriorates.

  7. Who would have thought that the Allies would have created this market nitch nearly 60 years later. I can see it now, “Bombing extensively will boost that nations economy in the long run.”

  8. I like how they make sure to describe it as an aerial bomb.  Did they need to distinguish it from all the huge bombs that the Allies carted into central Munich in wheelbarrows?

        1. By the time ground troops arrived in Bavaria, each village/city was waving the white flag, except for some die-hard Volkssturm

          1.  In general, people were more willing to wave the white flag in Bavaria than in say, Berlin.  The perception and reality is that it was much safer to surrender to the Americans or British than to the Russians. 

        2. Yes, the Germans found it while digging (foundations I think) and excavated around the bomb. They were probably able to read the model numbers off the case and or fuses.

    1. The German’s dropped naval mines by parachute as improvised blockbusters and these were “aerial mines.” 

  9. The book “Why the Allies Won” (amazon ) has some very interesting data on the amount of aircraft, guns and soldiers the Nazis diverted from the front line to the fight against the air raids.

    Turns out to be a significant amount.

  10. Just something I think needs saying, whenever the issue of Allied bombing of Germany is involved: Here in Britain unexploded GERMAN bombs are likewise occasionally unearthed. Particularly when building work is being done in London. Before liberal hand wringing starts about the necessity of strategic bombing is raised – OR before tenuous connections begin regarding bombing *then* and *now*.

    Unfortunately, the words of ‘Bomber’ Harris – Head of RAF’s Bomber Command – relentlessly resonates down through history…

    “They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind”

  11. July 27th, 1943, Hamburg, Germany

    Operation Gomorrah, 739 Brithish bomber planes

    Score: 34000 civilians dead, 125000 wounded
    3 city districts annihilated, 5 more widely damaged

    Of course this “halts” war production, when there are no workers left to produce…

    But that was a while ago. On an almost funny sidenote:

    That “controlled” detonation in Munich actually did quite some damage to surrounding buildings, some people still haven’t been allowed back to their damaged houses. So, obviously, in this context, “controlled” just meant they knew when it would explode, not that it was safe.

  12. High explosives tend to need a shock wave to develop detonation. It was not that uncommon for troops to dig the stuffing out of ordnance, whether antipersonnel mines or aircraft bombs – whatever they had, and use it as a fuel. Without the fuze there is no detonation, just a deflagration. (Though that can progress into detonation under certain conditions.)

    Could the bomb be cut apart with e.g. a thermite charge, instead of detonated? Then there would be a chance the explosive burns away without blowing up.

    1. I saw a North Vietnamese film of VC roasting American 500 lb bombs over an open fire (!!!) and pouring out the melted explosive.  An old tin smith was making cake-tin like boxes (probably out of US scrap) and they would pour in 20 lbs of explosive to make a serious  antitank mine. 

      There is also a technology that uses a small shaped charge to generate a jet of plasma to cut through the bomb case and incinerate the explosives without detonating them.

  13. They should bury it under a mound of the 250 gallon equivalent of “box wine” containers made of plastic & cardboard.   These are used for shipping nonhazardous liquids (food).  Fill with water and foam.Most of the energy would go into dispersing the water and compressing the foam. 

  14. The town of Oranienburg north of Berlin has set a record of having the highest number of bombs found in the last 22 years with 138. Another one has been demolished this week and it has produced an impressive crater but didn’t cause a fire.  According to the town’s speaker, the private company responsible for the controlled demolition in Munich didn’t sufficiently wet the straw that was supposed to prevent the fire.

  15. I live in the middle of the main German industrial area, about a kilometer from the Krupp factories. WW2 bombs get dug up here regularly.
    When I was a kid a bomb was found while digging the foundation of our future neighbors’ house.
    My brother and I started digging in the garden afterwardsd for fun but didn’t find any bombs. Only a rusted but loaded luger and several pennies with swastikas (not kidding) :-)

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