World War II ended a long time ago. Even before 8-track cartridges and The Beatles. But on Tuesday night a U.S. Army Air Force 550-pound bomb exploded in downtown Munich. The bomb, of course, was only doing what it was built to do — albeit a few decades late. It was a type of bomb that used a chemically-based trigger and that trigger didn’t work when the bomb hurtled earthward in 1943 or ’44.
So 500 pounds of bomb sat there, perhaps a bit embarrassed at all the fuss and expense required to make it and then transport it across the Atlantic, then load it into a B-17 bomb bay and fly it all the way to Munich. Eventually the war ended and the area was rebuilt and the bomb lived an incognito existence. The 500 pounder was underneath a nightclub that was reportedly beloved by the Rolling Stones in the 1970s. Perhaps the soulful sounds of the Stones helped keep the bomb relaxed and in one piece. The bomb didn’t explode, but there was no reason it couldn’t do so, given the right circumstances.
After the bomb was uncovered by construction work, German bomb experts huddled, then tried to defuse it. The bomb, perhaps deciding that its fuse had always been the thing that kept it around, apparently didn’t want to be defused. So the German authorities detonated it. In a busy section of a major German city.
A fireball, smashed windows, a few small roof fires on surrounding buildings. Generally speaking, small time damage. But the Anglo-American bombing campaign against Germany in 1940-’45 left behind thousands of unexploded bombs that have yet to be found. Munich authorities estimate their city alone could hold as many as 2,500 unexploded bombs.
The Anglo-American WWII bombing campaign is the gift that keeps on giving. Here, more than 68 years later the bombs are still exploding. They just don’t build bombs like they used to.