Munich WWII Bomb Detonation 'The Fuse Was a Real Bastard'

German bomb disposal expert Andreas Heil, 53, talks to SPIEGEL about the difficult decision to detonate an unexploded 250-kilogram aerial bomb found in central Munich last week. The blast damaged surrounding buildings but was unavoidable because defusing the unstable bomb was too dangerous, he said.
The moment the World War II bomb was detonated in the center of Munich on Aug. 28.

The moment the World War II bomb was detonated in the center of Munich on Aug. 28.

Foto: Johannes Grimm/ dpa

SPIEGEL: Last week, you were asked to manage the disposal of a World War II bomb found in Munich's city center. Have you ever had a more dangerous call?

Heil: We haven't had this in such a busy city center. That was a huge challenge. It was one of the biggest fire department operations to take place in Munich since World War II, by the way.

SPIEGEL: Wouldn't it have been safer to defuse the bomb rather than going for a controlled detonation?

Heil: The fuse was a real bastard, totally rusted in. Any manipulation of the bomb, such as touching it with a force of 100 grams, a slight knock with a hammer, could have led to disaster. We were all thinking about Göttingen, where three bomb disposal experts were killed  during a defusing operation in 2010. There was only one possibility: to blow the thing up.

SPIEGEL: Critics say one could have cut through the fuse with a projected water disruptor.

Heil: That's nonsense. People don't know what the ground is like there: very unstable. The bomb could have sunk into the earth and any small movement would probably have triggered a detonation. Then there was a suggestion from other experts to direct the force of the blast into the ground rather than upwards. That wasn't possible either because all the surrounding buildings may have collapsed and members of the emergency team may have been buried.

SPIEGEL: Seventeen buildings were severely damaged by the detonation -- did that surprise you?

Heil: Even though this may sound cynical to people who sustained damage, it was the best possible outcome. We knew that the straw we used for absorption would burn and that roofs would catch fire, if it went upwards. But the fire department was perfectly prepared. One should erect a monument to the people of the Munich fire department and the technical emergency service. The city should give them a crate of beer every day for the rest of their lives.

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