An exploding World War II bomb left a 10-meter-wide (33-foot), 4-meter-deep (13-foot) crater in a German cornfield over the weekend.
Last Sunday, Ahlbach residents in central Germany were shaken when a blast the size of a minor earthquake went off at 3.52am local time. No one was injured and while the cause of said blast was at first unknown, there is nothing to suggest it was caused by faulty farm machinery or related tools.
Indeed, explosive clearance experts have since said the shape of the hole confirms “with almost absolute certainty” it was produced during a bomb detonation – specifically, a 250-kilogram (550-pound) bomb detonation. Several other unexploded bombs have been found in the vicinity in the past, an area close to a railway depot targeted during the Allied bombing campaign in the latter years of WW2.
According to officials, it is relatively common for detonators to decompose to the point where the bomb sets itself off.
During the Second World War, both German and Allied forces engaged in large-scale civilian bombing.
The US and British air forces alone were responsible for dumping 2.4 million tonnes (2.7 million tons) of bombs on Europe between 1940 and 1945, half of which landed in Germany. And it is estimated 410,000 German civilians were killed as a result, with a jaw-dropping 13,536 people dying (on average) every month between July 1944 and January 1945.
The purpose of these ruthless campaigns was to damage enemy morale and destroy key points of transportation and industry, and by the time peace was declared in 1945, much of the country’s industrial centers had been crippled, and many of its towns and cities ruined. The Medieval town of Jülich suffered some of the most intense batterings, with 97 percent of the town lost to bombing in 1944 and the remaining 3 percent destroyed after three months of fighting (December 1944 to February 1945).
Peace was declared 70+ years ago and yet there are still thousands of tons of undetonated bombs hiding in Germany. Indeed, it is thought that up to 10 percent of bombs dropped failed to explode, with some 1,800 tonnes (2,000 tons) of unexploded munitions discovered every year – keeping German bomb disposal squads in high demand.
The bomb detonation in Ahlbach is just the latest WW2 bomb to make headlines. Just last month, two unexploded devices (one in Kingston, one near the Isle of White) were found in the UK. Another in Frankfurt, Germany, was also found earlier this year. While back in 2013, 20,000 people had to be evacuated from the German city of Dortmund due to a newly discovered unexploded 1,800-kilogram (4,000-pound) bomb.
There are even cases of people taking them home as “souvenirs”.
The good news is that these bombs are unlikely to explode – but as this latest incident shows, that should not be taken for granted. If found, they should be disposed of safely and professionally by trained experts.