Another bomb scare in Budapest

Almost every few weeks while excavating the foundations of a new building in Budapest workers find an old bomb from World War II. And they are big: half a ton, a ton, and this last one, two tons. Why have so many gargantuan old bombs suddenly surfaced? The reason, it seems, is that new office buildings and larger apartment houses must have underground garages, often consisting of several levels, which requires much deeper excavation. And it is very deep underground that these mega-bombs found their not quite final resting place.


Mind you, there must be many bombs still buried underground. Most of the bombing of Hungary during 1944-1945 was done by the Americans who apparently dropped more than 26,000 tons of bombs on the country. These bombings were often very intense, so-called carpet bombings. Sometimes 700-1,000 planes bombed day and night for weeks on end. Budapest suffered the most: the city was carpet bombed 37 times. On Csepel Island, where the Manfréd Weiss Works (a large industrial concern by that time in German hands) was situated, 248 half-ton bombs were dropped at one time. Apparently, the most heavily bombed areas were District I (the Castle District), II, and XII, all on the Buda side, and on the Pest side District IX, where this last mega-bomb was found.


About three weeks ago a half-ton bomb was discovered in District XIII (also known as Angyalföld). Seven thousand people had to be evacuated; clearing the area took almost six hours. The bomb turned out to be an American-made GP type of bomb that was apparently extremely dangerous to defuse. Yet people don’t realize the potential danger when such a bomb is found. Some refuse to leave their apartments. A lot of people start an argument with the police. They don’t understand why they have to leave when that good old bomb has been lying there for more than half a century and has done no harm. Then there are the old folks who can barely get out of bed.


This time the bomb was huge–two tons, and therefore 16,000 people had to be evacuated before the bomb squad dared to work on it. Over 100 people had to be carried out on stretchers. The oldest evacuee was 98. Two thousand people were over 70, and as a group they apparently didn’t take well to their forcible removal from their apartments to temporary shelters. I saw pictures of these shelters and I must say that they were elegant as far as shelters go. Nine ambulances transported those who were unable to leave on their own steam. Five ambulances stood by to assist the 800 people working on the project. It seemed to me that the organization was pretty decent.


Yet, as usual, people are dissatisfied. They complain that they were not individually notified after the bomb was unearthed that the evacuation would begin the next morning at 9 a.m. Of course, TV and radio stations as well as internet sites carried the story and the evacuation information, but for those who live in a media vacuum it was a huge surprise when police cars equipped with bullhorns arrived. Then the police knocked on doors, trying to convince reluctant people to move out. Well, by 4 o’clock in the afternoon the evacuation was complete and the bomb squad went to work only to find that somebody, most likely way back in 1945, had already defused the bomb. However, that couldn’t have been known beforehand because the head of the bomb, where the detonator is situated, was buried deep in the ground.


Echo and HirTV, two right-wing television stations, immediately found “experts” who announced that this  bomb scare was a fiasco.  After all, with a robot the bomb squad could have handled the whole thing and ultrasound would have been able to ascertain whether or not the bomb was dangerous. The head of the bomb squad very rightly pointed out that no robot could move a two-ton bomb. Moreover, the evacuation would have had to occur even if there were such robot because the bomb could have exploded, robot or no robot. As for ultrasound, he doesn’t know of any ultrasound equipment that could penetrate such a monster of a bomb.


Put it this way, it is better to be safe than sorry. If I lived near a two-ton bomb I would meekly follow police instructions, but I guess I have been acculturated differently in Canada and the U.S. I think the Hungarian people would be a great deal happier if they complained less and took things in stride.

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Odin's lost eye
Guest
I always find it interesting how the ‘know-it-all’ journalists always stuff their oars in and muddy the water. The truth is ‘those who can – do’. Those who ‘cannot do’ become journalists and write about it. A half ton medium case bomb is has about 250 to 300 Kgs of ‘bang-stuff’ in it and at this age this would be very sensitive. Explosives of any kind are dangerous ½ grams of the stuff can badly injure a persons hand. The primers may have deliquesced and can turn the copper in their brass containers into something akin to copper acetalide (thinking about it will set it off), the initiator may have tured into some form of tri-nitro glycerine (look at it cross eyed and up it goes!). The main filling will have decayed into something rather nasty. A lot of effort went into making bombs very difficult and dangerous to defuse. Both sides lost a lot of Bomb-busters who tried to do that. These things are ‘B’ dangerous they can go off by themselves. Traffic vibrations, hot water, all sorts of things can cause it. The use of ‘wheel-barrows’ (remotely controlled vehicles) allows the ammunition technicians to work in greater safety,… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Odin: “why not ask one of your journalist friends to write an article about what happens when a 1/2 tonner goes ‘POOF’?”
Odin, you gave me an idea. I will send your letter to someone who might be interested in it.

Stan
Guest

Massacre of civilians by carpet bombing is not a war crime. I wonder why? Destroying Dresden or Hiroshima, who cares. Shoot one Jew because you were ordered to do so is enough to get chased around the world for 60 years. Go figure…

Viking
Guest

Well Stan,
could it be that History is written by those who win a war and not by the losers?
Hardly the winners would call their own actions for crimes, they have a long list to justify them.
Most International Treaties on these issues were created *after* the end of WWII, so there existed no International Law or Body that could decide on these matters independently. That is the simple fact.
That is why we see Karadizs in court today.

Vladimir
Guest

In the states, we stereotyped Germans as being oft-complainers. But after living here, it’s clear to me that such a stereotype shouldn’t have been limited to Germans. (although a great many here seem to have at least some Teutonic heritage)

dave
Guest

I think mentioning the HirTV and Echo TV is beside the point. Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany thanked the patience of the people affected by this dangerous operation. Also, he emphasized the preparedness and the expertise of the services involved. For those who read Hungarian, here is the link:
http://mszp.hu/belfold/bovebben/gyurcsany-ferenc-miniszterelnok-kozlemenye
That is the real news, not the obviously biased reporting of these media outlets with minimal audience.

Stan
Guest

Dave,
What makes you think Echo TV and HirTV have smaller audiences
or less credibility than the MSZP website?

dave
Guest

Stan,
Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany has larger audience than those extremist private cable TV channels. This is how it should be.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
Stan “Massacre of civilians by carpet bombing is not a war crime. I wonder why? Destroying Dresden or Hiroshima, who cares” On the topic of Hiroshima there was a great deal of soul searching in the U.S. before the decision was taken to use the weapon. On the basis of the nature of the fighting as the Americans closed in on the Japanese homeland. The American General staff concluded that the assault on the Japanese home islands would cost the allies about 2 Million casualties. It also reviewed battles like that for Iwo Jima where of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers at the start of the battle only 216 were taken prisoner. Also large numbers of civilians committed suicide rather than fall into American hands. The conclusion was that Japanese casualties would range from 10 to 20 millions! The weapon was used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Nagasaki was an alternative target) with a result that some 300,000 people died. War is nasty! I leave you to draw your own conclusions. Dresden was another matter. The Russians had asked the Western Allies to use their Strategic Air force to bomb the enemy rear. In the center are to be found not just… Read more »
Stan
Guest

Odin, The logical answer to why Hiroshima was nuked is not the popular “let’s save lives”, at least not only that.
The US had a new weapon of mass destruction, never really tested. The war was almost over, this was the last chance to see what this baby can do. Everyone hated the Japs, no worries of retaliation, and it can be justified by the “saving lives” argument. If the US just wanted to show off, they could have dropped it anywhere. They needed a test ground, and it was Hiroshima. And Nagasaki.
Dresden had no major significance as military target. Destroying it in such barbaric fashion served only as psychological warfare, break the German spirit, no matter what we all lose in the process.
Neither the Russians nor the US had much respect for European culture. Americans almost blew up the Leaning Tower in Pisa, saying that there might be snipers there.
We should never again allow barbarians to Europe…

Odin's lost eye
Guest
Re the 2 ton bomb. It was probably a 4000Lbs ‘Cookie’ or ‘Block Buster’. These were light case bombs with triple barostatic fuses and were intended to blow the roofs off buildings and allow the entry of the rain of smaller incendiary bombs. I do not thing the B17 could carry them, the B24 ‘Liberator’ might have been able to. The Lancaster certainly could and did. This means that this one may well have been dropped during a night raid so you can (once again) blame the British. Night attacks were special having highly skilled ‘pathfinders’ who not only marked the target but also the ‘turning points as well. The bombers flew not in formations but in ‘streams’. Navigation was always difficult. Astro navigation could be especially so. The bubble sextant was not easy to use and could give erroneous results. These could lead to errors of over 50 Nm. Electronic devices like Gee, Rebecca H and Oboe could be (and were) jammed by the enemy. The use of H2S (a ground search radar) allowed night fighters to home in onto you. In or above cloud the drift sight and Bombsight were useless. Finally map reading over a blacked out… Read more »
Stan
Guest

“It was probably a 4000Lbs”.
No, it wasn’t even a bomb.
It was just an old, harmless, rusty boiler.
No poof.

btphelps
Guest

A cursory search on the topic reveals that it is naive to say the U.S. just wanted to roll out a nuke and see what it could do.
In fact, the U.S. had made war plans for the invasion of the Japanese mainland. “The invasion fleet was to include 42 aircraft carriers, 24 battleships, and over 400 destroyers and destroyer escorts. The fleet would escort 14 American divisions, both Army and Marine Corps, that would form the initial assault force.” (http://ww2db.com/battle_spec.php?battle_id=54)
Given the Japanese people’s fanatical defense of home turf like that experienced at Iwo Jima, the brass had enormous reservations about both the human and economic cost of a U.S. invasion of the Japanese homeland. One study done by the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff in Apr 1945 put the coat at a minimum of 456,000 casualties.
So when the Bomb became available, Truman saw that dropping the nuke was the only reasonable alternative. The U.S. government never really discussed not using the Bomb. The alternative was just too awful to contemplate. The Japanese started the war; I don’t think Truman hesitated very long about letting them pay the final price.

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