War is an ugly occurrence, costing nations thousands upon thousands of lives. But not all of the damage from these tragedies is immediately felt or even realized. Some can lie dormant for nearly a century before threatening to harm even more lives, as this story proves.
It comes to us from the Piast Canal, in what is now part of Poland. Here, after a recent dredging of the shallow waterway, a fully intact Tallboy bomb was found. The Tallboy was found to be a remanent of WWII airstrike on a German warship in 1945, near the end of the war.
On April 16, the British Royal Air Force received word from a reconnaissance team that a German Kriegsmarine warship was anchored in the Piast Canal. It seems to be a sitting duck and all too tempting to pass up.
And so a flight of Lancaster bombers and their escorts flew out to inflict damage upon the sitting Nazi forces.
All went as planned. The German warship was quickly spotted, and so the Lancaster proceeded in dropping numerous explosives, many of them hitting their mark. The ship was effectively damaged, forcing it to sink into the water and become immovable.
And while it could still fire off rounds of its own munitions, the loss was another sign that the end was near. A mere two weeks after the attack, the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler would kill himself in his bunker. And after another short week, his German forces were left with no other option than to officially surrender to the Axis powers and end the gruesome war, at least on the European front.
However, as is evident by the Tallboy recently found, this war remained rather deadly for 75 years.
According to experts, the Tallboy, also known as an “earthquake bomb,” was a type of munition that was rather a secret weapon of the Axis powers and helped their forces destroy many Nazi outposts and war machines throughout the region.
The bomb works as seismic ordnance by being so large and heavy that, when dropped from an aircraft, it violently shakes the earth and explodes, causing any structures nearby to be forcefully rocked. And with 3.6 tons of TNT contained, it would be hard to imagine any other outcome.
However, it seems that not all were fabricated accurately enough to be deadly upon impact. As with any munition constructions, there are always a few that just don’t quite work right. But don’t think that this one was dud for a second, as the ones that don’t work are often called.
As the 8th Polish Coast Defense Fleet tasked with handling the newly recovered Tallboy can attest, the bomb was completely operational and quite deadly.
Work began on “neutralizing” the bomb on Monday, forcing the 750 some nearby residents to be immediately evacuated from the area.
As a spokesman from the 8th Polish Coast Defense Fleet explained to Euronews, the occasion was quite rare. “No one has ever (neutralized) such a well-preserved Tallboy lying at the bottom of the water.”
Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly go as planned. On Tuesday, as the delicate neutralization efforts continued, the bomb detonated, sending water skyrocketing into the air for hundreds of feet and shaking the earth for miles around.
Luckily, no one was injured, and no damage was done, either to the many Polish navy vessels waiting nearby or the buildings in close proximity to the site.
You can watch the video of the detonation here.
But while everything worked out here, with no injuries done, not all similar cases are as blessed.
Far too often, in places worldwide, unfortunate reports of munitions left behind from wars long past are heard—areas where the outcome is not nearly so pleasant. Innocent people have lost arms, legs, and even their lives for unexpectantly stumbling across the remnants of another time.
And it’s events like this that remind of just how deadly and destructive war can be. May it be always something that haunts and reminds us that it is never to be entered into with great thought and reservation.