Explosive History: A Chronicle of Infamous Bombings


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An overview of some of history's most infamous bombing incidents, detailing their impact and sharing shocking facts about each event.


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The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people, mostly civilians, and remain the only use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict.

Some survivors experienced the horrific "atomic bomb disease" with symptoms like bleeding from orifices and flesh rotting away, a few individuals incredibly survived both atomic blasts, and the bombs were so powerful they created temporary artificial suns with temperatures hotter than the surface of the real sun.


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The Allied bombing of Dresden in February 1945 killed up to 25,000 people and destroyed much of the city center.

The raids created a firestorm that reached temperatures hot enough to melt asphalt and metal, some survivors reported seeing people spontaneously combusting from the extreme heat, and the bombing was so intense that it created hurricane-force winds that sucked people into the fires.


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The surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 killed over 2,400 Americans, damaged or destroyed 19 U.S. ships and over 300 aircraft, and led to the United States entering World War II.

The attack was preceded by a Japanese midget submarine entering Pearl Harbor undetected over an hour before the air raid began, some American sailors were trapped alive inside sunken ships for days after the attack, and the USS Arizona continues to leak small amounts of oil over 80 years later.

9/11 ATTACKS (2001)

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On September 11, 2001, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners and intentionally crashed them into the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C., killing 2,977 people in the deadliest terrorist attack in world history.

In one of the most shocking details, some office workers in the burning World Trade Center towers chose to jump to their deaths rather than be consumed by the fires, while passengers on United Flight 93 heroically fought back against the hijackers, causing the plane to crash in a Pennsylvania field instead of its intended target.


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On April 19, 1995, anti-government extremists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols detonated a truck bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people in the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.

19 children in a day care center were among those killed, and a haunting photograph of a firefighter cradling a fatally injured toddler became an iconic image of the tragedy.

LONDON BLITZ (1940-1941)

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The Blitz was a sustained bombing campaign carried out by Nazi Germany against the United Kingdom from September 1940 to May 1941, killing over 40,000 civilians and destroying over 2 million homes.

Despite dropping over 40,000 tons of bombs on British cities over 8 months, including 57 consecutive nights of bombing London, the Luftwaffe failed to break British morale or significantly disrupt war production, with output of military equipment actually increasing during the period of heaviest bombing.


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The 2004 Madrid train bombings were a series of coordinated terrorist attacks on March 11, 2004, which killed 193 people and injured around 2,050, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in Spanish history.

The explosives used in the attacks were obtained from a retired miner who still had access to blasting equipment, and some of the criminals involved were actually police informants who had provided tips that were not properly followed up on.


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The 2008 Mumbai attacks were a series of coordinated terrorist attacks carried out by 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, lasting from November 26-29, 2008 and killing 175 people.

The attackers were reportedly taking steroids during the siege, and used Google Earth to familiarize themselves with the locations of buildings they targeted.


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The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing was carried out by two brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who detonated two pressure cooker bombs near the marathon's finish line, killing 3 people and injuring hundreds.

During the manhunt, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found hiding in a boat in a Watertown resident's backyard after the homeowner noticed the boat's tarpaulin was loose and saw a body inside when investigating.


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On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland due to a terrorist bombing, killing all 259 people on board and 11 on the ground in what became the deadliest terrorist attack in UK history.

One passenger narrowly missed the doomed flight after hearing his name called on the airport intercom, while the plane's wreckage included a cockpit section that landed mostly intact on a hillside, allowing investigators to recover crucial evidence.


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On October 12, 2002, coordinated terrorist bombings in Bali killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in Australian history.

In a remarkable display of humanity amid the tragedy, tourists with medical skills worked alongside Indonesian medical staff on the streets and in hospitals to treat the injured, while many ordinary people became heroes by rushing to help at the bomb sites despite the danger.


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On October 23, 1983, two truck bombs struck buildings housing American and French peacekeepers in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 307 people in the deadliest single-day death toll for the U.S. Marine Corps since World War II.

The bombs were estimated to contain the equivalent of up to 12,000 pounds of TNT, creating a massive explosion that collapsed the four-story Marine barracks building into rubble.


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On June 25, 1996, a massive truck bomb detonated near the Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 U.S. Air Force personnel and injuring nearly 500 others in a devastating terrorist attack.

Incredibly, the bomb was so powerful that it created an 85-foot wide crater that quickly filled with seawater from the Persian Gulf, and the blast was felt up to 20 miles away in Bahrain.


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The Manchester Arena bombing on May 22, 2017 killed 22 people and injured over 1,000 when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device at an Ariana Grande concert.