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Nate Hopper

Nate Hopper

Most Recently: Blockbusters

Blockbusters

1.

In 1941, almost exactly five months after Hitler had offered to end the war and a few nights before Christmas, a 2,750-pound German bomb fell into a married London couple's wooden kitchen, which was already "flimsy." But the bomb did not explode. Alf Fry and his wife waited four weeks for the bomb to be dug up from the clay, dismantled, and hauled away. But before that, they came to call the bomb "Max."

Max's impotence was both normal and odd. As the war progressed, bombs that large—named, quite literally, blockbusters—were more commonly used by the Royal Air Force in night raids on German military centers along its rivers or in Berlin. One killed 200 in Berlin's fashionable Hotel Bristol. And those R.A.F. bombs, which needed to be craned into the planes' bomb bays, were notoriously volatile. Sometimes, they would not explode at all when deployed. At other times, they unexpectedly would, even if being dropped in safe zones with their detonation devices disarmed, and fall "to earth like a fiery comet."

But Max, an early and light edition (the R.A.F. bombs tripled in size over the course of the war, from 4,000 to 12,000 pounds; propaganda would claim the latter could blast an area of ten city blocks), only destroyed a flimsy kitchen and a Sunday morning later that January, when about a thousand neighbors needed to evacuate their homes at 7:30 a.m. for his disposal. It only took an hour and a half.

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