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"50-kilogram Phosphorus Incendiary Bomb" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on the German 50-kg phosphorus incendiary bomb is taken from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 15, Dec. 31, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Additional details have been received concerning the German 50-kg phosphorus incendiary bomb previously reported in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 14, p. 13.

a. Description

The bomb body appears to be a one-piece steel forging and has no weld marks. The suspension eyebolt may be in the side or the nose of the bomb, as in normal 50-kg (110 lbs) HE bombs. The bomb is filled with a very thick, almost black mixture, which is so viscous that there is no sound of movement of liquid when the full bomb-case is shaken. This bomb can be distinguished from the 50-kg HE bomb by the following features:

(1) The rear of the bomb from the shoulder to the filling cap is painted red.

(2) The filling cap is also painted red, and is screwed down on a black rubber washer which is clearly visible.

(3) A sheet metal collar is welded to the case between the filling cap and the shoulder. The collar, which is painted red, is drilled and tapped to take screws by which the tail is attached to the bomb.

(4) On one of the bombs seen, a 1-inch red band is painted around the bomb, 1 inch behind the suspension eyebolt. The body of this bomb is painted dark gray-green.

b. Fuze

The fuze used has been the normal type. No picric pellets have been discovered in the fuze pocket, their place being taken by wooden blocks, shaped like a picric ring, and picric booster pellets.

c. Functioning

The fuze functions on impact, and the explosion resulting from the detonation of the shell casing splits the bomb-case. The subsequent operation is not known, but it is possible that the flash from the casing detonator ignites the benzene vapor and, provided sufficient oxygen is present, fires the inflammable filling. Because of the sticky consistency of the main filling, the latter does not appear to spread far from the broken pieces of the bomb. Once ignited, the main filling burns briskly, and has been known to burn for as long as 2 hours, giving off sooty black smoke.

d. Radius of Effect

Reports have been received of detonation occurring below ground level. In such cases a small, shallow crater may be formed. These craters have been measured, and may be up to 6 feet in diameter, and up to 18 inches in depth. Pieces of turf and earth have been found scattered up to a radius of 9 feet.

e. Dimensions

Length of bomb body      2 ft 6 in
Diameter of bomb body8 in
Wall thickness1/8 in (approx)
Nature of fillingCrude benzene, 86%
 Phosphorous, 4%
 Rubber (probably pure), 10%
Weight of filling30 lbs (approx)
Total weight90 lbs (approx)


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