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A bombing in Stateline, 1980!

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posted on May, 1 2013 @ 11:29 AM
The thought occurred to me to put this story together in relation to the endless speculation about the Boston Bombing as well as others that have happened in recent years. The general consensus among a segment of society seems to be, any bomb with any level of sophistication must be Government produced or at least, assisted.

Personally, I believe that to be horse puckey.

That's not to say Uncle Sammy doesn't do some downright nasty things from time to time. Oh, the old guy in the big hat and red/white/blue costume has been known to do some unthinkably bad things over the decades. Many times over, if the full truth be known, I'm sure.

However, Uncle Sammy need not have involvement for bad things to happen. The difference, in my opinion, is critical to examining events as they occur today, and keeping perspective to try and understand what happens behind headlines and popular trends of belief. (Aside from that, this is a fascinating story to tell!)


The date was August 26, 1980. The place was Stateline, Nevada and the location was one usually reserved for good times and/or heartache, depending entirely on which way Lady Luck took to smiling on a given day. On this day, it wasn't Lady Luck at was a mad bomber with a mission.

Imagine you're the management of Harvey's Resort Hotel and Casino and settling in for a usual day of gamblers, guests and the usual assortment drawn to such a location. Just a normal day, I'm sure. They always are, it seems, when they turn the worst. Here is the story of how that happened. (Material is drawn from the FBI, which as a public domain source, I draw a bit liberally from ...I'm sure they won't mind)

In the early morning hours of August 26, 1980—29 years ago today—men wearing white jumpsuits and pretending to deliver an IBM copy machine rolled a bomb into Harvey’s Resort Hotel and Casino in Stateline, Nevada, near Lake Tahoe.

Just rolled right in..Pretty as ya please and I'm sure, given what it was, with a pucker factor off the charts. This was no mock-up, but the real deal with 0's on the end.

When looked at closer? It contained a note, almost like an invoice for delivery. This 'invoice' was a nightmare scenario, however.



Do not move or tilt this bomb, because the mechanism controlling the detonators in it will set it off at a movement of less than .01 of the open end Ricter scale. Don’t try to flood or gas the bomb. There is a float switch and an atmospheric pressure switch set at 26.00-33.00. Both are attached to detonators. Do not try to take it apart. The flathead screws are also attached to triggers and as much as ¼ to ¾ of a turn will cause an explosion. In other words this bomb is so sensitive that the slightest movement either inside or outside will cause it to explode.
(Source: Excerpt from Ransom Demand Letter)

(Harvey Bomb - Courtesy of FBI File Photo)

The man who thought this up was found to be a 59yr old Gambler with a real bad streak for luck. This would prove to be no exception in his losing streak.

He demanded a cool $3 million in exchange for instructions to disarm 2 of 3 trigger/timer mechanisms which, while not rendering the device safe, would allow for it to be moved and taken to a safe location. Well, the FBI weren't just minted from the Stupid Section, and wisely declined such an offer of help with their new found problem. He didn't get his money. Harvey's Resort Hotel and Casino did, however, get a bit of remodeling they hadn't been planning, in any way.

Due to the sophistication and unstable nature of the device, the decision was made to detonate it "in-place", which, in this case, meant inside the Hotel/Casino itself. A rather shocking move that testifies to the level of sophistication for the device. It made quite an impression well as crater.

(Moment of Detonation - Courtesy of FBI File Photo)

(Interior View following Detonation - Courtesy of FBI File Photo)

As most criminals do, this one made a key mistake. A few of them, to be sure, but one BIG one. It reminds me of how the bombers of the 1993 World Trade Center attack were nailed in record time ...but this takes dumb to a whole new level, given the intelligence shown for creating the original device.

Birges, Sr., said to be an inveterate gambler who had lost a substantial amount of money at Harvey’s, was caught (with the help of an alert clerk at a nearby hotel who had written down the license plate of the bomb delivery van) and convicted—

I guess he should have thought of license plates and people writing things down, even in the age of analog life and digital cameras still being many many years distant for being a factor.

He also had enlisted the help of his two sons ...who received suspended sentences in exchange for helping to put dear 'ol Dad into prison for life, where he died in 1996.

The bomb blast hadn't been intentional at that level. It was the result of a shaped C-4 charge which had been intended to blast the device into smaller pieces and render it "safe" in a classic lose/lose approach. Lose small or lose big? They'd determined by what we know in the public, after the fact, that they couldn't move it and weren't going to attempt to disarm it. They X-rayed it in-place and apparently determined it wasn't feasible. They believed the note. That's a very good thing, as it turned out.

Far from blowing the larger device into two pieces to prevent a large detonation, they did, in fact, detonate the main charge of 1,000lbs of TNT. The damage was a hole in the Hotel, 5 stories high.

This came 30 hours after first discovery of the device and followed a thorough evacuation of the building and area for a good distance in all directions. I can't imagine the "oops" moment crossing the minds of all involved as they beheld the full force of the blast, basically gutting the entire structure.


Anyway, That's the story of one of the most sophisticated IED's the FBI has ever come across and holds that distinction to this day. A mock-up of the original is, according to the article, used for training purposes at the FBI now.

So, in short, it doesn't take a Government to make an incredibly advanced bomb. It just takes a sick sick man or men and the total disregard for human life and destruction their creation is designed to cause. In this case, it took the most unlikely of people with no stated background for being capable of such a feat.

It's a scary thing to consider, because it speaks to the pure randomness of such a thing and how it really can happen anywhere, at anytime and to anyone. No rhyme or reason. No master control behind it. No shadowy figures to make sure something is bad..yet not "too bad". We can only imagine the damage, had the "Harvey's Bomb" been jostled by an employee or innocent bystander before authorities reached it.

Original Source Article - FBI 'A Byte out of History' (2009)

edit on 1-5-2013 by Wrabbit2000 because: minor correction

posted on May, 1 2013 @ 12:10 PM
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

Wow Wrabbit2000,

You made that such an entertaining read. I am going to forward a link to some family members that I know will really enjoy your presentation.

I was kind of hoping to get to the end to learn that the bomb was a fake, I was really shocked to learn that there was 1000 pounds of TNT in the thing. The guy that made the thing was obviously not well, but he must have been some kind of genius to make a bomb like that. The thing is like a bomb-squad smorgasbord with all of those exotic switches. Is there any way to find out what Birges, Sr. did for a living before succumbing to his gambling habit?

Thanks for a fantastic thread.


Oh, Ok...

John Waldo Birges, Sr. (1922–1996), was a Hungarian immigrant from Clovis, California. He flew for the German Luftwaffe during World War II. He was captured and sentenced to 25 years of hard labor in a Russian gulag. Eight years into his sentence in the gulag, he escaped by blowing it up. This bombing was a primary piece of evidence linking him to the Lake Tahoe bombing.

Birges built one of the largest bombs the FBI had ever seen from dynamite he had stolen in Fresno. According to FBI experts, the Harvey's bomb remains the most complex improvised explosive device ever created and a replica of "the machine", as the extortionists called it, is still used in FBI training.

Thanks again, Wrabbit2000, for such a relevant and informative thread.

edit on 1-5-2013 by Bybyots because:

posted on May, 1 2013 @ 12:22 PM
Very interesting story. Only thing that seems out of place is the date you say he died and the date Wiki says he lived said 1988 and wiki says 1996.

posted on May, 1 2013 @ 12:29 PM
reply to post by Bybyots

Sure thing! I did a bit more looking for you and here is a link to a photo spread of Birges Sr. and his sons.

The Birges Family and others

John Birges Sr. was born in Hungary in 1922. After immigrating to America in 1957, he founded a Fresno-based landscaping company that built golf courses, and he became a millionaire by 1971. A frequent visitor to Tahoe, Birges had lost more than $800,000 at Harveys by 1980.

@Vasa Croe

You are 100% right. I just rechecked and checked a couple other sources ..and I don't know quite how but I did mis-note the date in the notes I wrote down for the thread OP. It most certainly is showing 1996. The above OP is corrected by the time most read this ..but It wouldn't be right not to acknowledge the mistake. Forgive me... School has my brain a bit mushy and I feel terrible for such a basic factual error. (holds paw out for slap). Good catch .

posted on May, 1 2013 @ 12:35 PM
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

Your timing is most excellent, sire. May your thread grow very long legs.


P.S. I would like to change my assessment of Birges from 'genius' to 'pathologically-pissed-off'.

"Pathologically-pissed-off' gets a lot done, too, and with Birges dying from liver cancer, I would say that "pissed-off" was the main driving force for him.

Great story. It absolutely challenges the current thinking on these boards that everything is a false-flag attack.
edit on 1-5-2013 by Bybyots because:

posted on May, 22 2013 @ 06:47 AM
I worked at Harvey s a few years after it reopened. basically the only thing that they keep was a large hand stamped western seen that was on a large leather hide. . IT was a fine place to work as MR. Joe Wells an the an the rest of management took good care of there employees .That they did. I also now live in Clovis . So ya you left out the rural bridge they blew to pieces here on there prototype. Surprised the hell out of themselves. they probably figured "Maybe we should leave them a note."

posted on May, 22 2013 @ 09:30 AM

Originally posted by Bybyots
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

I was really shocked to learn that there was 1000 pounds of TNT in the thing. The thing is like a bomb-squad smorgasbord with all of those exotic switches.

Birges built one of the largest bombs the FBI had ever seen from dynamite he had stolen in Fresno. According to FBI experts, the Harvey's bomb remains the most complex improvised explosive device ever created and a replica of "the machine", as the extortionists called it, is still used in FBI training.

It was dynamite not TNT.

That is why it went off when the FBI tried to disarm it by blowing off the control switches.

TNT is not shock sensitive dynamite is very shock sensitive.

The FBI had been told how to disarm it by the bomber and his son but no one with the FBI had the nerve to flip the switch.

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