The 10 Worst Bombings in US History


We still don’t have all the facts about yesterday’s horrific Boston Marathon bombing. At the time this column is being written, it’s being reported that 12 people died and more than 50 were injured in the attack. If those numbers hold, which is far from a given because of the wildly inaccurate reporting that usually follows events like this one in the first 24 hours, this could arguably be considered one of the worst bombings in U.S. history. While bombings are not a common occurrence in America, there have been more of them than most people realize.

10) The World Trade Center Bombing (February 26, 1993): A van filled with explosives went off in the parking garage beneath the World Trade Center. Almost unbelievably, although over a thousand people were wounded, only six were killed. It could have been much worse because the goal of the bombing had been to take down both towers. Had that happened, the body count would have been even larger than 9/11. The terrorist behind the attack was Ramzi Yousef, who is now serving a life sentence.

9) The Preparedness Day Bombing (July 22, 1916): The Preparedness Day parade was designed to lift morale in San Francisco in anticipation of the possible entry of the United States into World War I. Before the event, anti-war activists were harshly critical and during the parade a suitcase bomb went off, killing 10 and wounding 40. Labor leaders Thomas Mooney and Warren Billings were convicted of the crime and were both eventually sentenced to life in prison. After the two men spent 20 years in jail, Democrat Governor Culbert Olson grew concerned about whether they received a fair trial and pardoned them.

8) The LaGuardia Airport Bombing (December 29, 1975): Four days after Christmas, a powerful bomb that had been placed in a locker at LaGuardia Airport went off. It collapsed the ceiling and fired shrapnel across the room. Eleven people were killed and seventy five were injured by the bomb. Although a number of groups were thought to potentially be responsible including FALN, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the Jewish Defense League and also a Croatian nationalist named Zvonko Busic, no organization ever claimed credit and the crime remains unsolved.

7) The Haymarket Affair (May 4, 1886): A protest rally in Chicago led to a clash between anarchists, union members and police. During the protest, an anarchist threw a bomb at the police. A police officer was killed by the bomb and several others were wounded. That led to an exchange of gunfire between the cops and the violent crowd. Seven police officers and four members of the crowd were killed while one hundred twenty people were injured. While no one every figured out exactly which anarchist actually flung the bomb, seven were prosecuted for the crime. Ultimately, Oscar Neebe received 15 years in prison, Michael Schwab and Samuel Fielden served life in prison, Louis Lingg killed himself while he was jailed and Adolph Fischer, Albert Parsons, George Engel and August Spies were hung.

6) The Los Angeles Times Bombing (October 1, 1910): A bomb wired to 16 sticks of dynamite exploded in an alley next to the Los Angeles Times. The bomb killed 20 employees of the paper and injured another 100. It turned out that two brothers who were members of the Iron Workers Union, John and James McNamara, were angry about the anti-union slant of the Times and set the bomb as retaliation.

5) The Bath School Disaster (May 18, 1927): After losing an election for Township Clerk, School Board Treasurer Andrew Kehoe decided to take revenge by executing what turned out to be the worst massacre at a school in American history. After murdering his wife, Kehoe set off bombs that he had secretly been planting inside the school for months. As rescuers arrived to begin helping the wounded children and teachers, Kehoe drove up in a truck filled with explosives and blew himself up, slaughtering even more people. By the time it was over, 44 people were dead and 58 were injured.

4) The Wall Street Bombing (September 16, 1920): A horse drawn carriage packed with 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of iron was detonated outside the headquarters of J.P. Morgan Bank on Wall Street. Although anarchists were believed to be responsible, no culprit was ever prosecuted for the bombing that took the lives of 30 people and injured another 300.

3) United Airlines Flight 629 (November 1, 1955): John Gilbert Graham had a poor relationship with his mother, Daisie Eldora King. After taking out 4 life insurance policies on her, he offered his mother a “Christmas present” that turned out to be a bomb. It went off while United Airlines Flight 629 was in the air, 35 miles outside of Denver. All 44 passengers and crew died.

2) Continental Airlines Flight 11 (May 22, 1962): Thomas G. Doty bought a couple of large insurance policies, purchased 6 sticks of dynamite and then got on Continental Airlines, Flight 11. Doty then committed suicide via explosion in hopes that his wife and child would receive the insurance money. All 45 passengers on the plane died when the bomb knocked the plane out of the sky.

1) The Oklahoma City Bombing (April 19, 1995): Timothy McVeigh, along with his co-conspirators Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier were responsible for destroying a large section of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building with a truck bomb. They were motivated by anger at the government in general along with the heavy handed tactics used by the Clinton Administration during the Waco Siege and at Ruby Ridge. There were 169 people killed in the bombing and 675 were wounded.

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