Monday, August 26, 2013

This Day in History: Aug 26,1980: John Birges plants a bomb at Harvey's Resort Hotel in Stateline, Nevada, US.

File:Harveys bombing.jpg

The Harvey's Resort Hotel bombing took place on August 26–27, 1980, when three men planted a bomb containing 1,000 pounds (500 kg) of dynamite at Harvey's Resort Hotel (now "Harveys") in Stateline, Nevada, United States. The mastermind behind the bomb, millionaire John Birges, was attempting to extort $3 million from the casino, claiming he had lost $750,000 gambling there.

Tahoe Daily Tribune file /  People assess the damage after the bomb was detonated in 1980.

 Firefighters examine the aftermath of a blast that blew out the east side of the Harvey's Resort Hotel on Aug. 27, 1980.

The bomb was cleverly built and virtually tamper-proof. After studying the bomb for more than a day through x-rays, bomb technicians decided that, although there were warnings from the bomb maker that a shock would trigger the device, the best hope of disarming it was by separating the detonators from the dynamite. They thought they could do this using a shaped charge of C-4. The attempt to disarm the bomb failed and it exploded, destroying much of the casino, although no one was injured. Harrah's Casino (which was connected to Harvey's Casino via a tunnel) was also damaged by the explosion, which broke many of the windows in Harrah's.[1]

 Blast damage

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.[2]

The Bomb that blew up Harvey's CasinoBirges was eventually arrested based on a tip. One of his sons had revealed to his then-girlfriend that his father had placed a bomb in Harvey's. After the two broke up, she was on a date with another man when they heard about a reward for information, and she informed her new boyfriend about Birges. This man then called the FBI.[1]

Birges built one of the largest bombs the FBI had ever seen from dynamite he had stolen in Fresno. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. At the age of 74, he died of liver cancer in 1996 at the Southern Nevada Correctional Center, exactly sixteen years and a day after the bombing. 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.[3]


  1. ^ a b Vogel, Ed (August 27, 2005). "Casino explosion nearly forgotten". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  2. ^ Esposito, Richard; Gerstein, Ted (2007-03-06). Bomb Squad: a year inside the nation's most exclusive police unit. Hyperion. p. 178. ISBN 978-1-4013-0152-1. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  3. ^ FBI - A Byte Out of History - The Case of the Harvey's Casino Bomb

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