After spending 25 years studying explosives and bombers, the author asks himself the same question after every explosion: What could have made someone commit such a heinous act? The saga of bombers and the driving forces behind their acts is never-ending.
Bomb making is far from a new human endeavor. Shortly after the invention of dynamite, anarchists were lighting its fuse to further their own ends. While current readers may have the 2020 attack in Nashville, Tennessee, in mind when thinking of a vehicle bomb, the first attack of this kind on U.S. soil occurred 100 years earlier with the detonation of 100 pounds of dynamite delivered to Wall Street in New York City via horse-drawn carriage.1 Resulting in 39 dead and hundreds injured, this incident stood as the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States until the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
A historical study of bombings and bomb makers reveals reoccurring themes that underlie most of these events. This article will provide an analysis of the circumstances that compel bombers to attack, which can help explain what inspired notable bombings of the past.