The MythBusters The MythBusters

MythBusters Episode 159: Operation Valkyrie

Premier Date: December 22, 2010

Operation Valkyrie, a World War II plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler with a bomb, failed only because Hitler’s meeting was moved from an underground bunker to an aboveground conference room with windows.


As Jamie examined photographs and reports of the explosion, Adam used a water tank to demonstrate the ability of shock waves to rebound off solid surfaces. For a small-scale test, Adam built models of both the bunker and the conference room from steel plates. When a blasting cap was set off in each, the peak pressures were measured at 14 and 55 pounds per square inch for the room and the bunker, respectively.

To set up a full-scale test, two intermodal containers were outfitted as replicas of the two scenes. Adam cut window openings and fitted glass for the conference room, while Jamie dug a trench and buried the bunker (partially, due to time constraints). Each was equipped with a rupture disc set to burst at 100 psi, a block of polyurethane foam to gauge shrapnel injuries to Hitler, and a charge of C-4 with the same explosive power as the actual bomb. Peak pressures were measured at 18 psi (room) and 30 psi (bunker), with heavy damage in both scenes, intact rupture discs, and non-lethal shrapnel injuries consistent with the reports. Adam and Jamie concluded that the higher blast pressure was survivable due to its short duration, and that factors such as the quantity and placement of the explosive would have had the main effect on its lethality.

It is possible to bring an impaired/shocked person back to some degree of proper mental functioning by slapping him/her in the face.


As Kari consulted a military emergency physician to learn about the fight-or-flight reflex, which can be triggered by sudden trauma, Grant and Tory built a face-slapping rig to deliver a controlled amount of force. Grant was first to take a series of four tests covering reflexes, calculation, coordination, and visual/communication skills. The tests were conducted under three conditions: “normal,” “impaired” (sitting in a truck full of ice blocks for 30 minutes before each test), and “impaired” followed by a slap before each test. Grant’s “impaired/slapped” results were not as good as his “normal” baseline, but markedly better than his “impaired” scores.

For a different test of judgment and coordination, Kari and Tory did an exercise on a shooting range and added more impairments: going without food or sleep for an entire day, then sitting in the ice for 30 minutes and being slapped. Their results followed the same trend as Grant’s, leading the Build Team to declare the myth confirmed.