Charles Darwin at a green chalkboard.

1994 Darwin Awards

Honoring Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, Darwin Awards commemorate those who improve our gene pool--by removing themselves from it in the most spectacular way possible.

Military Intelligence
1994 Darwin Award Winner
Unconfirmed by Darwin

(1970s, Northern Ireland) Back in the late 70s, intelligence units in Northern Ireland were issued exploding briefcases to carry sensitive documents. These briefcases were lined with oxygen bricks. To arm the case, one simply removed a small pin next to the handle of the case. Thus armed, an opened case would instantly combust, destroying everything within a meter of it.

Because there was a half-second delay before the bricks ignited, the lids were designed to stop on a spring catch, so that no document could be rescued or photographed before it was destroyed.

To open the case safely, therefore, the sequence was:

1. Make sure the arming pin is in place.
2. Open the case.
3. Using a thin object such as a ruler, push back the spring catch.
4. The case will now open.

I won't embarrass the unit or the female Lance Corporal involved by naming names, but in this particular case, the sequence went as follows:

1. Make sure the arming pin is in place.
2. Open the case.
3. Look for a small thin object to push back the catch.
4. Find none immediately available.
5. Notice that the arming pin is a small thin object.
6. Use the arming pin to push back the catch.
6. Kiss one "intelligence" unit goodbye.

Darwin asks, "Can anyone confirm?!"

COMMENT: Jack says, "I was in a US Army Bomb Disposal unit during the early 70s. Aside from the gratuitous "dumb blond" joke, I find this story quite believable. The exploding briefcases probably contained a perchlorate mix, perhaps potassium perchlorate. There were incendiary briefcases during that time period (we were told that drug dealers were using the same setup) and intelligence types are not to be trusted around explosives or incendiaries!"

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