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Whenever an object was falling from the sky towards a character, it was accompanied by an often high pitched whistling tone that both increases in volume and decreases in pitch as the object approaches the ground. It is usually heard while a Shadow of Impending Doom engulfs said character. May be accompanied by a Stuka Scream.

Usually, though not always, an example of Did Not Do the Research, as in Real Life, the pitch of the whistling noise would increase rather than decrease as the object accelerated towards the ground, due to the Doppler effect. Possibly justified in that those who have heard a bomb whistle and lived to tell about it were usually in a position (such as the plane) moving away from it.

Examples without the Shadow of Impending Doom


Film

  • Johnny Dangerously contains a scene actually involving a bomb dropped from a plane on the casino of his enemy, Roman Maronie. Followed by an explosion.
  • Pink Floyd, The Wall uses the sound. Pink's father is killed by a bomb from a dive bomber. Note that since the plane dropping the bomb was an Axis plane during World War II, it might actually have been a Stuka.
  • Occurs in the beginning and end of the 1951 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, also in the trailers for this film, one of them after the news reporter says "In the United States.


Video Games

  • Falling bombs in Battlefield 1942 make this exact sound. Because bombs do more damage to soldiers on the ground in the game, everyone stands up and starts running away while jumping up and down.
  • Canabalt: The whistle is only heard for an instant before the bomb lands.
  • Half Life: When you're outside of Black Mesa, mortars fall at times. They make sounds similar to this.
  • World War II MMOFPS WWII Online includes sounds for falling bombs. If you're close enough to hear it, you're probably dead. The in-game Stukas are equipped with a toggle for the Stuka whistle. (a.k.a. Stuka kazoo)
  • Scorched Earth, in its title screen options, both averts (flight sounds: Vel) and plays straight (flight sounds: Pos) this trope.
  • Invoked in Alpha Protocol; in the fight with Sean Darcy, he makes this noise by whistling when he throws grenades at you. Earlier in the game, you can see mortars being used against enemy Mooks; these make the correct noise.
  • Dance Dance Revolution: The bomb whistle (along with the air-raid siren) is used as something of a recurring audio theme in the track "Drop Out".
  • The Boomer attack in Fallout: New Vegas.
  • In Star Ocean the Second Story Chisato has a move that calls in an airstrike that drops bombs on an area of the combat screen complete with Bomb Whistles. The fact she can do this deep UNDERGROUND makes the bomb whistles the least head scratcher.

Western Animation

  • The Warner Bros cartoons are the most frequent users of this trope. The whistle makes sense in most of these, as the viewer is usually on top of a cliff watching a character fall downwards.
  • A few Pink Panther used this sound effect to good, ahem, effect (e.g. "Pinto Pink," "Pink-Outs," "Sink Pink").
  • Family Guy: Parodied; a Manatee Gag shows a Japanese man having a terrible day (while in Hiroshima in 1945). After several annoying and inconvenient trifles, we hear a Bomb Whistle and he looks up, saying "Oh my God..." just before a baboon lands on him and starts attacking.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle "Banana Formula" story arc did an extensive one. Boris drops the "hush-and-boom" explosive vial over the heroes from a second story window and we hear a Bomb Whistle with a lowering pitch. Boris has enough time to catch the formula after realizing he'll be blown up too.
  • In the Wander over Yonder episode "The Egg", this trope is parodied when Wander and Sylvia fall offscreen with the egg they're trying to protect, and a whistling sound is heard...then the camera pans down to show that they landed on a ledge, and Wander was actually whistling.
  • A mouse grandfather does this in Good Will to Men. It continues on before the explosion, and more of this whistle was heard.

Real Life

  • The German "Stuka" divebomber made a 'bomb whistle' sound when diving upon its target. When the Germans discovered that the noise was widely recognisable and caused panic among enemy ground troops, they started to install sirens to increase the volume. [1]
    • The American SBD "Dauntless" divebomber, meanwhile, managed to get a similar effect using its perforated dive brakes. The holes in the dive brakes, included for aerodynamic reasons, had the side effect of giving the plane a reportedly banshee-like wail sound in a dive[2]
  • One of the pilots flying in to Dien Bien Phu during the French efforts to defeat the Viet Mihn would, so the story goes, drop empty bottles out of the plane because they sounded like falling bombs to the Vietnamese besiegers.
  • Inverted with the Doodlebugs of WWII. Their engines droned and propelled them forward constantly until their timers ran out. When they stopped making noise, you knew something nearby was about to blow up. Also inverted by their upgrade, the V2, which traveled faster than sound. If you heard it, you were fine. People who lived through the Blitz on London (1940-41, mostly) mention that falling bombs made a sound like a parcel sliding down a chute.
  • Some fireworks are deliberately designed to make a bomb whistle sound. The most common way to do this is to combine a special fuel with a partially empty combustion chamber. The empty space acts as a resonance chamber, and since it gets larger as the fuel burns, the pitch decreases over time.
  • Averted in Real Life armies on distinguishing between oncoming shells which are likely to hit and which are likely to miss. Those who are likely to hit have an ugly, shrieking sound like a locomotive, while those who are likely to miss have the classic bomb whistle.

Notes

  1. The 'Jericho Siren' was mounted on one leg of the Stuka's landing gear, and operated when the aircraft was using it's dive-brakes (in the dive only). First used to spice up a demonstration of the effectiveness of dive-bombers by their German patron, Ernst Udet, they were considered so successful, they became standard fit equipment on all Stukas. The bombs occasionally had tube-shaped whistles (like small ship's whistles) welded to their tailfins.
  2. Probably leading to its US Army designation: The A-24 "Banshee".
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