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Bomb Whistle

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The terrifying 'SCREEE!" of an artillery shell.

"Get up, get up, get up!
Drop the bombshell!
Get up, get up, get up!
This is out of control!"
— Opening lyrics of "Bombshell" by Powerman 5000, the WWF entrance theme of The Dudley Boys

Whenever an object is falling from the sky towards a character, it is often accompanied by a 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 or a dust cloud.

Usually, though not always, an example of artistic license, 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.

Please remember that if you should ever find yourself in an area often bombarded from the sky, that not all projectiles make such a sound. If you are informed that something deadly may land nearby, you should duck or take cover, even if you don't hear the whistle.

Examples without the Shadow of Impending Doom

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    Comic Books 
  • During the Death of Superman arc, a sheriff's deputy hears "that cartoon sound" before Doomsday falls on top of his cop car. Superman also makes the sound when he arrives to tackle Doomsday.

  • 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. Followed by a declaration of FARGIN WAR!!
  • Pink Floyd, The Wall uses the sound. Pink's father is killed by a bomb from a dive bomber. Since the plane dropping the bomb was an Axis plane during World War II, it might actually have been a Stuka.
  • The incoming mortar in Stripes. Only Sgt Hulka knows what it means. The recruits just look around in confusion.
  • Dingo Pictures' Dinosaur Adventure uses a sci-fi-sounding variation of this when Tio falls off the cliff, followed by the company's signature "DUNNNN!" Scare Chord when he hits ground.
  • Tora! Tora! Tora!: Two junior officers are standing still while The Star Spangled Banner is playing. A Japanese bomber flies low over their heads, causing one to remark, "Get that guy's number, Dick. I'll report him for safety violations." The plane then drops its bomb, whistle included, into the shipyard, producing a dandy explosion. Only then do these two realize that Pearl Harbor is under attack.
  • Played with strangely in Return of the Jedi, as this noise can be heard when Boba Fett is flying. Makes his supposed death all the more comical since it comes by way of his jetpack.
  • Up: Russell's GPS and other things make a whistling sound when falling.

  • In Galaxy of Fear, an Evil Elevator in freefall is described as sounding like a descending bomb, to the people trapped inside.
  • In Hogfather, Bilious, Oh God of Hangovers, takes a Hideous Hangover Cure and the wizards who concocted it are puzzled by the lack of humorous side-effects. Meanwhile on Dunmanifestin, Bibulous the God of Wine reports hearing "a sort of descending note" as those side-effects travel over the connection that gives Bilious all the hangovers.
  • In the Sven Hassel, the Old Un takes the new recruits and teaches them the survival skills they didn't teach them in basic training. This includes imitating the various bombs and shells used by the enemy, which instructions on what to do for each type.

    Live Action TV 
  • Invoked by accident in the M*A*S*H episode "The Kids": Cpl. Klinger is reading "The Three Little Pigs" to a little Korean girl who is one of Nurse Cratty's orphanage children taking refuge at the hospital. When he whistles as a sound effect of the wolf sliding down the pigs' chimney, the little girl starts crying and he has to console her.
  • At the start of Blackadder Goes Fourth episode "General Hospital", George is playing I Spy with Baldrick, to Blackadder's annoyance. George declares "I hear with my little ear, something beginning with B." He says the answer is "Bomb", and when Blackadder says he doesn't hear it, George advises him to listen carefully; a very faint Bomb Whistle can be heard, and Blackadder responds "Ah, yes..." just before it hits, injuring George.
  • Used frequently in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys when a person or object is falling, be it for comedic effect or during an intense action scene. Characters who have had the sound used on them include Xena (in The Rheingold), Gabrielle (in Callisto), Joxer (in several episodes), Callisto (in Callisto), Grinhilda (in The Rheingold), and Aphrodite (In The Pen is Mightier...).

  • This sound is used repeatedly, especially towards the end, of the song "You Dropped a Bomb On Me" by The Gap Band.
  • The sound is used at the end of the final chorus of "Armageddon" by Prism, right before the instrumental outro.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • The WWE entrance of The Dudley Boys begins with two projectiles shot toward the stage, followed by a pyrotechnic display. This became so associated with them that even without the light show, their TNA theme still includes the bomb whistle.

  • In one round of Swannee-Kazoo on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, the team had to play The Dambusters March on kazoo and swannee-whistle (slide whistle). For the first half the swannee-whistle played the melody while the kazoo was used to make aeroplane noises, then the kazoo took over, and the swannee played a series of Bomb Whistles.

  • In Hamilton, during "The Adams Administration", you hear this sound effect when Hamilton publishes his response to John Adams' diss (and physically drops it onto the stage).

    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.
  • Scorched Earth has several option settings for this. It can avert the trope, play it straight, or invert it (with a whistle that ascends in pitch as the bomb falls).
  • 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.
  • DanceDanceRevolution: A bomb whistle (along with an air-raid siren) is used as something of a recurring audio theme in the track "Drop Out".
  • Fallout:
    • The Boomer artillery strikes in Fallout: New Vegas, largely so the player can know to get to cover. Additionally Tiny Tots Mini Nukes launched by a Fat Man have a distinct whine to them, similar to Boomer artillery, which is why they have a face of a tiny tot screaming on them.
    • In Fallout 4, the Fat Man's mini-nukes have a bomb whistle sound. If you hear one that wasn't launched by you, chances are great that You Are Already Dead, unless by the grace of the Random Number God it misses your hitbox and passes harmlessly through your arm.
  • 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.
  • This sound is played in Heavy Weapon as soon as a bomb is dropped by any enemy aircraft. Yes, when the bomb comes out of the airplane, no less.
  • Call of Duty uses it for mortars as well as air-dropped bombs.
  • Grenades in the BioShock series make this sound when thrown.
  • In Skullgirls, Peacock's appropriately named Shadow of Impending Doom attack plays this sound whenever she uses it to summon an object to fall on her opponent.
  • Albert Wesker's Level 3 Ultra Combo in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 ends with him dropping a bomb on his opponent. It makes the distinctive whistle as it falls, which is impressive as it only falls about ten feet.
  • The Basin and the drophammer, in both Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Paper Mario: Color Splash, are weapons that fall upon Mario's enemies from high up. They predictably make such a sound during the fall.
    • Also happens to Bowser's flying castle during the finale of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, after it self-destructs and plummets into the sea below.
  • In Spy Hunter and its 2001 remake, the helicopter bombs have this.
  • Team Fortress 2: A Soldier wearing the Mantreads will whistle when falling from high enough to cause fall damage (and deal triple his own fall damage to any enemy he lands on).
  • In Metroid Prime, Meta-Ridley's fire Mbombs make this sound, while his Macross Missile Massacre has a Stuka Scream-type sound.
  • Balloon Fight fittingly plays this sound when a player falls to their death.

    Web Comics 
  • While the sound effect isn't rendered for the reader evidently Moloch can hear the falling C-Gas canisters before they hit in Girl Genius, he's not sure what type of bomb is falling towards his position until he can actually see them.
  • The Legend of Maxx: While attempting to escape from a temporarily-airborne Duke Fishron, Sophia, Gus, Aley, and Zane spend so long discussing whether they're using a catapult or trebuchet to launch themselves to safety that Duke Fishron eventually just plummets back onto the ship, complete with shadow and sound effect.
    Zane: ...Anyone else hear a slide whistle?

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • The Looney Tunes cartoons are the most frequent users of this trope. The whistle makes sense in most of these, as the viewer is shown an overhead shot that clearly shows the character's fall. Most often applies to the Coyote.
    • A few Pink Panther used this sound effect to good, ahem, effect (e.g. "Pinto Pink," "Pink-Outs," "Sink Pink").
  • Family Guy: Parodied; a Cutaway 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.
  • Exaggerated for a gag in the Futurama episode "Obsoletely Fabulous", where Bender signals the launch of two boulders via catapult, which inexplicably have the whistle sound effect. Not only that, but they go on for long enough for people to brace in fear, get bored, then return to bracing before they finally hit.
  • In the "Cabin Fever" episode of Rocko's Modern Life, Mr. Bighead "helped" Rocko and Heffer by making the head. Mr. Bighead tries to ruin their fun by making the head into a huge snowball which he pushes down the nearby mountain. In Self-Disposing Villain style, the snowball rolls past the boys, up the adjacent mountain's curve, which launches it into the air above Mr. Bighead. He stares at it while it creates a Shadow of Impending Doom complimented with a Bomb Whistle.
  • 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.
  • Used a lot on the Tex Avery MGM Cartoons, but "Blitz Wolf" takes it quite literally. The Wolf fires a whistling bomb at the pigs, but the main pig stops it by holding a magazine pin-up poster. The bomb stops in midair and does a Wolf Whistle, then flies back and returns with more bombs to look at the pin-up, whistle at it and faint.

    Real Life 
  • One of the pilots flying in to Dien Bien Phu during the French efforts to defeat the Viet Minh would, so the story goes, drop empty bottles out of the plane because they sounded like falling bombs to the Vietnamese besiegers. Aircrews performing nighttime raids in World War II would get up to similar hijinks to harass the enemy.
  • 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.
  • German Stuka bombers in WWII initially had had wing-mounted sirens to intimidate their targets. When this practice was stopped (the sirens added drag), they began adding whistles to the bombs themselves, creating this effect.
  • On the Eastern Front, the Soviets had a female night-bombing corps flying old wood-and-canvas biplanes. The engines would be turned off while over enemy lines, adding a healthy dose of paranoia to the stress of being bombed.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • One of the stories in Band of Brothers book tells how soldiers would sometimes play pranks on each other by mimicking the sound of an incoming bomb or artillery shell.
  • Smart Bombs used during the 1991 Gulf War were reputed to make a clicking noise due to the guidance fins snapping back and forth to make course corrections.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Gravity Is A Harsh Songstress


Catapulting a Not-Bomb

Bender signals his crew to catapult a boulder towards Robot 1-X, which are accompanied by bomb whistles. REALLY LONG bomb whistles.

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Main / BombWhistle

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