Bomb expert takes new look at Giant Rock explosion

Frank Critzer, who lived beneath Giant Rock and was killed in an explosion during a confrontation with sheriff’s deputies in 1942.

YUCCA VALLEY — A retired detective and bomb technician will take a new look at the death of Frank Critzer, who lived beneath Giant Rock and was killed in an explosion during a confrontation with sheriff’s deputies in 1942.

Mike Digby will present “A Suicide Bombing at Giant Rock” at noon Nov. 15 at the Hi-Desert Nature Museum on Dumosa Avenue north of Twentynine Palms Highway.

Critzer, a 57-year-old engineer and eccentric, was known for two things: as the owner/operator of the Giant Rock airstrip in Landers and as the man who lived alone under the rock.

During World War II, Critzer, a German immigrant fell under suspicion by people who said he was a Nazi spy.

Deputies approached his home under Giant Rock and the dynamite that Critzer stored there somehow exploded. Critzer was killed immediately and three deputies were injured. But why?

Digby’s lecture will focus on a forensic evaluation and post-blast investigation as well as address the many rumors and inconsistencies about this case.

Digby retired as a detective and bomb technician after serving 34 years with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and seven years with the U.S. Army. He has provided bomb training to police and military organizations around the world.

He has also authored two books: “The Bombs, Bombers and Bombings of Los Angeles” (2016) and “A Bombing in the Wilshire-Pico District” (2018).

Listeners are invited to bring lunch to his lecture. Drinks will be served. Admission is $5, or free for museum members.

The lecture was made possible with support from California Humanities.

(3) comments


The late Joan Wilson, historian and author of The Heritage of Yucca Valley Including Giant Rock, written in the 1980's has a very well detailed count of events of this article.
Rumors were said it was a suicide of which was an apparent cover-up of a botched out of jurisdiction inquisition. Riverside County was investigating reports of thievery of Supply Stores at then nearby Banning and Twentynine Palms. Being that Critzer had a German sir name during wartime, and appeared hiding under a rock...Giant Rock, plus his hobby of shortwave radio, some suspected he was a spy. Hence the name Spy Mountain adjacent the Giant Rock.
Once the Riverside posy approached Critzer for questioning, he denied all allegations. It wasn't enough to satisfy. The demanded Critzer to go with them for a further investigation. Critzer resisted. Critzer said he'd eventually go, but asked to go inside to get a jacket. Critzer entered his dwelling and locked them out. The said posy demanded him out. Critzer wouldn't budge. Eventually a teargas grenade was tossed through a window. It rolled under his table where he stored his dynamite. Boom! End of story. Then the cover-up began.
George Van Tassle was a very close friend of Critzer. He was one of many that gave account to what really happened.
Real good read!


This has nothing to do with the story.
The word used in the story "posy" is actually spelled POSSE.


Lol! That's what happens with a PC auto-spell check!
I did in fact spell it "posse"....
That's what I get for not proof reading my own!

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