In the end, after all the weeks of chilling testimony and tales of official ineptitude, Henry W. Ruth Jr., the former Watergate special prosecutor, could no longer contain himself. He was tired, angry and disgusted.

His voice quaked with indignation at the stone-faced city officials who had presided over one of the worst disasters in Philadelphia history. "As I understand the testimony of the four people here, people under them made mistakes, but they didn't," Ruth said.

Not one, he complained, had accepted blame for a bombing and fire that killed 11 people and destroyed 250 homes or had admitted making a mistake in appearances before the MOVE commission. Mayor W. Wilson Goode, he noted, had claimed "I did everything a mayor should."

"My problem is that, as a citizen, the idea of dropping a bomb in an urban area of row houses should have been rejected out of hand," said Ruth, one of 11 commission members.

"The idea of dropping a bomb, I mean, it would seem that someone of the four people would come here and say even at the time, with what we knew or didn't know, it was a bad idea."

Ruth's remarks came in the emotional final hour of five weeks of hearings about the May 13 incident. The hearings, broadcast for more than 100 hours on public television, produced few shocks about what happened that day, no single "smoking gun."

But the hearings were extraordinary and have already begun to change the political landscape of the nation's fifth-largest city.

The hearings put the inner workings of this city's government on public display in a way few city governments have ever been put on display. The picture they painted wasn't pretty.

The hearings showed official bumbling, paralysis, arrogance, miscalculations and communication breakdowns. They showed a city government failing at almost every step in its attempts to cope with MOVE, a small but difficult radical group.

"The people of Philadelphia have been able to look deeply into an incredible debacle," the Philadelphia Inquirer editorialized Friday. "They have seen a police commissioner pleading ignorance so deep that -- if he is telling the truth -- such ignorance alone should be grounds for dismissal; seen a fire commissioner who agreed to let a fire grow out of control; seen a managing director who may better have remained on vacation. They saw a mayor, too, who did not say 'no' to dropping a bomb; a mayor who opted for the sidelines as police confronted MOVE and a neighborhood was consumed."

Almost everything that could go wrong did. Orders were disobeyed or ignored. Fire Commissioner William C. Richmond, for example, revealed that he never received an order from Goode to put out the fire caused by the bomb.

The policeman who made the bomb used C4, a military explosive not authorized by Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor. It was likely to trigger a fire and was unsuited for the job it was supposed to do -- blow up a rooftop bunker and knock a hole in the roof, according to testimony.

When the same officer dropped the bomb from a helicopter, he almost missed the MOVE row house. When fire engulfed the house at temperatures above 2,000 degrees, a police videotape recorded officers laughing at the misfortune of MOVE members inside.

Problems didn't end May 13. Ali Z. Hameli, a nationally known forensic pathologist, said he had difficulty determining the identities and cause of death of the five children and six adults killed. He said their bodies were broken by a crane scooping debris from the house, were poorly marked by officials at the scene and later were stored at temperatures that were too warm.

The hearings raised serious questions about planning for the operation. Police had spent three months planning for a 1978 confrontation with MOVE in which one officer died, and another three months planning for an anticipated confrontation in 1984.

Planning this year didn't begin until two weeks before police acted. Two of the city's four top decision-makers -- Fire Commissioner Richmond and former city managing director Leo Brooks -- weren't told of any plans until May 11.

Sambor called his plan "the most conservative, controlled, disciplined and safe operation which we could devise." But the city acted too hastily, Brooks said last week. "If there was one thing wrong, it was that we moved too fast . . . . We should have had a dry run."

Goode had an intimate knowledge of MOVE. He said he met with two former MOVE members, Louise James and LuVerne Sims, 15 times while he was city managing director between 1980 and 1982. From meetings with MOVE's neighbors, he knew of the disruptions the radical group had caused.

But as May 13 approached, he took an increasingly distant role. He left key decisions to subordinates. He says they misled, misinformed and disobeyed him.

The commission, appointed by Goode, expects to issue a report by early next year on what happened May 13 and why, along with recommendations on how to avoid such tragedies in the future.

Meanwhile, investigations by the city district attorney, the assistant U.S. attorney and the state Senate are under way.

But many here have made up their minds about what happened. The hearings became a Philadelphia version of the Senate Watergate hearings of the 1970s. Thousands watched them unfold from their living rooms.

At the height of the hearings, A.C. Nielsen Co. found that 21 percent of the TV sets (about 130,000) in the Philadelphia area were tuned to WHYY-TV -- about five times the public station's normal daytime audience.

In the end, television viewers saw a contrite mayor. "I'm not sure how you define blame," Goode said, replying to Ruth. "I know there's not a man here who is not going to live with this for the rest of his life . . . . Lives were lost. People lost their homes. The city lost part of its public image."