Okinawa, 60000 UXBs are Discovered Every Year
- Authorities discovered more than 600 unexploded bombs.
- In 2021, a World War Two bomb – weighing 250kg (550lb) – exploded in Munich.
- Seventy-eight countries are currently contaminated with unexploded landmines.
- Egypt has 23 million landmines across its land.
- The U.S. invested $166 million to clear unexploded landmines in Vietnam.
Okinawa: It has been over 75 years since the end of World War Two, but we continue to experience its after effects to this day. Discovering unused ammunition whilst looking for priceless war relics is common on former battlefields of most conflicts.
Similarly, finding unexploded ordnance is not an uncommon occurrence in Okinawa, Japan which was the scene of savage fighting during WW2 .
In 2021, Japan discovered an unusually large amount of unused ammunition during an excavation project at Naha Port, Okinawa. According to a city official, more than 600 explosives, including artillery shells, grenades, and bullets, were extracted during the dredging process.
In December 2021, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) safely destroyed approximately half of the newly discovered arms in an underwater explosion. The JMSDF got rid of the remaining explosives in a similar underwater explosion the following month.
The arms were disposed of half a mile off the coast of Naha Port’s Shinko Wharf in Okinawa.In the last 50 years, Japan has uncovered and disposed of 2094 tons of unexploded ordnance in Okinawa alone.
These unexploded ordnance are the remains of The Battle of Okinawa, where the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps fought against the Japanese for nearly three months.
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In December 2017, a pair of World War Two artillery rounds were discovered at Marine Corps Camp Foster in Okinawa. Yet again another reminder of the battle.
“We used to find more in the past, but it was only 14.4 tons last year,” an official from Okinawa jurisdiction told American magazine, Stars and Stripes. “I think it is a good thing that we are finding less and less every year.”
The Battle of Peleliu was fought between the U.S. and Japan during the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign of World War Two. Live remnants of that war remain on the island to this day. Some have even been transformed into historical displays. Thousands of ordnance was poured onto the island by naval, aerial and land bombardments.
Unexploded remnants of war leave a lasting impact on the environment. Besides the obvious risk of exploding at any given time, buried ordnance cause serious environmental contamination.
According to UNICEF, 78 countries are contaminated by landmines that kill or seriously injure more than 15,000 people every year. It has been reported that Egypt alone harbours 23 million landmines.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) professionals are often called for the safe disposal of live ammunition. Although the EOD staff possesses the knowledge, skills, and high-tech equipment, they are not immune to the inherent dangers.
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In November 2013, four U.S. Marines lost their lives while they attempted to clear unexploded ordnance from a firing range at Camp Pendleton, California.
In June 2010, Germany uncovered an Allied 500-kilogram (1,100 lb) World War Two bomb in Gottingen. In a failed attempt to disarm the bomb, three German EOD experts were killed and six severely injured.
Last year, another World War Two bomb – weighing 250-kilogram (550 lb) – exploded on a railway construction site in Munich, leaving four people seriously injured.
Tens of thousands of naval mines deployed during World War Two remain undiscovered in the Baltic Sea. Three Dutch fishermen lost their lives after accidentally reeling in a World War Two bomb.
Laos, the most bombed country per capita in the world, harboured over 2.5 million tons of bombs between 1964 and 1973. The U.S. dropped over 270 million cluster bombs during the ‘Secret War’ about 30% of which did not explode.
The U.S. invests heavily in clearing UXBs. The country invested a whopping $166 million to clear landmines in Vietnam. For Laos, some of the very people who conducted the bombings have helped clean up the aftermath of the war.
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These recent discoveries of unexploded war remnants show that there remains plenty of work for EOD professionals. Be it war or peace, EOD professionals stay ready to confront and disarm everything from hand grenades to nuclear weapons. These experts have saved countless lives and enabled numerous military operations since the end of World War Two.
“People say it will take another 70 to 80 years to clear the battlefields of Okinawa, which means they’ll have been around for 150 years after the battle. You can see from the unexploded ordnance problem how many generations the war will impact.”