2008: Yet another unexploded World War
II warhead was recently found inside the U.S. Kadena air base on the Japanese
island of Okinawa. Bomb disposal experts
removed the five inch (127mm) aircraft rocket to where it could be destroyed.
Okinawa was the scene of a major battle during World War II, where millions of
shells, rockets and bombs were used as invading Americans fought Japanese
defenders. Most of the of the buildings on the island were destroyed by these
explosive devices. But many of those explosives did not go off, and were buried
in the rubble and earth. Since then, every few years, more are uncovered. The
recent find was near one of the base entry gates, a hundred meters from a
residential neighborhood. Everything in the area was shut down for half a day,
as bomb disposal teams came in to disarm the weapon and haul it away.
World War II
era munitions continue to show up throughout Europe and Asia. Although most of
the millions of land mines were removed from combat zones within a few years of
the war ending in 1945, there are still a huge number of unexploded of
grenades, shells and bombs buried all over the place. At least the mine fields
were easy to find, although dangerous to clear. But the remaining munitions
were left behind, in unrecorded locations, for some pretty simple reasons.
First of all, many (over ten percent, for some manufacturers) bombs, artillery
and mortar shells do not explode when they are supposed to, but just buried
themselves into the ground. These shells are still full of explosives, and
often have a fuze that, while defective, is often still capable of going off if
disturbed. Other munitions were left in bunkers, or elsewhere on the
battlefield, and get buried and lost. During the World War II battle for
Okinawa, the Japanese troops used hundreds of caves, and many may never be
found. Many other lost munitions eventually get found by farmers, or anyone
digging up the ground for construction. London, Tokyo and Berlin, three of the
most heavily bombed cities during World War II, still suffer from construction
crews unearthing unexploded bombs.
goes back farther than World War II. Unexploded munitions from the World War I
(which ended in 1918), and the American Civil War, which ended in 1865, are
still showing up, and some of them are still deadly. Currently, over a thousand
World War II munitions are discovered each year in Europe.