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Disposal of unexploded artillery shell from WWII displaces 2,500 Okinawans

An inert foreign rocket lays exposed during unexploded ordnance disposal reconnaissance training at Misawa Air Base, Japan, March 30, 2018. During the training, the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal teams worked with Japan Air Self-Defense Force Airmen from the 3rd Air Wing and the Tohoku Subordinate Base, Tohoku, Japan, EOD unit to practice executing a bilateral mission together. They also took the time to train newer JASDF personnel on foundational methods of UXO reconnaissance. (Senior Airman Sadie Colbert/U.S. Air Force)

A large part of a city neighborhood was cleared Sunday while experts disposed of a leftover piece of World War II — an unexploded artillery shell once the property of the Imperial Japanese Army.

The 101st Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force exploded the shell after Naha City officials cleared a radius of 985 feet in the Uebaru neighborhood — more than 2,500 residents from more than 1,000 homes and offices, according to a report Monday in the Okinawa Times.

The area was off limits from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., the newspaper said.

The Self-Defense Force disposal unit moved the shell to a specially prepared pit filled with sand and soil 11 yards from where it was discovered. It turned up Aug. 20 while crews cleared a construction site, according to the Naha City website.

“We get an average of two calls per day about unexploded ordnances,” spokesman Eiichiro Tanoue of the Self-Defense Force told Stars and Stripes on Monday. “In just 2017 alone, we disposed [of] 554 cases of unexploded ordnances.”

According to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force website, since arriving in Naha in June 1974, the 101st EOD unit has responded to 37,317 cases and disposed of more than 1,800 tons of ordnance.

Tanoue said “there is no bomb-free area” throughout Okinawa’s main or outer islands.

This Sunday, authorities plan to clear portions of the same neighborhood to dispose of two more pieces of unexploded ordnance — 132-pound bombs, also leftovers from the Japanese army of World War II. The disposal is scheduled to begin at 10:10 a.m., according to the city website.

That disposal will affect a 653-foot radius and force 1,500 people temporarily from their homes and offices and halt monorail and street traffic, according to the city website.

Despite their size, the bombs have a smaller potential explosive radius than the shell had, according to a Self-Defense Force spokesperson.


© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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