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Florida man digs up WWII-era land mine

Jeff Emlet, 37, of Vero Beach, uncovered what local officials said was a land mine on a stretch of beach off Reef Road, which was an area used during WWII to practice for D-Day invasions of Normandy, France. (Photo: CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS FROM JEFF EMLET/TNS)

When a treasure hunter’s metal detector signaled to something in the shoreline south of Vero Beach, he was hopeful he’d discovered a historic relic — maybe a cannonball.

Jeff Emlet, 37, soon learned he was digging up a land mine with his bare hands.

“I dropped my metal detector and ran back and told everybody to get … away,” said Emlet after discovering the object at 1:54 p.m. Tuesday.

Emlet said he struck it with the digger he was using so he used his hands to uncover the rest.

Born and raised in Vero Beach, he said he goes treasure hunting about “every other day.”

“It’s just a hobby,” Emlet said.

Indian River County Sheriff’s Office officials called in Patrick Air Force Base explosive ordnance experts to remove the object, after fire officials confirmed it was a land mine.

Emlet found the corroded, rusty ordnance buried along the beach in the 600 block of Reef Road off State Road A1A.

There have been several instances where a WWII-era ordnance has been found on Treasure Coast shoreline. Several of those have been land mines.

That area is less than 2 ½ miles north of Round Island Beach Park, which served as a WWII Training Area called Fort Pierce Naval Amphibious Training Base — a 19,000-acre area of shoreline active from 1943 to 1946.

The shoreline where Emlet was Tuesday served as the “Naval Demolition Research Area” just above the “Naval Combat Demolition Unit Area,” according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

A stretch of shoreline from Vero Beach to Jensen Beach was used as training ground leading up to the D-Day beach invasions at Normandy, France.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which had personnel scouring shoreline for ordnance-like objects in 2019, advises anyone who finds an ordnance to “leave the area immediately” and report it by calling 911.


© 2020 The Florida Times-Union