In the summer of 1944, U.S. Marines captured the island of Saipan, part of the Mariana Islands. Securing the island was considered crucial in the Allied plan to use the island as an air base for B-29 bomber raids on the Japan mainland.
The U.S. completed an airstrip in the island’s northern Marpi area, storing vast amounts of ordnance in the surrounding area for what military planners thought would be an inevitable invasion of the mainland.
With the detonation of atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945, that final attack wasn’t necessary. But untold tons of ordnance left behind by Japanese and U.S. forces are now buried and overgrown on the island, which remain a threat, particularly during construction.
Unexploded ordnance cleanup was attempted in the 1950s and again in the 1960s in the Marpi area, but most of it remained untouched.
In 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began awarding grants for cleanup in the Marpi area to facilitate plans for construction of 500 new homes.
Saipan’s Department of Public Safety and EOD technicians from the U.S. Navy and Air Force have been working together to clear some of that UXO.
During three exercises this past year, those combined agencies collected 2,600 pounds of UXO for disposal, according to Joint Region Marianas.
Some of the munitions are destroyed by using C-4 explosives.