ITOMAN, Okinawa — Construction workers found more than 900 unexploded rounds of ammunition dating from World War II during road construction in southern Okinawa on Wednesday.
According to the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, the ammunition was found in metal containers and ammo boxes during a routine scanning of the area by a metal detector. The find included 64 rounds of 81 mm mortar projectiles, 416 rounds of 60 mm mortar rounds, 81 hand grenades, two rockets, 340 rounds of rifle ammunition and one flare.
The objects were removed by a JGSDF bomb-disposal squad and will be destroyed at a later date, JGSDF 15th Brigade spokesman 2nd Lt. Yoshihide Hiyane said Friday.
“The ammunition was apparently left behind by U.S. troops during the battle,” Hiyane said, referring to the 1945 Battle of Okinawa. “The recovered ammunition was transferred to JGSDF storage in Yomitan and will eventually be disposed of on Camp Hansen.”
Hiyane said the JGSDF has conducted 31,257 bomb disposal operations since the island reverted from U.S. military to Japanese control in 1972. The Japanese bomb-disposal units have destroyed 1,511 tons of unexploded ordnance, most of it dating back to the Battle of Okinawa, he said.
Officials have said it’s estimated that so many bombs were dropped on Okinawa during what is locally called the “Typhoon of Steel” that it may take 80 more years to find and dispose of perhaps 3,500 more tons believed to lie underground, especially in southern Okinawa, which bore the brunt of the fighting.
There have been few injuries, Japanese officials have reported. However, on March 24, 2009, a member of a U.S. Marine Corps explosive ordnance disposal team was killed and two others were injured when a World War II-era shell exploded while being prepared for disposal in the Central Training Area, an 18,000-acre area of ranges used primarily by the Marines.
On Jan. 14, 2009, an Okinawan construction worker was seriously injured when his excavating machine struck a bomb that was buried about three feet underground not far from the site of Wednesday’s discovery.
Stars and Stripes reporter Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.