NAHA, Okinawa — Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force has disposed of more than 1,500 tons of unexploded ordnance from the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.
The latest find was on Wednesday when a Naha-based disposal unit recovered mortar shells, bullets and land mines from 13 construction sites and farms in Urasoe, Nishihara and Yonabaru, said JGSDF spokesman Masaru Kaneko.
The discoveries brought the number of such bomb disposal operations conducted by the JGSDF to more than 30,000 since the island reverted from U.S. military to Japanese control in 1972.
That accounts for more than 1.38 million separate pieces, or 1,578 tons of unexploded ordnance.
However, it is estimated that 2,500 more tons remain buried in the prefecture, and it could take 80 years or more to find and dispose of it all, Kaneko said.
He said bomb disposal units annually recover an average of about 30 tons of unexploded ordnance dating from the ferocious 83-day battle known locally as "The Typhoon of Steel."
The figures do not include items discovered on U.S. bases on Okinawa or by the Maritime Self-Defense Force, Kaneko said, adding that those figures are unavailable.
About 200,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Okinawa between Allied air raids over Naha in 1944 and the land battle that began April 1, 1945.
Most unexploded bombs are found in construction sites on southern Okinawa, where much of the battle took place, Kaneko said.
Lt. Col. Akinori Nagai, chief of the 101st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit at the 1st Combined Brigade of JGSDF Naha Base, said the 30,000 disposal operations have been conducted without a single mishap.