US WWII-era bomb discovered in dig near Japanese airport
TOKYO — Workers digging for a water drain found an unexploded 500-pound World War II-era bomb near a runway in northern Japan, leading to closure of the airport, a government official said Tuesday.
All 92 domestic and international flights to and from Sendai Airport were canceled Tuesday after the U.S. bomb was found Monday night just 20 inches below ground, said Michihiro Kanno, an official at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism’s Sendai office.
A Japan Ground Self-Defense bomb squad was called in to determine how to dispose of the bomb, which is about 43 inches long and 14 inches in diameter, and whether evacuations are needed in the surrounding area, Kanno said.
Officials have no plans to request assistance from the U.S. military, Kanno said.
The bomb was being surrounded with about 600 sandbags to reduce potential damage in case it were to go off prematurely. Kanno said the disposal process was expected to take place Wednesday.
It was unclear if the airport would reopen Wednesday.
The facility was constructed as a training airport for the Japanese Army in 1940 and was air-raided by the U.S. military on July 17 and Aug. 9, 1945, according to the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper. It was converted into a commercial airport in 1957, according to Mainichi.
U.S. soldiers and Marines, along with the Japan Self-Defense Forces, cleaned up debris at the airport from the tsunami spawned by last year’s massive earthquake.