Marines to shutter portion of Okinawa base during WWII shell’s detonation
Stars and Stripes May 19, 2023
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Portions of this Marine Corps base will close Monday morning while Japanese troops detonate a naval shell left over from the World War II Battle of Okinawa.
The Marines plan to temporarily evacuate more than a dozen buildings between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. Monday while explosive ordnance disposal experts from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force detonate the 5-inch shell at a construction site adjacent the base, according to Ginowan officials and a flier posted Thursday on the base.
The base commissary, a gas station and the vehicle registration office will be closed, along with other facilities south of Stillwell Road and southwest of 6th Marine Division Road, according to the flier. The area will reopen when the disposal team clears the site.
A private contractor sweeping the construction site for magnetic signatures discovered the shell on April 17, a spokesman for Ginowan’s disaster prevention and crisis management division told Stars and Stripes by phone Thursday.
The area where the shell was discovered came under heavy bombardment during the Battle of Okinawa between April and July 1945, the spokesman said. Approximately 10,000 tons of ordnance were dropped on Okinawa during the war and nearly 2,000 tons remain undiscovered, according to the prefecture’s General Bureau website. More than 13 tons were disposed of between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022.
The shell was moved April 25 into a metal container and placed in a lined pit in the vicinity where it was found, another division spokesman told Stars and Stripes by phone Friday. It will be detonated there by Japan’s 101st Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit. A small explosion may be heard by those nearby.
During the controlled detonation, the base also plans to close the Marine Corps Community Services library, the bowling alley, Marine Corps Installations Pacific’s environmental and recycling offices, Eagle Hardware, southern H-Block warehouses and the offices for 3rd Dental Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 3, 3rd Landing Support Battalion and Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 1, the flier said. Gate 1, also known as the “commissary gate,” will remain open.
The construction area, once part of Camp Foster, was returned to local authorities in 2015, a spokesman with Ginowan city's urban land readjustment division said by phone Friday. Some government officials in Japan speak to the media on condition of anonymity as a requirement of their employment.
Two other pieces of unexploded ordnance have been found at the site since May 2022, the spokesman said.
Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.