Ordnance team on Okinawa detonates 1,100-pound, WWII-era bomb
November 20, 2003
CHATAN, Okinawa — A 1,100-pound unexploded bomb was detonated Wednesday in the water near Miyagi Seawall.
While about 60 people focused their eyes on a red flag in the water marking the point where the bomb sat about 1,650 feet from the shore, a bomb-disposal team from Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force blew up the 58-year-old World War II relic.
It took two tries to set the bomb off. A wiring problem tanked the first attempt, but the team corrected the problem. The second try was successful, and the bomb went off about 45 minutes later than expected.
Chatan Beach was the site of the U.S. forces’ first landing during the Battle of Okinawa. The island was one of the fiercest battle sites in the Pacific during World War II.
More than half a century later, it’s a popular diving spot for both Americans and locals.
In August, a local diver reported the bomb to the Japanese Coast Guard about 330 feet offshore in about 17 feet of water. It was then moved farther off the shore and covered with sandbags for safety, said Morimasa Sakumoto of the town office. Chatan Town officials decided to detonate the bomb after the diving season was over, he said.
“They would pose no immediate threat unless somebody deliberately hit it with a hammer or something,” he said.
Finding an unexploded bomb in water is not uncommon, he said.
The defense force’s 12-member White Beach disposal team engages in underwater bomb detonation about once a month, said Syunichiroh Kachi, lieutenant commander of Okinawa’s JMSDF base. Another bomb detonation is scheduled for next week in Chinen.
Among the two dozen unconcerned spectators on the shore was Koji Hamaguchi, 30, a diver and an owner of one of the row of diving shops along the seawall.
“Unexploded bombs? They are all over, here or Kerama Islands,” he said. He has been diving in waters around Okinawa for the past nine years, he said.
“They are usually covered with sand in water, but once a typhoon passes, they are usually uncovered,” he said. “Seeing them doesn’t make me worry because I know they are safe as long as we don’t touch them.”
Fred Zimmerman contributed to this report.