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Navy team destroys unexploded artillery shell found underwater near Yokosuka

Police at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan secure a perimeter around the area where divers discovered an unexploded naval artillery shell, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020.

CAITLIN DOORNBOS/STARS AND STRIPES

By CAITLIN DOORNBOS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 13, 2020

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A U.S Navy explosive ordnance disposal team on Wednesday destroyed an unexploded artillery shell found near the base docks this week, base spokesman Randall Baucom said.

Contractors diving near the base docks on Monday found the munition during a site survey. Yokosuka security responded to the area near Berth 5 to secure a perimeter around the area where the 5-inch munition rested about 22 yards from the shore, Baucom said.

It is unclear whether the shell — believed to be a naval artillery round — is American or Japanese or how old it is because of corrosion, he said. The dredging company divers found the shell beneath about 43 feet of water.

Baucom said the munition posed “no threat to personnel and watercraft operating in the area.”

The EOD team used “very small explosives” to destroy the shell where it lay, 43 feet below the water’s surface, he said.

It was completed so it would “no longer (be) a danger to any future dredging operations,” Baucom said.

The Japan Coast Guard in Yokosuka kept clear an area within 220 yards of the discovery site from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday as the EOD team worked on the shell, according to the Kanagawa newspaper.

Base officials coordinated with the city of Yokosuka, Yokosuka District of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the South Kanto Defense Bureau during the response, Baucom said.

It is not uncommon for unexploded ordnance and other decades-old weaponry to be discovered on the base, which once belonged to the Japanese Imperial Navy before it was seized by Allied forces at the end of World War II.

In 2018, workers discovered 25mm anti-aircraft shells at the construction site of a new child-development center.

Leftover ordnance is regularly found across Japan. In 2016, a 5-inch unexploded shell from an American warship was discovered at a construction site near Camp Kinser, Okinawa, and a contractor found 12 Japanese mines in an ordnance area at Sasebo Naval Base.

doornbos.caitlin@stripes.com
Twitter: @CaitlinDoornbos

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