Plans being made to defuse WWII-era bombs found on Okinawa
Stars and Stripes November 6, 2003
NAHA, Okinawa — During World War II, U.S. bombs rained on Okinawa in what has been called the “Typhoon of Steel.”
Some of those bombs still pose a threat — such as the 550-pound bomb uncovered Monday in a Nishi district condominium construction site.
A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force spokesman said Tuesday that the bomb was found in a residential area near a school, government office and a hotel. It still had a fuse and could detonate if mishandled.
A construction worker digging a trench with a power shovel discovered the ordnance 2.5 feet underground, he said, noting it was 4 feet long and a foot in diameter.
Self-Defense Force members cordoned off the site and are working with city and prefectural officials to set a date to evacuate the area and dispose of the explosive.
Ground Self-Defense Force ordnance disposal experts determined there was little danger normal vibrations in the area would detonate the bomb.
In March 2002, when a similar-sized bomb was removed in another Naha district, 30,000 people — about 10 percent of the city’s population — were evacuated.
Ground Self-Defense Force officials said they expect about the same number to be evacuated when they dispose of the bomb found Monday.
The disposal process usually entails gently removing fuses and carefully transporting explosive devices to a safe storage area on a Self-Defense Force base.
Bombs are subsequently detonated underwater.
That’s scheduled to happen Nov. 18 when an area near Miyagi Seawall — and Kadena Air Base — will be evacuated for detonation of a 1,100-pound bomb found 550 yards offshore in water about 70 feet deep.
A spokesman for Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force said all water activity in a 990-square-foot area will be prohibited and diving restricted in a 3.5-mile area. The area will be evacuated from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. for the scheduled detonation, the spokesman said.
Bomb-disposal experts frequently are called on to defuse and dispose of unexploded ordnance dropped on Okinawa during the 83-day battle for the island between U.S. and Japanese forces in 1945.
Makoto Kawaida, Ground Self-Defense Force chief public relations officer, said uncovering and clearing the 2,500 tons of unexploded munitions believed to be buried on Okinawa will take decades.
“A total of about 50 tons of unexploded bombs are discovered and destroyed each year on Okinawa,” he said.
“It is very common on Okinawa to unearth bombs at a construction site,” he said.
Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.