Sailor admits to dumping ammo off Sasebo coast
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — A sailor secretly dumped thousands of rounds of ammunition into the waters around Sasebo base last month, base officials and the Kyushu Defense Bureau said Friday.
The ammunition was supposed to be used in firing exercises but instead was packed into garbage bags and dropped into restricted waters at three locations Oct. 27, according to a statement released Friday by Sasebo Naval Base public affairs.
The bags were discovered the same day, and the incident was being investigated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the base’s security department.
A second class petty officer, whose name was not released Friday, admitted to throwing the ammunition into the sea and was reassigned until the outcome of the investigation, the base said.
Base officials said the sailor said he disposed of the bags early in the morning at Hario-shima, the Maebata ordnance facility and the Akasaki fuel pier, which are spread wide across U.S. Navy facilities here.
"The incident is still under investigation, and it would be inappropriate to speculate as to the reason" the rounds were dumped, base spokesman Charles Howard said.
On Halloween, divers recovered the ammunition, and the base notified the city of Sasebo, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Kyushu Defense Bureau, Howard said.
The investigation found 3,000 rounds of shotgun shells and 335 rounds of 5.56 mm ammunition for M-16 rifles, the base said.
The ammo was meant for scheduled firing practice on Oct. 23 and 24 and the unused rounds should have been logged back into the armory on Sasebo main base, according to base officials.
"All of the 5.56 ammunition was recovered," the public affairs office said in a prepared statement. "We believe all the shotgun shells have been recovered but are maintaining an ongoing search for any remaining shells that may have fallen out of the plastic bags."
Boaters are barred from waters within 50 meters of the Sasebo Naval Base facilities, and the base maintains 24-hour perimeter security.
The Navy base also told the Kyushu Defense Bureau it collected the ammunition by the morning of Nov. 1, a defense bureau official said.
"We were told that there is no danger of lead pollution," he said. "We will urge [the base] to take preventative measures and to promptly notify us of any additional information on the matter."
Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this story.