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Members of Yokosuka Naval Base's explosive ordnance disposal detachment prepared this explosion at Camp Fuji, Japan, on Monday. It was much bigger in real life, or so the reporter was told.

Members of Yokosuka Naval Base's explosive ordnance disposal detachment prepared this explosion at Camp Fuji, Japan, on Monday. It was much bigger in real life, or so the reporter was told. (Courtesy of Ben Cipperley)

More than 100 pounds of explosives makes a big boom, I was assured.

You know those action-movie sequences with huge fireball explosions? That kind of thrill — minus Jet Li on a motorcycle — was the reason I got up at 4 a.m. Monday to tag along with Yokosuka’s explosive ordnance disposal detachment to photograph demolition training at Camp Fuji.

The weather was rainy and gray, but phrases like “shock wave” and “implosion” kept the adrenaline pumping.

I’m a bit of a firebug myself, you see. The kind of person who always has firecrackers around the house. The kind of person to whom those “Do not chuck into campfire” warnings on pressurized cans are addressed.

But my case of pyromania is mild compared to what these guys have.

“My mom used to have to light matches, one after another, by my crib so I would fall asleep,” one tech told me.

“Yeah, my brother and I found some lighters and matches and almost burned the whole thing down,” another said. “My parents were really mad.”

I couldn’t tell if they were pulling my leg or not, but they showed an obvious relish in setting up “the shot” Monday.

The shot, in EOD-speak, is the explosion. It involves unloading and packing the explosives, preparing the detonation and observing all of the safety precautions. Monday was going to be a one-shot day.

This meant that I only had one shot at getting the fireball picture.

A “shot” in reporter-speak is the picture itself. It can also be what you order at the bar after a hard day of “shooting.”

I was very concerned about setting up a shot of my own. One hundred and twenty-five pounds of C-4 packs a mighty punch, so we had to stay in a covered bunker — not the ideal place for photography. So I stood on a box and positioned my camera through one of the bunker’s slits.

The techs warned me that the shock wave was probably going to spray rain on my face. That made it more exciting.

I started twitching and flinching as soon as they said “We’re hot!”

And when I heard “Fire in the hole!” I started clicking away madly, believing that the explosion was going to blow me off the box and into next week.

But for several painful moments, all that could be heard in the quiet bunker was the “click!” “click!” “click!” of my shutter.

Then the worst happened: The camera stopped clicking. I yelped and looked down at my inoperative machine.

BLAMMO!!!! Detonation.

I missed the whole thing. I hadn’t even seen it with my eyes. Then the laughter began.

Two of the EOD guys captured some great footage of the explosion on their cell phones, plus audio of my yelp and the laughter that followed. I sheepishly asked if I could borrow the images. The laughter continued as they explained that it takes a while between pressing the button and the actual explosion. They said they’d do it over if they could, but alas, the explosion had obliterated everything.

I should probably stick to writing, they said.

And yes, I got water on my face. Maybe it will help wash off the egg. Shot? Bartender, I’ll take another!


Stripes in 7



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