Japanese authorities detonated three World War II-era shells on Tsuken Island, Okinawa prefecture, June 6, 2024.

Japanese authorities detonated three World War II-era shells on Tsuken Island, Okinawa prefecture, June 6, 2024. (Uruma City)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Japanese authorities recently detonated three explosive shells believed to be left over from World War II on an island just southeast of Naval Base White Beach.

The ordnance was discovered April 27 by a landowner on Tsuken Island, a spokesman for Uruma city’s Disaster Prevention and Crisis Management Division told Stars and Stripes by email Friday. He had been driving a tractor in an area where rainfall washed away the soil.

Tsuken, in the Philippine Sea, came under heavy bombardment during the Battle of Okinawa in April 1945, according to the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum’s website.

The recently discovered 3-inch shells were moved out of a residential area to a safer place in the northern part of the island on May 1, the spokesman said.

Officials found that removing the fuses and transporting the shells was too dangerous. They decided instead to detonate them on the island, a Japan Ground Self-Defense Force spokesman told Stars and Stripes by phone Friday.

Seven members of the 101st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit arrived Thursday morning, the Self-Defense spokesman said. An area within an 820-foot radius was temporarily restricted during the operation, which started at 9 a.m.

The shells were buried before the detonation, the spokesman said.

The detonation was done “without any trouble,” the city spokesman said; it concluded at 3:31 p.m. and restrictions were lifted by 4:11 p.m.

Some government officials in Japan may speak to the media only on condition of anonymity.

Approximately 10,000 tons of ordnance were dropped on Okinawa during the Battle of Okinawa and nearly 2,000 tons remain undiscovered, according to the prefecture’s General Bureau website.

Crews disposed of nearly 15 tons between April 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023.

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Keishi Koja is an Okinawa-based reporter/translator who joined Stars and Stripes in August 2022. He studied International Communication at the University of Okinawa and previously worked in education.

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