Peace Time: May 15, 2004

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In early May, construction workers in Baltimore, Maryland stumbled across an assortment of munitions buried at a former military shipyard along the harbor and uncomfortably close to the city's Harbor Tunnel. The twelve items discovered ranged from a 90 pound fire bomb, up to a World War II era 4,000 lb. M65 bomb. Most of the bombs, however, were 500 pound types. None of the weapons had detonators, but all were treated with the proper respect as they were removed and trucked off to Aberdeen Proving Ground for destruction. It was later discovered that the bombs were practice bombs, filled with concrete or plaster, rather than explosives. State and federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation since there are no records of ordinance being dumped or lost in the area.

Several mysteries surround the devices. They seem to have been manufactured across a range of dates, with one being made as late as the Vietnam War. Army bomb squad experts believe that many of the bombs were buried at the site during the mid 1990s. The ten acre area was a former military shipyard initially used to build Liberty Ships and later as a scrap yard for Navy ships, before being taken over by the Maryland Port Authority in 2000. It was thought that the bombs were dumped when the carrier was dismantled in the ship yard during the 1990s. Many old ordinance discoveries typically take place at former military bases or testing grounds, but dumping live ammunition near ports was also common. 

Unexploded munitions are a big headache and public relations nightmare, with nearly 2,300 sites around the country suspected of harboring old bombs, shells, and other lethal devices. California, Texas, and Florida are at the top of the list of states with the biggest problems. The U.S. Military built facilities on properties that were remote 20-80 years ago, but residential development has brought civilization next to many of these areas. Doug Mohney

 


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