Peace Time: Bombs On The Golf Course

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June 14, 2007: The U.S. Air Force revealed that, while repairing a base golf course flooded by a hurricane, 140 pre-World War II practice bombs were discovered. Some of these practice bombs contained a small explosive charge, that could blow off a limb, or even kill. The bombs had buried themselves into the ground when the area was a bombing range from 1917-1937. During the 1940s, the old bombing range was used as a landfill, and by the 1960s, the area was covered by a layer of topsoil and turned into two golf courses. When the practice bombs were first discovered construction crews, the air force called in a firm that specializes in removing explosives from such situations. After two months of effort, and at a cost of $1.3 million, 140 intact bombs were found, as well as 1,500 bomb fragments.

There are many similar situations in the United States, where bombing and artillery ranges were hastily set up, and then shut down, over the last century. Record keeping was often inadequate, and throwing a few feet of dirt over such places seemed like a workable solution. But hurricanes, floods, earthquakes or persistent winds can eventually bring the explosives back to the surface, and back into action. Explosive devices from the American Civil War (1861-5) are still turning up, above ground, at areas that were heavily fought over, and then abandoned. Some of these items can still kill.

On the bright side, there is a lot more technology now that can detect this stuff before a back-hoe, or hiker touches it by accident. The new gear ranges from hobbyist metal detectors, to military grade ground penetrating radar, now often used by archeologists and geologists, or those who suspect there might be some abandoned munitions down there.

 


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