October 15, 1936: Illegal Unexploded Ordnance Retrieval

  • Published
  • United States Army Air Forces

Two Antelope Valley ranchers searching for souvenir unexploded bombs on the gunnery range were apprehended by March Field personnel after a short vehicle chase involving gunfire. Two bombs were recovered and subsequently detonated.

Unexploded ordnance, unexploded bombs, and explosive remnants of war are explosive weapons (bombs, shells, grenades, land mines, naval mines, cluster munition, and other munitions) that did not explode when they were employed and still pose a risk of detonation, sometimes many decades after they were used or discarded. UXO does not always originate from wars; areas such as military training grounds can also hold significant numbers, even after the area has been abandoned. UXO from World War I continue to be a hazard, with poisonous gas filled munitions still a problem. When unwanted munitions are found, they are sometimes destroyed in controlled explosions, but accidental detonation of even very old explosives also occurs, sometimes with fatal results.

Unexploded ordnance, however old, may explode. Even if it does not explode, environmental pollutants are released as it degrades. Recovery, particularly of deeply-buried projectiles, is difficult and hazardous—jarring may detonate the charge. Once recovered, explosives must either be detonated in place—sometimes requiring hundreds of homes to be evacuated—or transported safely to a site where they can be destroyed.

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