US Air Force: WWII-era ordnance found in UK is largest haul on record
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An Air Force Civil Engineering Squadron in the United Kingdom uncovered the largest-ever haul of unexploded World War II ordnance on record for a U.S. engineer regiment.
The 48th Civil Engineering Squadron in April recovered a total of 370 .50-caliber rounds from a construction site at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath station, where construction on a new airport was set to begin.
“This is the largest find we’ve seen on our records, according to the United States Air Force,” Staff Sgt. Foster Harvey told Fox News. He said the process started with recovering a few rounds that had been accidentally unearthed but rapidly expanded as engineers searched the surrounding area.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Foster Harvey, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 48th Civil Engineering Squadron, recovers .50 caliber rounds from a construction site at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 18th, 2021. After years underground, a total of 370 rounds were unearthed resulting in the largest amount of unexploded ordnance recovered from RAF Lakenheath on record by the EOD team. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jacob Wood)
After about an hour, the collected number of rounds was in the hundreds.
“We kept digging and finding more,” Harvey said. “They were probably buried there because there used to be a proper disposal procedure, so we kept finding rounds linked together.”
The history for disposing of ordnance required the burial of live rounds – a tall order for a country that suffered significant bombing during World War II.
“There’s a lot of munitions that have been found buried around England,” Harvey explained. “It used to be buried specifically as disposal, so we find that these technicians had buried a lot of these munitions.”
U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Joseph Trumble, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 48th Civil Engineering Squadron, looks over recovered .50 caliber rounds from a construction site at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 18th, 2021. After years underground, a total of 370 rounds were unearthed resulting in the largest amount of unexploded ordnance recovered from RAF Lakenheath on record by the EOD team. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Jacob Wood)
Harvey first deployed overseas to Korea in 2017 for a year before relocating to England, where the Civil Engineering Squadron assists with the removal and disposal of unexploded ordnance and munitions whenever a possible issue arises.
Since he moved to the U.K., Harvey said that he had been part of three such ordnance recovery operations, but none on the scale of what he saw at Lakenheath.
The engineers have been trained in the handling of each type of munition they might find, but the fact that the 370 rounds were the same type of munition made the process more straightforward, he said.
Unfortunately, the historic find will not make its way to a museum: The engineers have already disposed of the munitions at their range in England – partially to save the Army the cost of transport and handling.
It also means that Harvey didn’t get to keep any of the rounds as a souvenir.
“We’re not allowed to do that,” Harvey said with a laugh.
Harvey stressed that the engineers felt confident about the operation and remaining safe the entire time. He applauded the training the squadron received, saying the engineers were “fortunate” to train so thoroughly for a situation like this.
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