The Department of Defense (DoD) has an ongoing effort to prevent accidents involving military munitions; however, such accidents do occur. The Army has developed this web site to educate the public about the hazards associated with military munitions, particularly, unexploded ordnance (UXO).
Army-wide analyses of accidents involving military munitions and civilian personnel indicate that failure to respect the explosive hazards associated with munitions, particularly UXO, is the main cause of accidents involving munitions. Remember military munitions are designed to destroy enemy weapons, kill, or incapacitate the enemy. Soldiers are only allowed to handle and use military munitions after extensive training. Soldiers that respond to UXO, known as Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel, are highly trained and specially equipped teams. Their training and equipment are highly specialized and extensive because of the explosive hazards involved. EOD personnel are only authorized to respond to requests from local law enforcement personnel for support in addressing munitions encountered by the public.
The best way to avoid an incident, and avoid becoming another true story on this website, is to learn and remember the 3Rs (Recognize, Retreat, and Report). Remember, if you encounter or think you have encountered a munition, do not approach, touch or disturb it, but call 911.
Incident 1. In 2013, two civilians illegally collecting metal on an operational range in Texas were seriously injured when a grenade exploded. The trespassers failed to recognize the danger of ignoring warning signs and entering an operational range where unexploded ordnance (UXO) of different types are present. In this case, these trespassers failed to recognized the difference between aluminum practice grenades and high explosive grenades in the same area. Military police and federal law enforcement agencies subsequently visited 90 local scrap recyclers and identified four yards that had purchased munitions from peddlers. A military Explosive Ordnance Disposal team worked with law enforcement to recover and destroy numerous military munitions and a significant amount of munitions debris from these yards. Law enforcement closed portions of these yards for an extended time while the munitions investigation and clearance was underway. The failure of the individuals to recognize the danger of trespassing on an operational range and collecting scrap metal, which included munitions, seriously injured these individuals. In addition, those injured may face criminal charges for trespassing and theft. Failure of these recycling yards to recognize the hazard posed by the metals the peddlers brought to the yard placed their workers at risk and disrupted their normal business.
Incident 2. In 2011, a crane operator in a scrap metal yard recognized there was a munition in the material he was processing. The operator immediately retreated from the area and reported what he saw to police. The state police bomb squad closed the scrap yard for 30 minutes while it removed the military munitions from the yard and transferred it to an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit for disposal. The crane operator followed the 3Rs protecting his fellow workers and company, with only a minor disruption of the scrap yard's operations.
Incident 3. In 2010, personnel at a County Historical Museum reorganized some of the museums' local military history artifacts. During this effort, they discovered approximately 15 packages of black powder wrapped in paper, bullets from the Civil War through WWII era, and a full pouch of live ammunition and stripper clips from the Spanish-American War. Fissures in the bullets' exterior revealed the decay and instability of each one. The museum's director reported the findings to the local police department who immediately contacted the state police's bomb squad. The bomb squad inspected a variety of items and determined that some, like the Spanish-American War bullets, could not be made safe and required destruction. Others could be made safe and retained by the museum. Before the unsafe munitions were removed for destruction, a museum volunteer photographed them to create a historical record for the museum. The museum curators recognized the danger the munitions posed to the staff, public and their collections.
Incident 4. In 2008, explosion at a Raleigh scrap-metal recycling plant injured two workers. Peddlers had sold a load of scrap metal that contained anti-tank rounds to the yard. Plant workers saw the shells, which were mixed with a batch of scrap metal being processed for recycling, but did not recognize the danger posed. Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel from Fort Bragg recovered 29 munitions mixed with bales of scrap metal. The munitions that EOD recovered included three 90 mm artillery rounds and anti-tank rockets. Police periodically closed roads and evacuated nearby residences during a two-week period that the military inspected and detonated munitions encountered in the scrap yard. Although the workers saw the munitions, they failed to recognize the danger posed.
Incident 5. In 2008, a Civil War cannonball detonated and killed a military enthusiast and relic collector while he was trying to remove its black powder fill. Although he had removed the black powder from hundreds of Civil War munitions before and recognized the danger posed, he still risked handling the cannonball. A large piece of the cannonball flew through the front porch of a house a quarter-mile away. Emergency responders evacuated nearby homes while they removed additional cannon balls that he had collected. Recognize that even old munitions are unpredictable and should never be disturbed.
Incident 6. Youngsters recognized that they had encountered a munition and some discarded military equipment in a wooded area near their home. The children carefully retreated and ran home to tell their mother. Their mother reported the munitions and equipment to the police. Subsequently, an Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team went to the location where the munitions and equipment were encountered to investigate. It turns out the munition was very dangerous and had to be destroyed in place. The children were very smart to follow the 3Rs (Recognize, Retreat, Report) because had they disturbed the munitions, they could have been killed or seriously injured. The community should be grateful to the children for following the 3Rs because their action allowed EOD to remove the danger.
Incident 7. In 2006, a Civil War relic collector was severely injured along with his grandson while trying to defuse a Civil War artillery shell. The collector was trying to remove gunpowder from a 140 to 150 year old Civil War era shell at his home. Known as the Grandfather of Relics, he was well respected among diggers and collectors. After the explosion, a military Explosive Ordnance Disposal team destroyed dozens of other shells found at the collector's home. Recognize that munitions do not get safer with age and that explosives can behave in an unpredictable way. Never approach, touch move or disturb munitions regardless of their age.
Incident 8. Strong winds and heavy rains from the 2004 landfall of Hurricane Jeanne partially exposed an unexploded 10-foot long Tiny Tim rocket in the driveway a Florida residence. A military Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit responded to remove the 1940s-era rocket that was used in training for WWII's D-Day invasion. A few days later, three additional unexploded rockets were found nearby. In 2004, EOD teams in Florida responded to five explosives and emergency calls after hurricanes. In these cases, the residents recognized the danger, retreated from the area, reported the suspect munitions to the police and helped protect the community.
Incident 9. In 2004, police in Georgia evacuated several homes and businesses following the explosion of a trash bin that was determined to contain munitions. Although, the sanitation workers picking up the garbage were unharmed, the explosion destroyed the trash container, shattered the garbage truck window, and threw the truck forward several feet, knocking out a fence. A military Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit removed four high explosive 20mm rounds that were found in the truck following the explosion. This incident may be related to the arrest of two suspects who were caught wandering on an operational gunnery range. The actions of these individuals put the community at risk. Luck was responsible for the lack of injuries.
Incident 10. In 2004, a man collected a bucket of munitions from crushed clamshells that were delivered to pave his driveway. He took the bucket of munitions grenades to a local police station. The police immediately recognized the danger, evacuated the building, and waited for the police bomb squad and a military Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit to respond. An Army investigation determined these munitions had inadvertently been recovered during commercial clamming off the New Jersey coast. The Army immediately took action to educate the public on the 3Rs (Recognize, Retreat, Report) of explosive safety. Although the man recognized the munitions posed a potential danger, he did not recognize that by picking them up and moving them he was placing himself and others in great danger.
Incident 11. In 2004, an antique bottle hunter searching a wooded area in Georgia uncovered an unusual item. Initially, the item was suspected to be an old bottle, or even a flashlight. On further inspection, it was suspected to be a munition. Once the hunter recognized the potential hazard, he contacted the local police and a bomb squad responded. After determining the item was a military munition, the bomb squad requested support from a military Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit. The the EOD team safely removed and properly disposed of the munition, which was identified as a WWII era 40mm anti-aircraft round.
Incident 12. In 2004, the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel was closed when construction workers encountered several military munitions at an old ship yard. One of the items was a 4,000 pound WWII-era bomb. A military Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit responded to the area. Only after an extensive inspection by military experts were these munitions determined to be inert--not to contain explosives. As such, they did not present an explosive hazard. Recognize that only experts can identify the subtle differences between munitions that may be inert and those that contain explosives. In this case, an error could have been catastrophic for the city.
Incident 13. In Charleston, South Carolina, at the end of 2003, construction workers encountered a civil war-era military munition while digging up a cobblestone driveway. The workers did not identify the munition until the next day, when a Civil War re-enactor recognized it as a Parrott shell. The black-powder filled projectile was about eight inches long and three inches in diameter. The local bomb squad responded and properly disposed of the projectile. Some munitions are difficult to identify, and not everyone recognizes the danger that even old munitions can present.
Incident 14. One afternoon in 2001, an eight year old was raking leaves in his yard when his rake scrap metal. He picked up an unusual item and ran with it to his house. When his brother saw it, he became alarmed. The child dropped the object on the ground, a few feet from a concrete driveway. The family called the local police and the scrap metal the boy picked up was identified as a live military munition, a bazooka round. Military experts responded and carefully removed the round to a nearby military installation where it was detonated. Later, the family learned that their house was built on land the military once used for a military training area. This family was fortunate that the boy's older brother recognized the potential hazard in time.
Incident 15. In 2000, a nine year-old boy playing near a former artillery range found a munition and kept it as a souvenir. More than a year and half later while the boy was playing with the munition in his garage, the munition exploded. As a result, the boy lost his left hand and forearm. Failure to recognize the explosive hazard posed by munitions irreversibly changed this boy's life.
Incident 16. In 2000, an incident occurred that involved military munitions removed from an operational range. Like most operational ranges, this range had signs warning the public not to enter the area and of hazards present. Nevertheless, some teenagers entered the range and removed some munitions. The teenagers took the munitions, handling and passing them around between themselves and their friends for several days. After changing hands many times, one of the munitions was dropped and exploded. As a result, a 16 year-old boy was killed and another was left in critical condition. Witnesses reported that, at one time, there were up to 20 children handling the munition that eventually exploded. This munition exploded even though it had been handled and moved, including between homes, several times. After investigation, three local youths were arrested for trespassing into a restricted area and taking government property--the munition. Sadly, none of those involved recognized the danger posed by the munitions until it was too late.
Incident 17. In 1995, a family on vacation near an active military base found seven unidentified items and took them home. These items turned out to be munitions (unexploded ordnance or UXO). Two of these munitions exploded while children were playing with them. As a result, five children were injured and admitted to the hospital. Two were in serious condition, one with head injuries. An Explosives Ordnance Disposal Team responded from a local military base and destroyed the munitions. Unfortunately, the family did not recognize the items were munitions and the result was serious injuries. This incident demonstrates one reason the Army advises its soldiers and warns the public, "if you did not drop it, do not pick it up."
Incident 18. In 1983, some boys encountered a munition in a canyon near their home in California. The munition detonated when a boy hit it against a rock. The detonation killed two boys and injured another. After this incident, the military swept hundreds of acres, recovering about 200 munitions. Several years later, a 15-year old reported to his mother that while riding dirt bikes in a nearby canyon he saw what appeared to be a munnition. She immediately recognized the danger and reported the munition to fire officials. Fire officials said the 76-mm anti-personnel shell might have exploded had there been a brush fire. By following the 3Rs of explosive safety, this family helped keep themselves and their community safe.
RECOGNIZE — when you may have encountered a munition.