After nearly 60 years, EOD helps old bomb explode

A large hole developed in the casing of a '40s-era bomb after Edwards' Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit detonated a charge on top of it. The sand-filled bomb, manufactured in 1943, was discovered in an undeveloped area east of Lancaster, Calif.  (Photo by Capt. Vince King)

A large hole developed in the casing of a '40s-era bomb after Edwards' Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit detonated a charge on top of it. The sand-filled bomb, manufactured in 1943, was discovered in an undeveloped area east of Lancaster, Calif. (Photo by Capt. Vince King)

Edwards' Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit strapped charges to the top of an unexploded device found in Lancaster, Calif.   (Photo by Capt. Vince King)

Edwards' Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit strapped charges to the top of an unexploded device found in Lancaster, Calif. (Photo by Capt. Vince King)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Edwards' Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit responded to a remote area east of Lancaster, Calif. after an off-roader reported an unexploded bomb July 7.

When the EOD team arrived, they found a heavily-weathered bomb partially buried in the desert.

"It was a 500-pound, general purpose bomb, which was probably dropped in the late '40s," said Senior Airman Michael Strid, EOD technician. "It had nomenclature and markings on it that indicated it was made in 1943."

Although the EOD team is highly-trained in identifying unexploded ordnance, they said there is no way to know whether the bomb is live or inert.

"You have to assume it's worst case," Airman Strid said. "Out here the environment can quickly wear away any markings indicating whether its live or a practice round."

According to Airman Strid, finding an old unexploded bomb isn't very common. In an average year, the EOD team is called to investigate up to six unexploded devices.

"Back (in the 40s), they didn't have the tracking that they do now of the weapons themselves," he said. "So, we'll find (unexploded ordnance) outside in California City, Rosamond or any of the other local towns, and we'll find stuff from the late 40s and early 50s just because this whole area was a bombing range."

Although local law enforcement agencies have bomb squads available to them, they occasionally rely on the expertise of Edwards' EOD team, Airman Strid said. When an unexploded device is military in nature, law enforcement will call in EOD to handle the situation.

If anyone finds an unexploded device, which is sometimes called a UXO, there are several things the person making the discovery should do, Airman Strid said.

"First, they should back away from the item," he said. "Then they should try to mark the location. If they have a (global position system) on them, use the GPS to mark the location. If not, know the surroundings and use landmarks."

At that point, someone discovering unexploded ordnance should call law enforcement, but Airman Strid said it is very important not to use a cell phone or any other electronic device within 50 feet of the suspected explosive. Doing so could set it off.

Late Friday evening, Edwards' EOD team detonated a charge destroying the unexploded bomb.

"We weren't sure if it was a live bomb until we detonated the charge," Airman Strid said. "That's really the only way to know for sure if it's a real bomb or a practice round."

In the case of this UXO, the detonation was subdued as the device was a practice round filled with sand, he said.

After the detonation, a plume of smoke south of the Rogers Dry Lake was visible from main base.

Airman Strid recommends that anyone who finds a suspicious item on base call the 95th Security Forces Squadron law enforcement desk at (661) 277-3340. If a suspicious item is found off base, call local law enforcement.

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