An Air Force civil engineer squadron in the United Kingdom discovered the largest ever recorded shipment of WWII unexploded ordnance for an American engineer regiment.
The 48th Civil Engineer Squadron recovered a total of 370 .50 caliber rounds in April from a construction site at Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath Station, where construction of a new airport was scheduled to begin.
“This is the biggest find we have seen in our records, according to the US Air Force,” said Master Sgt. Foster Harvey told Fox News. He said the process started with collecting a few rounds that were accidentally dug up but quickly spread as engineers searched the surroundings.
After about an hour, the number of hits collected was in the hundreds.
“We kept digging and finding more,” Harvey said. “They were probably buried there because there was a proper disposal procedure, so we kept finding cartridges linked together.”
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The story of ammunition disposal required the burial of live bullets – a tall order for a country that suffered heavy bombing during World War II.
“There is a lot of ammunition that has been found buried around England,” said Harvey. “Previously, they were buried specifically as disposal, so we find that these technicians had buried a lot of this ammunition.”
Harvey was first deployed overseas to Korea in 2017 for a year before moving to England, where the Civil Engineer Squadron assists in the removal and disposal of unexploded ordnance and ordnance whenever that a possible problem arises.
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Since moving to the UK, Harvey has said he has participated in three such ammunition recovery operations, but none on the scale of what he has seen in Lakenheath.
Engineers were trained in handling every type of ammunition they could find, but the fact that all 370 rounds were the same type of ammunition made the process simpler, he said.
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Sadly, the historical find won’t make it to a museum: Engineers have already eliminated ammunition at their range in England – in part to save the military on shipping and handling costs.
It also means Harvey couldn’t keep any of the rounds as a souvenir.
“We don’t have the right to do that,” Harvey said with a laugh.
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Harvey stressed that the engineers felt confident about the operation and stayed safe the entire time. He applauded the training the squadron received, saying the engineers were “lucky” to train so thoroughly for a situation like this.
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