Air Force destroys World War II shell discovered in Unalaska

Explosive specialists with the U.S. Air Force return to their plane Tuesday after destroying World War II-era ordnance found in Unalaska. (Photo by Laura Kraegel/KUCB)

The U.S. Air Force made a special visit to Unalaska Tuesday (April 4) after a hiker found unexploded ordnance from World War II. A bomb squad destroyed the artillery shell in a controlled explosion.

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During the war, hundreds of soldiers were stationed atop Mount Ballyhoo, one of the tallest peaks in Unalaska.

Last week, a local hiker found an explosive reminder of that wartime past, tucked away in the tundra at the base of the mountain.

“The Air Force came out and we blew it up,” City Investigator Chris Honan said.

Honan hosted the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team that flew in from Anchorage to deal with the shell.

“It was old WWII,” Honan said. “It looked maybe 120 millimeters. It’s usually fired from howitzer-type cannons.”

Some 75 years after the war, Honan isn’t sure why road maintenance turned up enough earth to reveal this piece of ordnance at this spot. But he has an idea.

“It was a good-sized round, probably from training,” Honan said. “They had, what… 50,000 soldiers on the entire island? So they probably did some training, firing rounds here and there. It was wartime, so people were always rushing around and throwing stuff around.”

Back in the present day, Honan said the disposal squad didn’t rush the controlled explosion that disposed of the shell.

The three-man team studied the ordnance carefully before driving it to the secluded gun range on the far side of the mountain and blowing it up.

Civilians weren’t allowed within sight of the explosion, and the team didn’t take questions afterward. Honan said it was fun to watch the blast from his spot, 500 feet away from detonation.

“It wasn’t bad,” Honan said. “I would say it had a couple pounds of C4. You could feel it. A little shake.”

In his seven years on the job, Honan said the military has come to the island four or five times to dispose of WWII ordnance.

“It’s not too common, but it’s good to be on the lookout for it,” Honan said.

Honan reminds Unalaskans to call the police if they come across ordnance on the island. He said civilians should not handle explosives for their own safety.