Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tutorial: What to do if you find military stuff buried in your yard...

So, in light of our adventures over the last couple of days, I wanted to cover a little safety stuff because I'm told it's actually not that uncommon to find military paraphernalia in soil or even the attic of a previously-owned residence. 

***Disclaimer:  I am NOT the expert and am not responsible for anything bone-headed anyone does (or doesn't do) after reading this posting and coming across a suspicious hunk of metal in the yard.  (We, frankly, did a couple of bone-headed things ourselves.)  I can only speak to what tiny bit of military training I have on unexploded ordnance, as well as the advice and information given to us by EOD technicians and police officers.  The most common-sense approach is -- when in doubt -- always step away and call the police.***

With the legal stuff out of the way, here's what I understand about old ordnance popping up at private residences.  Some of it comes from a time when the land may have held a different purpose.  Our property, for example, was once just another firing range as part of the federally-owned Eglin reservation.  Second, much of it comes by way of souvenirs obtained by older veterans from a time when accountability for such items was less...well...stringent.  

Here's how we figured we'd found something questionable: 

- distinctive shape - They had the basic shape of a big bullet.
- tapered base - I didn't notice this at all, but according to SuperHusband, the tapered base is an indicator because that's how they seat the round into the brass.  

With only a portion of our rounds unearthed, the above were the two defining features that gave us immediate pause. 

Some other things to consider:

- rotating band or the absence of one - The biggest sign I learned to look for was the presence of a rotating band that runs around the girth of the projectile near the back.  In the absence of a band, look for a channel clearly made for one.
- fins - If it looks like a bullet with fins, you might have a mortar (or a much bigger problem).   
- ring - The EOD techs told us the rings were used to transport heavier ordnance, and one of the police officers explained the rings were usually removed when a fuse was inserted into the round.  

For us, the ring at the top was the most unexpected element.  The presence of the ring convinced the first deputy who responded that the rounds had been emptied and converted for personal use.  We weren't sure what to think about the rings, but we've learned that they certainly don't rule out the presence of live explosives.  

What to do if you find something suspicious:

- Stay away from it.  Mark it off to keep others out if necessary.
- Call the police department.  
- If it scares you, ask them to call in an expert.  Don't take no for an answer. 

The last thing to remember is don't take anything for granted.  Our neighbors had walked by these for three years and always assumed they were safe.  The EOD folks told us it was very common to find live hand grenades in the residences of older veterans, whose families had assumed the object had been rendered safe.

As for our find, here's all you ever wanted to know about 155mm rounds from Global Security.  I dug their nifty graphic

And there you have it.

JustSewOlivia:  Tutorials on sewing, quilting and handling bombs in your yard.  You're welcome.  :)