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Air Force Destroys World War II Shell Discovered In Unalaska

Laura Kraegel/KUCB

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

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.

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

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

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

Credit Courtesy of Nancy Highstreet
Jeff Dickrell of Unalaska found the shell last week at the base of Mt. Ballyhoo.

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," he said. "They had, what? Fifty thousand 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 EOD 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 EOD team didn't take questions afterward. But Honan said it was fun to watch the blast from his spot, 500 feet away from detonation.

“It wasn’t bad," he 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," he 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.

Laura Kraegel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2020. She was KUCB's news director starting in 2019. We are proud to have her back in the spring of 2023 filling in as an interim reporter for KUCB.
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