Have you emptied the shells of their explosives? If not, they are still live and are still extremely dangerous. Explosives, particularly of that era, become more unstable with time. The firing mechanisms may be sufficiently corroded that they won't fire easily, but if they were dropped, or even just cleaned, it might be enough to break it all lose. Again, as a former USAF weapons officer responsible for storage and maintenance of a wide variety of modern munitions, please be extremely careful. They should be destroyed (I hate to say that, but it's true) or, at the very least, inerted by someone who knows what they are doing as soon as possible.
they all most certainly look inert to me lol
Great Finds ! Thanks for posting.
No offense, but you have no idea how many times people who should know better let their desire for a good trophy get ahead of their best judgment. Even guys who have seen what munitions can do first hand will bring stuff into their own homes and tell themselves its a dud, or old, or rusty, so it must be safe. I used to keep track of the incidents to try to warn my own guys handling munitions what not to do. I remember seeing one report about a guy trying to bring a "dud" (live) Iraqi mortar shell onto the air transport taking him and his company back home to the states. (Saw the same thing after Grenada too.) Another USAF report I received was about a boy in Korea who would sneak onto a US bombing range with his father at night to scavange the small US practice bombs (BDU 33db) for their scrap metal value. He picked up a dud and put his hand on the nose to support the weight with the tail under his chin. It had hit the ground at about 450 miles per hour without going off, but all it took was the weight of the bomb in this kid's hand to set off the spotting charge and essentially take the poor kid's head off. Not to mention every single year that I would pick up on reports of ex US GI's with "dud" grenades, mortar shells, artillery shells, flares, etc. that would be dropped, fall from mantles, be found by their kids, and would detonate after being "safe" for thirty or forty years. Some of the stories that didn't kill anyone were hillarious, in a black humor sort of way. So please forgive the occupational habit: I just handled everything from .38 caliber small arms ammo to W-78 nukes for long enough that worrying is second nature (even after being retired for 16 years).
Having said all that, how did you inert them? That would be fascinating (and scary) in its own right!
(My favorite story: a Master Sergeant I worked with told me how he had come home from work one summer day in (West) Germany and asked his sons what they had done that day. They were fairly small kids and were very excited to tell him about the man hole cover some kids had found. (A man hole cover is one of those round heavy steel plates about 60 to 70 cm that cover sewer and water drainage access in streets. I don't know what you call them in Poland--maybe the same thing!) Anyway, the base kids had rolled this man hole cover through base housing to the top of the highest hill on base and pushed it over the edge to see how far it would roll. They then repeated the process several times to see who could get it to roll the farthest. The kids all planned to pick up with it again the next day. My friend was intrigued and asked them to show him the man hole cover. He then called the base Explosive Ordnance Disposal shop (EOD). They then grabbed every kid they could find on base housing, and a lot of the parents, and took them to the top of the highest hill to watch EOD do its thing down below. I'm told it was quite a show. Surprisingly enough, none of the kids had ever before seen the explosion of a WW2 white phospherous anti tank mine. Imagine that! It's my favorite only because nobody was hurt, unlike the guy using a screw driver instead of a shear pin in the Minuteman support retractor arms.)
Thanks for an excellent post – The stories do have an element of, as you say “black humour” but that certainly does help get the message across – Thanks for sharing them. I too have had bad reactions to pointing out some dangers – However, I have also been thanked for enlightening others who had no idea what they were dealing with – Old ordnance and explosives come in many forms, not always as obvious as those in the photos on this thread.
I guess it can be a fine line between safe handling and stupidity by even those who should know better as you say. I am sure that the collector here knows what he is doing, but collectors must be in a difficult position – There must be a temptation to take an extra risk for a rare item? I admit to having been tempted in the past on finding a rare grenade in excellent condition – but it stayed in the forest. I do have one or two large inert WWI shells – purchased that way and checked out – It has satisfied my acquisitive tendencies in that direction and I find it easy now to just photograph such finds and leave them well alone.
Last edited by NickW; 04-23-2011 at 07:05 PM.
Crikey! You've done a damn fine (and no doubt not without a little danger!) job in emptying those shells and polishing them up like new pins since yesterday!!!
'I do not think we can hope for any better thing now.
We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker of course, and the end cannot be far.
It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more. R. SCOTT.
Last Entry - For God's sake look after our people.'
In memory of Capt. Robert Falcon Scott, Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers, Lawrence Oates and Edgar Evans. South Pole Expedition, 30th March 1912.