Two Japanese sea mines, unexploded ordnance (UXO) dating from World War II, were detonated at Mili Atoll by visiting Golden West Humanitarian Foundation team late last month. RMI Historical Preservation Office (HPO) Grant Manager and Field Technician Steve Titiml said liquid explosives were used to destroy the Japanese sea mines that were found two years ago on Mili.
In most cases they (Golden West) “cut and burn” UXOs but with the unknown chemical composition of the sea mines, explosives were used to destroy them.
Golden West Director of Special Projects and Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Chief Len Austin confirmed the two sea mines were blown up on a sandbar between the main island of Mili and an adjacent island. The explosion left a hole in the sand but would be covered up by the tide, said Austin. He said he appreciated support from Pacific International Inc. manager Kenneth Kramer for donating explosives to help the team destroy the sea mines, Daniel Kramer, staff at Historic Preservation Office, US Embassy, Robert Reimers Enterprises Hotel’s Colette Reimers, and others involved.
The Golden West team included Austin, Paramedic Rene Bernklav, Chief of Underwater Operations Mike Nisi, and EOD Supervisor Khean Thong. This is the first time to bring in a paramedic and a dive expert to the islands. While on Mili, the team was able to help the people with antibiotics, pain relief medications, and health advice on how to prevent pinkeye.
The team also went to investigate the area where a woman died recently from being hit in the head while working on her ground fire. A 76mm munition was assumed to have shot up from under the tree stump from the ground fire and hit the iron pot causing it to shatter and hit the woman. Such things are not easy to find because over time they are covered by soil, and even trees grow over them.
Following Mili, the Golden West team went to Wotje to destroy UXOs that were stored in an old Japanese bunker. The UXOs on Wotje, and also on Jaluit, were discovered by the Cleared Ground Demining, a different UXO clearing group, in 2013. Cleared Ground Demining wanted to follow up on their findings but wasn’t able to due to lack of funding. The Golden West team got back from Wotje last week and were headed out to Taroa, Maloelap. Reports on Wotje and Maloelap are expected when the team has completed its mission.
Titiml said Golden West is expected to come back next year and follow up on Jaluit, Mejit, and Utrok.
Golden West has been visiting the RMI annually for three years through the request of RMI and US governments. The Golden West Humanitarian Foundation is funded by the US Department of State’s Weapons Removal and Abatement Program.
Read more about this in the June 24, 2016 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.