Battle Area Clearance (BAC): Guadalcanal

By: Tom Gersbeck, CWO (Ret) USMC, EOD. Written on the efforts of Mark Lasley, MGySgt (Ret) USMC, EOD.

The Battle for the Solomon Islands began on 7 August, 1942 when allied forces, predominantly U.S. Marines, landed on the Japanese held islands of Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida. The fighting officially ended on 9 February 1943 after three (3) major land battles, seven (7) major Naval battles; as well as thousands of day and night raids, ship-to-shore bombardments, aerial engagements and other combat actions. The results of a very successful 3-year training effort on the Guadalcanal is the focus of this article. Specifically the efforts of 13 members of the Royal Solomon Island Police Force (RSIPF) from May 2011 through April 2014.

The Island of Guadalcanal is located in the Solomon Island chain, northeast of Australia (Figure 1). During the battle for this island; which raged for 6 months, over 30,000 men were killed. When the fighting ended, Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) that was not in the way was simply left in place; while anything obstructing construction was buried, moved out of the way or dumped in the ocean. Over the next 9 months, an area in the north central part of the island, designated "Hell's Point" was converted into a massive ammunition storage area capable of supplying Allied Forces throughout the South Pacific (Figure 2).

In November 1943 a grass fire burned into the Hell's Point Storage Area with catastrophic results. Three days of massive explosions resulted in Hell's Point being so badly contaminated with damaged ordnance that everyone living or working on Guadalcanal was restricted from entering this section of the island; these restrictions are still in place.



Cape Town, South Africa The ex-wife of former South African Air Force EOD technician, Piet Kunneke, is speaking out about a crate of illegal military ordnance which she claims has been following her family around South Africa for the past several years. The box contained items allegedly plundered from the military during her ex-husband's two decades of service. The box has moved three different times with family, but today has found a new home with authorities.

Kunneke was finally arrested last week after reports indicated he was planning to turn the stockpile to a far-right extremist group. His ex-wife said that she did not know they were breaking any laws by storing the items as her ex-husband reportedly told her that he had a license to do so as an EOD technician.

Police confiscated the items and charged Kunneke with possession of explosives and ammunition, having more than 200 rounds of ammunition, and storage of explosives and ammunition on his property.

Live Round Found at Salvage Yard

Pocatello, Idaho The Mountain Home Air Force base EOD was called to dispose of an unexploded round found in a metal container at a salvage yard. Workers discovered the live 20mm shell and notified the Pocatello Fire Department who set up a 100-foot perimeter around the container.

The 20mm round is the same type of shell used by Air Force F-15 combat jets, which are equipped with a 20mm Gatling cannon. It is unclear how UXO ended up in the metal container at the salvage yard. No injuries were reported.

Man Has Live Grenade Removed from Leg by EOD

Birmingham, Alabama Army EOD Technicians from Fort Benning rushed to the aid of a 62-year-old man who accidentally fired an entire undetonated 40-mm grenade into his leg. The man and two paramedics were held outside hospital for eight hours following instructions from the EOD that one move could kill them all. Eventually, the team decided to have a disposal specialist attempt to remove the device from the man's leg.

Doctors at the clinic where the man first reported his injury stated that the victim thought the item was a novelty grenade and for some reason decided to "hit it with a hammer". At first they thought his wounds were the result of a piece of shrapnel but realized during transport to a shock trauma facility that it was indeed the actual 40mm grenade. The grenade reportedly failed to detonate because it did not travel far enough to arm itself when it became lodged in his leg.


Train Set Bomb Scare

Dunedin, New Zealand Police responded in full force to a report that a box containing an old train set, and what was appeared a corroded mortar, had been discovered by a charity shop manager. Responders evacuated and cordoned off several buildings while an investigation took place.

The ordnance was later identified as a 1970's-era smoke bomb, and it was removed and detonated by the Burnham-based New Zealand Defense Force bomb disposal unit. The shop's staff was praised for taking the threat of a potentially dangerous munition seriously.


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