Saturday, July 26, 2014

Japan still clearing World War II bombs from Okinawa

This photo of a diagram shows how Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force explosive ordnance disposal technicians planned to carry out the controlled detonation of 24 US World War II munitions. The operation went off without a hitch on July 23, 2014.
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — World War II ended 69 years ago, but shells are still exploding off the coast of Okinawa.
Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force explosive ordnance disposal technicians detonated two dozen U.S.-made munitions Wednesday morning about 800 yards from shore in Kadena town’s Mizugama district, an area known as the “sea wall,” close to Kadena Air Base.
Nineteen of the 24 rounds were 5-inch shells found near the mouth of Hija River in Kadena town along with an 81 mm mortar shell, according to Kadena Town official Nobukazu Kobashigawa. They were accompanied by four 5-inch shells found on the Yomitan Village side.
“It is not surprising to find those shells because the beach is where the allied forces first landed during the Battle of Okinawa,” Kobashigawa said. “I am sure there are lots more.”
As the detonation time neared, a countdown was pronounced in Japanese for a group of town officials, joined by members of the Maritime Self-Defense Force, Japanese Coast Guard and local police.
The explosion was barely heard over the whipping ocean wind but sent a plume of gray-and-white smoke along with sea spray toward the overcast sky. A team of Maritime Self-Defense Force explosives experts then inspected the site to ensure the detonation was a success.
“Since the local area and base areas were once battlefields, it’s not uncommon to unearth or randomly find UXOs (unexploded ordnance),” 18th Wing public affairs spokeswoman Staff Sgt. Amber Jacobs wrote to Stars and Stripes.
“Typically when UXOs are found off base, the Japanese government will dispose of the UXOs, and when it is on base [U.S. military explosive ordnance disposal technicians] would dispose of the UXOs. You tend to hear a lot about UXOs when new construction projects kick off or when someone needs to disturb the ground.”
Japanese officials said a diver discovered the rounds last Dec. 24. The fuses were confirmed to still be operational, then the munitions were moved to the offshore detonation area Tuesday and marked with a red flag and buoy.
It is unknown how many unexploded munitions remain buried on Okinawa in coastal waters, according to the 15th Brigade Okinawa of Ground Self-Defense Force. As of July 12, some 1,708 tons had been recovered and detonated by the Self-Defense Force since the island prefecture was returned to Japan in 1972.
The Battle of Okinawa landing is known as the “Typhoon of Steel” in Japan for the shear ferocity of the fighting and the amount of munitions that were expended. It is unknown how many tons of UXOs were removed by the U.S. military between the end of World War II and the island’s reversion to Japanese control.

Japanese report: No evidence of Agent Orange in barrels on Okinawa (More Shades of Gray)

Japanese report: No evidence of Agent Orange in barrels on Okinawa

Inside a plastic-draped tent on Jan. 28, 2014, Japan Ministry of Defense workers examine a badly rusted drum unearthed from a soccer field near Kadena Air Base schools where 22 dioxin- and herbicide-laced barrels were found last year. A Japanese government report released in July concluded that there was no evidence the empty chemical barrels contained Agent Orange.
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — There is no evidence that dozens of empty chemical drums, unearthed last year on former U.S. military property, contained the toxic defoliant Agent Orange, according to a Japanese government report.
The Okinawa Defense Bureau of the Ministry of Defense tested the final 61 of 83 barrels that were unearthed from land adjacent to the Kadena Air Base fence line. While it found they contained ingredients used in Agent Orange, they were of the incorrect consistency and quantities, leading officials to believe they were to be used as a common herbicide.
The defense bureau also reiterated that it was unlikely that the barrels were a health risk. Tests have shown the air and water, on and off base, are safe.
“There is no evidence that the barrels contained Agent Orange,” the report said. It was posted on the defense bureau’s website earlier this month. “The soil samples that found dioxins and herbicides were taken from immediately beneath the barrels. It is highly unlikely that the ground in the vicinity area is polluted with dioxins of higher levels.
“Also, the soil collected this time was taken from the depth that no human beings are directly exposed to. Therefore there is little possibility that the polluted soil has impact on surrounding environment.”
U.S. Air Force officials said they were still analyzing the report but planned to comment on its findings and release an English translation of its executive summary on Facebook, according to an 18th Wing spokesman.
The barrels caused a stir when they were found buried under a soccer field on land reclaimed from Kadena. The field is separated from Kadena’s Amelia Earhart Intermediate School and its playground by a raised expressway. The Bob Hope Primary School and the Kadena middle and high schools are nearby.
The U.S. military’s position has been that Agent Orange, which defoliated jungles during the Vietnam War and has been blamed for a slew of health problems in veterans, was never stored, shipped through or used on Okinawa. A study commissioned by the DOD has backed that assertion. The military discontinued use of Agent Orange in the early 1970s.
Some veterans who served on Okinawa during the war have claimed they witnessed its use and burial on the island but have been unable to convince the Department of Veterans Affairs to approve medical claims for exposure.
Agent Orange was made up of two major components, the chemical compounds 2,4-D butyl ester and 2,4,5-T butyl ester, mixed at a 50-50 ratio, Japanese officials said.
Last year, Japanese officials found 2,4,5-T, in 22 barrels that were unearthed from the site. The report said 2,4-D was found in the subsequently exhumed 61 barrels.
However, that doesn’t mean Agent Orange was found.
The two base ingredients are common pesticides and herbicides that were widely used around the world for decades, but they were not mixed with solvents that would indicate they were going to be used in Agent Orange, and they were free from markings indicating use in Agent Orange. In addition, there was much more 2,4,5-T than 2,4-D, which led Japanese officials to believe they were meant for something else, like an herbicide.
The report also indicated the barrels contained other pollutants such as the herbicide pentachlorophenol, gasoline or another fossil fuel, the insecticide DDT and polychlorinated biphenyl.
The depth of the barrels indicates they were most likely buried by the U.S. military after it took the area during World War II and before 1988, a year after the Japanese reclaimed the land.
Traces of dioxins were detected in water samples in the area where the barrels were found but at levels below environmental standards, the report said.
“Therefore, it is quite unlikely that the buried barrels have had an impact on the environment or created a health hazard,” Okinawa City Mayor Sachio Kuwae at a news conference earlier this month.
Kuwae said deeper excavation is planned to ensure there was no further contamination.
Air Force officials have said base drinking water meets all U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards; it comes from a commercial Japanese source not connected with the area groundwater.

25 things you might not know about World War One

One hundred years after it began, the history of World War One is as relevant as ever. From the existence of the Free State of Bottleneck to the presence of female fighter pilots, RN brings you 25 facts you might not know about the Great War.

The Contested Beginning
• After his motorcade was bombed on the day of his assassination, Archduke Franz Ferdinand suggested visiting the victims in hospital. Some in his car were concerned about the potential danger, but Oskar Potiorek, a member of Ferdinand's staff, is said to have shrugged it off, replying: 'Do you think Sarajevo is full of assassins?'
• In August 1914, Andorra declared war on Germany. With no standing army and no navy, it wasn’t exactly an overwhelming force. At the time, the military of Andorra consisted of 10 part-time solders wielding ceremonial blank cartridges.
• French leaders, who feared the new tactic of aerial bombardment, built a fake Paris north of the real city from wood and electric lanterns in order to confuse German pilots.
Lions and Donkeys
• WWI was the first filmed war, and saw the emergence of film as a tool for propaganda. Kaiser Wilhelm II personally appeared in more than 60 shorts and documentaries.
• A feature film of the Battle of the Somme which mixed documentary and staged footage was produced in early July 1916 and released in August to critical acclaim. Its theatrical run ended in October, while the battle continued for more than a month after the film closed.
• As a result of the war Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia declared independence or came into their current day existence.
• For some belligerents, the war was very long indeed. Andorra, which was one of the earliest states to declare war in 1914, was also one of the last to declare it over. With their demands left out of the Treaty of Versailles process, Andorra remained in a state of war with Germany until the start of World War II, some 25 years later.
• In 1964, the West German government decided to backpay its Askari soldiers, African troops who had fought in WWI as part of colonial forces. Some 50 years on from the start of the war, hardly any Askari had any proof of service, and were instead made to perform the manual of arms (a series of weapon and formation manoeuvres) in German as a test to prove they had served. Not a single one failed.
The Enemy Within
• One of the earliest casualties of WWI was the German language in America. In 1914, German was the second most widely spoken language in the US, and was taught in schools and used by some newspapers. At the height of the war, German street names were changed and German books burnt.
• The House of Windsor (the UK royal family) used to be the house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha until anti-German sentiment during the war forced King George V to change his family’s name.
The View from Berlin
• Germany and Austria-Hungary were the first countries in the world to introduce daylight saving time, which they called sommerzeit and used to conserve coal during wartime. The practice quickly caught on in other nations.
•The unofficial national anthem of the German Empire until 1918, 'Heil dir im Siegerkranz', had the same tune as the British national anthem, 'God Save The Queen'.
• POWs in Germany were sent to neutral Switzerland or Holland during the latter years of the war if they were ill or had problems with their nerves after prolonged imprisonment. By the end of the war, 40,000 British and Commonwealth troops were interned in Holland alone. Once there, they could pay to stay in hotels and officers were allowed to have their wives join them.
• When he served in WWI, Adolf Hitler, like most Germans with facial hair, was sporting a full Kaiser moustache—twiddly points and all. Hitler was ordered to trim his existing facial hair down to the more iconic toothbrush to better fit his gasmask.
The Pen and the Sword
• Louis Raemaeker was a Dutch painter and cartoonist whose anti-Kaiser works so angered the German government that a reward of 12,000 guilders was given for his capture (dead or alive). He was put on trial for ‘endangering Dutch neutrality’—what a crime.
• Hugh Lofting, a member of the Irish Guards, often complained that any news from the front he could send back to his family was either ‘too dull or too horrible’ for them to hear. Instead, he wrote his children imaginative tales of a doctor who could speak to animals. These later formed the basis of the Dr Doolittle stories.
• Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tried to enlist at the age of 55, stating: ‘I am 55 but I am very strong and hardy, and can make my voice audible at great distances, which is useful at drill.’
• WWI wasn’t a grand time to be a journalist; the British War Office banned independent press reporting, as it was seen to help the enemy. They even threatened the death penalty for journalists unwise enough to try.
• By 1916, British and Commonwealth troops were no longer allowed to have cameras in France.
Other Voices, Other Battles
• Women were flying planes before and during the Great War. Some taught fighter pilots, while a handful of Russian women and one Belgian actually flew combat missions.
• French aviatrix Marie Marvingt, also known as the ‘La fiancée du danger’, was the first woman in the world to fly combat missions. A world-class athlete who won multiple prizes in skiing, cycling, fencing, shooting and luge, she initially disguised herself as a man and joined the infantry. Once outed as woman, she was removed from the front and volunteered with the air force, flying bombing routes over Germany.  When she died in 1963 she was the most decorated woman in the history of France.
• In the US, Katherine and Marjorie Stinson trained over 100 Canadian cadet pilots at their San Antonio flying school. At the time, Katherine, who had been called ‘the flying schoolgirl’, was 24, while Marjorie was 18.
• The Free State of Bottleneck, or Freistaat Flaschenhals, was a quasi-state that existed briefly after WWI due to a measurement error. When French and American forces were drawing up their zones of control in occupied Rhineland, the two zones didn’t quite touch, and thus Bottleneck was born. Home to some 17,000 people, it had its own passports, stamps and currency. There was no land or sea access to the state and though a train network ran through the capital, Lorch, trains weren’t permitted to stop, so most of the state’s income was derived from smuggling.
• Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, were developed in WWI. The Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane, devised as a kind of ‘aerial torpedo’, first flew on March 6, 1918.
• The United States only got involved in the war after British cryptographers decoded a telegram from the German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman encouraging Mexico to invade the US. The British, seeing a chance to play their advantage, held on to the telegram for over a month before showing it to the US ambassador in London. The revelation of the telegram, along with Germany’s bullish submarine tactics in the Atlantic, led to the US joining the Entente forces. The US entry was not a political coup for President Woodrow Wilson, who had just been elected on the slogan ‘he kept us out of war.’

100 years on, World War One resonates at Kansas City museum

(Reuters) - As far as Joan Barkley Wells is concerned, there isn't much reason for calling World War One a forgotten war.

    Her late father, World War One veteran John Lewis Barkley, received the Medal of Honor - America's highest military award - for valor. It is on display along with his portrait at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City.

    Congress selected Kansas City in 2004 as the venue for the official national museum for the war on a site already occupied by the 217-foot tall (66 meters) Liberty Memorial war monument, completed in 1926 on a bluff above the city skyline.

    The 100th anniversary this summer of the start of the war is bringing more attention to the museum and the war itself, which Wells feels is overshadowed by World War Two despite the earlier war's lasting significance.

    "They are still arguing in some countries about the same things they were arguing about 100 years ago," said Wells, who is 75.

    Some empires crumbled, others rose and boundaries were reshaped in the Middle East and the Balkans by the war that ensnared 36 countries, setting up a century of territorial conflicts and establishing the United States as a global power.

    The war gave independence to Poland and several Russian territories. It left a defeatedGermany humiliated, sowing the seeds for the rise of the Nazis that fueled World War Two.

    "We live with the impact of 'The Great War' every day," said Matthew Naylor, president and chief executive of the museum. "There are political issues that are front and center of our experience right now, particularly in the Middle East."

    The war was declared on July 28, 1914, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. The United States entered officially in April 1917, declaring war on Germany.

   Nine million soldiers died, including 116,000 Americans. Millions more civilians also died.

    Barkley, a Missouri farmer and sharpshooter, received the Medal of Honor for single-handedly stopping a German attack on a crippled tank in France using a captured German machine gun.

    "I fired my last round of ammunition from the machine gun but kept my automatic pistol for hand to hand fighting (and) plunged out of the tank with a sudden dash," Barkley wrote in a letter home displayed at the museum. "I had three bullet marks on my clothes and a burnt legging string."

Barkley returned to Missouri to farm and in 1930 wrote a memoir about his experiences entitled "No Hard Feelings," republished in 2012 as "Scarlet Fields."

    The museum tells stories of heroism, heartbreak and the brutal reality of trench warfare in Europe using one of the world's largest collection of artifacts.

    Wells and her generation may have the closest personal connection to the war because their fathers participated, but about half of the visitors are aged 25 to 45, Naylor said.

    More than 150,000 people visited the museum last year and attendance is up 37 percent since June 2013 as the war's centenary approaches.

    Ted Iliff, a museum tour guide, said he felt compelled to volunteer because one of his grandfathers fought for Germany and the other for the United States during the war.

Iliff said he was very young when his American grandfather died but his German grandfather, who lived through two world wars, had some advice for the younger generation.

"He said, 'Do whatever you can to never let that happen again,'" Iliff said.

(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City; Editing by David BaileyJill Serjeant and Will Dunham)

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