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It’s not every day that the bomb squad detonates 191-pound ammunition from World War II outside of Neligh.
But almost more shocking than that is realizing the very large — and live – war relic had spent decades inside someone’s home in Antelope County — on the same block as other houses, families and children.
Equally as frightening is that the ammunition probably is not the only live relic in the area. And that’s exactly why the Nebraska State Patrol and Nebraska National Guard invited the Antelope County News to the detonation Wednesday.
“What we have here could kill a lot of people,” said Tech Sergeant Mike Gibson, pointing to ammunition being x-rayed outside of the Antelope County Sheriff’s Department. “That’s why we’re going to take this ammunition to a remote location, bury it, counter charge it and make it safely go away.”
Gibson and Trooper Gabriel Skalka both said they are called to detonations of old ammunition multiple times a year, and that the Antelope County resident made the right decision with this find by calling law enforcement.
While many people assume war relics are safe since they may be causally inside someone’s house, that may not be the case. Most people simply don’t realize the danger they are putting themselves and their neighbors in.
“Some of these items degrade as they age and become much more hazardous,” Skalka said. “It’s important not to just leave it sitting around. It needs be destroyed because it’s not safe. At a new state, it would be safer, but after it’s sat for 30 or 40 years, even by just tipping it over it could become less stable and detonate. And if there were a house fire, it would take a dangerous situation to an extremely dangerous situation.”
Skalka admitted that the ammunition found in Antelope County was the largest war relic he had ever seen in someone’s home. But it wasn’t the oldest. Earlier this year he assisted the National Guard EOD with a Civil War cannon ball detonation.
An obvious question is how do items end up back in the U.S.? While specifics will never be known about an item from World War II, Gibson said that simply does not happen today.
“I don’t know how exactly things like this get here, but back in that time period, there wasn’t the accountability there is now,” Gibson said. “That’s why a lot of this stuff pops up across the state from that time period.”
After x-raying the ammunition last Wednesday, the bomb techs scouted a remote area southwest of Neligh with no one living inside a home within about a mile and a half. The Antelope County News watched some of the prep work for the detonation before moving to a secure location about 1,600 feet from the site.
Upon detonation, the explosion was seen a full second before the explosion was heard. The smoke was clearly visible high into the air and lingered for about 30 seconds. Once the all clear sounded, a large crater was visible, along with some fragments of the ammunition.
Afterward, Gibson reiterated the need to call authorities if any war relic is found by civilians. He said they need to be checked by authorities to determine if they are dangerous and properly disposed of if they are live.
“Do not touch it,” Gibson said firmly. “Call either the State Patrol or your local law enforcement.”