The following is the second in a series of articles by Guest Author Robert "Dale" Woosley who served at Theodore Navy Magazine, Alabama in the early years following the end of WWII. The first part of Dale's story can be found at Theodore Navy Magazine - Tales from the Early Era of Munition Disposal (Part 1)
The work at Theodore included recovery of the brass shells of 3 and 5 inch caliber. The way this was done was to load one end of an ordinary railroad box car with the boxes containing the shells and load a hydraulic press in the middle. We were taken down in a swampy area away from anything and anybody - after the engine had left us. Usually our work crew consisted of 6 men. A couple of guys opened the boxes and took out the single shell in it. Then a couple of guys put the shell in the hydraulic jack and pulled out the projectile and placed it on the floor in the "empty" end of the box car. It would later be disposed at sea. Then two guys would pour the smokeless powder from the shell into a rubber-lined (no sparks) container half the size of a refrigerator, then place the shell in a vertical firing box to fire the primer. The brass shells were brought back to the base, ready to be sold for scrap.
The mosquitoes in the swamp were monsters. It was so hot and humid, we usually worked without shirts and the mosquitoes took advantage. In order to hurry up things and get out of there, we brought an old mattress, put it on the floor in the middle of the car, picked up shells by the nose and hit the base on the mattress, popping out the nose projectile. Stupid, of course, but efficient. Sometimes we ran across a shell which was called a VT or proximity shell, meaning it was meant to explode when it detected the presence of its target. We had to set those aside for an officer to de-activate them. We were scared of those.