WWII-era U.S. Mine Detonated in Kanmon Straits, Japan

Kita-Kyushu, Japan Japanese self-defense forces carried out a controlled detonation of a WWII U.S. mine found during windfarm construction in the Kanmon Straits. This marked the first explosive operation conducted in the area in nearly a decade.

In a two-step process, a Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) minesweeper successfully cleared the mine. "We managed to dispose of it without fail," said Lt. Cmdr. Akira Ito of the 43rd Mine Warfare Force.

During the closing days of WWII, the U.S. military dropped mines in the Kanmon Straits as part of "Operation Starvation" to disrupt Japan's logistics in the strategic transport location. In all, U.S. forces deployed about 5,000 mines in the straits between March and August 1945, or nearly half of the 12,000 U.S. mines planted across Japan.

To date, more than 3,500 mines have been found and destroyed with most of those operations occurring during the 20-year period following the war.

Several hundred wartime mines are believed to remain on the seafloor in and around the Kanmon Straits. Takayuki Fujii, a warrant officer stationed at the SAA Shimonoseki, said "After I heard about the offshore wind farm, I was expecting to find some mines. We must be prepared to find more if there are more wind farms to be built."

He also added that there is only a 0.1 percent chance that the naval mines will explode, as they have been deteriorating for decades. They do, however, still retain their explosive properties. "We can't really say there is a zero possibility, and we will dispose of them in safe places underwater," Fujii said.

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