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WWII-era Japanese mortar among 14 explosives surrendered to local FBI office

A  collage of photos shows military explosives collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation during an outreach effort the week of Jan. 24, 2022.
FBI St. Louis
Collage by Rachel Lippmann
Photos provided by the FBI St. Louis office show nine of the 14 military explosives that local law enforcement collected during a weeklong initiative last month.

The FBI in St. Louis is pleased with the results of last month’s push to get local residents to find and discard old military explosives.

The bureau and local bomb squads launched the information campaign on Jan. 24 after receiving seven calls a week earlier about old ordnance, including three Civil War-era cannonballs.

“There’s plenty of stories out there that attribute old military ordnance to the death or injury of other people,” said Brian Reimer, the commander of the St. Charles County bomb squad. “And that’s what we’re trying to stop.”

Over the following week, 18 calls came in from residents, resulting in the collection of 14 explosives. For comparison, most bomb squads respond to one or two of those types of calls a month.

Special Agent Pat Carolan, the bomb technician for the local FBI office, said the publicity, plus the pandemic, likely led to the increase in calls.

“Since COVID, a lot more people have been in their homes, and they start cleaning stuff out, and they come upon this,” he said.

In St. Charles, Reimer got a call from a man who had been given his uncle’s possessions after the older man died. The uncle, a World War II veteran who had served in the Pacific theater, had saved a Japanese mortar made in 1927.

“And I’ve gotta be honest with you, as a bomb guy, and as a history guy, I was kind of excited about it, because you don’t see these things,” he said.

Though the specific initiative ended last month, Carolan said anyone who finds something that could be an explosive should always call local law enforcement.

“We’d much rather err on the side of caution, where you have us come out and have it be nothing, than it be something and then somebody gets hurt,” he said. “You are not going to be hurting anyone’s feelings if you call us out and it ends up being nothing.”

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.