VICENZA, Italy - A squad of Italian army engineers and civilian contractors removed more than 20 World War II era bombs from a former rugby field east of Caserma Del Din in the last two weeks of August. The parcel of land is being prepared for development as the City of Vicenza's Parco della Pace, or Peace Park.

"We have spoken with the prefecture in Vicenza and the situation is not dangerous," said Capitano Cornelio Piscitelli, the officer in charge of the 2nd Engineer Regiment soldiers who have been excavating and destroying the unexploded ordnance, also known as UXO, uncovered since they began operations Aug. 19. The regiment is based in Trento and is being supported by USAG Vicenza with fuel and parking on nearby Caserma Del Din during the course of the operation.

"The question is to realize an important construction for the people in Vicenza. We want to work for the neighbor American community and the Italian community, and we want to finish as soon as possible for the City of Vicenza," said Piscitelli.

This is hardly the 2nd Engineer Regiment's first experience in excavating and deactivating World War II era duds, Piscitelli said. In 2009 the regiment responded to the discovery of a large unexploded aerial bomb discovered in downtown Vicenza, and successfully removed it, he said.

The munitions on the former airfield and the future Peace Park appear to be of a different nature, however. "This kind of bomb is an Italian bomb because we think it was a defensive tactic; we think, based on the historical chronology," said Piscitelli.

It appears most likely that Italian forces, who controlled the airstrip during the war, rigged parts of its perimeter with ordnance to be detonated in the event of the field falling into Allied hands, said Maj. Alfonos Minella, Italian Army liaison officer.

The present round of detection and removal work is scheduled for completion Aug. 29. The rugby field may be open once again for play later in the autumn, Minella said.

Meanwhile, the scanning for unexploded bombs continues. Working with private contractor G.A.P. Service srl, the engineers employ a FEREX (ferromagnetic UXO) system, a detection device that looks like a fishing rod and is considered very sensitive and reliable.

Once a likely item is detected, the engineers and contractors dig it out using an excavator and shovels. The UXO is packed on site in a sandbag laden, wooden crate and loaded onto Italian military transport for removal to Orgiano, a town south of the Colli Berici and about 40 kilometers from Vicenza. There the munitions are destroyed in a cave with TNT, said Piscitelli.

As of Aug. 23, the engineers had discovered and disposed of 18 bombs weighing 100 kilos, each containing 50 kilos of TNT, and two that weighed 250 kilos, he said. None of the armament appeared to have fuses attached, Piscitelli said.

Minella said the Carabinieri and local police authorities work together to ensure public safety by closing off sections of road as the UXO is transported to Orgiano.

Page last updated Tue September 3rd, 2013 at 00:00