Bomba Day ends quietly in Vicenza
May 5, 2014
VICENZA, Italy - A 4,000-pound British blockbuster bomb dropped 70 years ago on the Nazi-occupied airfield north of Vicenza was successfully disarmed April 25 by Italian demolition experts with the 2nd Regiment of the Julia Alpine Engineers based in Trento, Italy.
The bomb disposal effort required the city to direct the evacuation of some 30,000 Vicenza, Caldogno and Costabissara residents within a mile and a half of the device. Tens of thousands of city residents, including families of U.S. forces in Italy, evacuated their homes and businesses early Friday morning as military explosive ordnance disposal experts, seasoned by duty in Afghanistan, prepared to disarm the bomb.
The blockbuster bomb was designed to damage roofs with its massive shock wave so that thousands of smaller bombs dropped during a single Allied mission 70 years ago would be more destructive. It was discovered during unexploded ordnance clearing in the fall of 2013 of the east side of the former Dal Molin airfield, designated to become a city park. Its close proximity to Caserma Del Din, constructed on the west side of the former airfield, meant all Soldiers in barracks there would be evacuated and the installation closed.
The task of overall planning for the evacuation, security and re-opening of Caserma Del Din fell on the shoulders of the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza Directorate for Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. Planning meetings began shortly after the Oct. 28, 2013, discovery, and Nov. 5, 2013, confirmation of the buried blockbuster. DPTMS planners worked with the Logistics Readiness Center, other garrison directorates, and units and activities on Del Din as a UXO Working Group to identify the actions needed to ensure safety and security for the operation.
The operational plan, to be converted into an operational order, was compiled while Italian authorities worked to establish the most opportune date for the disarming operation and evacuation of the city.
"During the planning process we also had the support of the SETAF Carabinieri, Italian Base Commander Col. Edoardo Maggian, and Maj. Alfonso Minella, the Italian Liaison Officer at the garrison, in coordinating requests for information with Italian civil authorities and the Italian EOD team," said Wes Leisinger, director of DPTMS. "We also had support from Air Force EOD at Aviano Air Base to help us better understand what was required."
Through regular coordination the working group developed the plan for the evacuation, security and re-opening the caserma that met the requirements set by the Italian prefect, who directed the operation, the Vicenza mayor who executed the evacuation, and the Italian army, which defused, neutralized and removed the UXO.
April 25, an Italian holiday, was selected for the operation as it provided a good chance for favorable weather and reduced economic impact on area businesses.
"Closing an entire installation was unprecedented," Leisinger said. "It involved a lot of preparation behind the scenes that most would not be aware of, but was crucial to the success of our part of the operation."
Preparatory steps included sand bagging the fuel point, removing all privately owned vehicles and non-tactical vehicles from the post, clearing the entire installation to ensure all buildings were empty and secure, ensuring unit accountability for all Soldiers and families in the evacuation zone, coordinating a security plan, establishing a torch party to return to the installation to re-set, contingency planning and training for safe haven or shelter operations, community notifications and a town hall, and establishing a transportation plan for before and after the UXO clearing.
"Because the Del Din Central Energy Plant was within 500 meters of the blockbuster, the plant had to be shut down and the installation switched over to city power, the usual back up to the CEP," Leisinger said. That meant another back up was needed in case the city had to cut power to the installation at any point in the operation.
"DPW electricians brought in a large generator and had all backup generators and uninterrupted power supply systems ready to go to continue to power freezers and critical communications and security systems throughout the day," he said.