FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. - Civilian authorities called upon the U.S. Army and the Pennsylvania National Guard this month to assist with the demolition here of hundreds of Civil War-era cannonballs discovered during a construction project this spring in Pittsburgh.
The munitions were discovered on the site of the former Allegheny Arsenal in Pittsburgh. The arsenal supplied Union troops and was the site of a deadly explosion in September 1862 that killed 78 people.
The 192nd Ordnance, Fort Bragg, North Carolina and 55th Ordnance Company (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) of the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Command, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, facilitated the operation. Both units are comprised of explosive ordnance disposal specialists who are highly-trained explosives experts.
The Soldiers assisted the Pittsburgh Police Department bomb squad to transport the cannonballs to Fort Indiantown Gap, where they determined the best method to dispose of the cannonballs.
"While we are often called up to dispose of unexploded ordnance, this operation was slightly unusual due to the age and volume of the munitions," explained Capt. Dan Dellorusso, Commander of the 55th Ordnance Company (EOD). "We're always happy to help members of the community."
Fort Indiantown Gap, run by members of the Pennsylvania National Guard, was well-suited for the operation due to its extensive live-fire range complex. The installation frequently assists civilian law enforcement as well as interagency partners for training.
"We conduct demolitions training here frequently," said Capt. Toby Angove, Range Operations Officer, "although they are generally contemporary ones. Our demolitions ranges were an ideal location to dispose of these cannonballs."
The operation was completed safely with more than 700 pieces of ordnance disposed of.
Members of the public should keep in mind the 3Rs when encountering potential unexploded ordnance. Recognize, Retreat and Report any objects that could be unexploded munitions. Regardless of the munition's age, these items are not souvenirs and have the potential to harm you.
Fort Indiantown Gap is the busiest National Guard Training Center in the nation with more than 130,000 service members, law enforcement and agency partners trained annually.