HC&S worker discovers bomb likely from WWII

An unexploded ordnance believed to be a World War II aerial bomb was discovered Monday morning in a Puunene cane field, police said.

An employee with Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. discovered the ordnance around 10 a.m., during weed control operations about 150 to 200 feet east of the old Puunene School, said Wailuku police Capt. Clarence Kenui and company officials Tuesday.

Upon arrival, police photographed the rusted cylindrical ordnance, which was about 2 feet long by 4 to 6 inches wide. The photographs were immediately sent to the U.S. Army’s Explosive Ordnance Division, where officials there determined the device posed no immediate danger with no structures within 200 yards, police said.

The Oahu unit arrived on Maui at about 7:30 Monday night and found the ordnance to be “unstable” and too dangerous to move to the Ukumehame Firing Range, Kenui said.

At 12:20 a.m. Tuesday, EOD officials opted to dig a trench beneath the bomb and detonate the device on location. No injuries were reported.

The discovery of unexploded bombs is not uncommon for the area that once held the Maui Airport at Puunene, the predecessor to Kahului Airport, and a military base during World War II.

The Maui Airport was built in 1938-39, according to a recent Army Corps environmental report. The Navy used the airfield from 1940 to 1946 for aircraft fighter training. Between 1941 and 1945 during World War II, about 110 Navy squadrons rotated through Naval Air Station Puunene.

The 14.8-acre Maui Airport Military Reservation was built in November 1941 to provide for Army operations at NAS Puunene. The reservation had as many as 200 enlisted personnel and officers during the early to mid-1940s.

Suzy Hollinger, director of investor relations at Alexander & Baldwin, acknowledged that ordnance has been found in fields in the past and that workers followed standard operating procedures in this case.

“From time to time, we have encountered ordnance and other devices in our fields,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday. “When they plow the field and start prepping it for planting they do unearth things that have been buried. We don’t know how exactly it came to the surface . . . but we’re just thankful that everybody is safe.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at