explosive ordnance disposal
the us army’s eod specialists have their origins in the world wars, where they took their cue from British developments in Professional Bomb disposal
Bomb disposal became a formalised practice during WWI when the British Army dedicated a section of ‘Ordnance Examiners’ from the Royal Army Ordnance Corps to handle the growing problem of dud shells fired by both the Allied and Central Powers.
Nevertheless, the US Army had no bomb disposal apparatus until WWII, when they took inspiration from the British, who had specialised their bomb disposal units during the Blitz of 1940. American bomb disposal was therefore initially planned as a civilian function, but in the wake of Pearl Harbor responsibility fell to the US Army for military purposes.
From 1942, American EOD soldiers were trained in Britain and began actively operating during the invasion of Sicily in 1943. EOD has been an essential component of the US Armed Forces ever since, and its soldiers have served in every American conflict since 1945, including Vietnam.
Today, most US Army EOD personnel are part of the 52nd Ordnance Group, although some are organised under the National Guard. Despite the huge size of the army, EOD specialists number less than 1,200 soldiers and officers. This small size reflects their expertise but also the personal risks they are willing to take to dispose of dangerous ordnance.
BELOW: Lieutenant Mike Runkle of the US Navy (left) and Staff Sergeant Ben Walker of the US Army prepare charges to blow up stockpiled ordnance left by Alqaeda near Kandahar, Afghanistan, 23 December 2001
ABOVE: A British NCO prepares to dispose of an unexploded bomb in 1918 during WWI