Bombshell discovery: Missouri couple finds World War II-era Japanese mortar in yard

BARNHART, Mo. — A Missouri woman gardening in her backyard made an explosive discovery on Saturday. Fortunately, the bomb didn’t go off.

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Pamela Coffey was working on her grapevines when she noticed something out of place at her home, The Kansas City Star reported.

The item was small and caked with dirt, so she and her husband, Sam Coffey, took the item inside their home to clean it up, the newspaper reported.

Some of our yard is still somewhat unexplored due to overgrowth and part of it just being really steep. We've been...

Posted by Pamela Coffey on Saturday, May 1, 2021

“It was a little bit larger than the palm of my hand,” Pamela Coffey told KSDK, adding that she was wearing her gardening gloves and the object left rust on them.

She began washing the item and found some Japanese lettering on it, Sam Coffey said.

“The next thing you know, I’m sitting at our dining room table scraping on it with a steak knife trying to clean it out,” Sam Coffey told KSDK. “We’re trying to figure out what the heck this thing is when from the kitchen she yells, ‘Stop! I think that might be a bomb!’”

It was.

With the use of Google Lens, an image recognition app, Pamela Coffey told CNN that everything she found online pointed to the mysterious object being a World War iI Japanese Navy mortar.

“I looked up online what to do with it and called police,” Coffey told the news network.

She immediately told her husband to take the bomb outside -- and that’s when she said, “chaos ensued.”

The couple called authorities, and the Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Air Force responded to their house and stayed for several hours, KSDK reported. Authorities blocked roads and forced the Coffeys to remain in the back part of their house in case the mortar exploded.

The Bomb and Arson unit gave the WW2 Japanese Navy mortar a good x-ray and determined it was in fact LIVE! It looks like...

Posted by Pamela Coffey on Saturday, May 1, 2021

“It wasn’t just the shell,” Sam Coffey told the television station. “This thing was live. They confirmed it.”

The St. Louis Regional Bomb and Arson Unit removed the mortar from the family’s property, according to KSDK.

“They said it has a 500-foot blast range,” Pamela Coffey told the television station. “I want to see what that looks like!”

A bomb robot moved the mortar into a truck so it could be taken to Scott Air Force Base, according to The Star.

“They said this was a super rare find and we’re lucky we found it before we started excavating,” Pamela Coffey wrote on Facebook. “All is well and we’re finally allowed to leave our house again.”

It is unclear how the mortar wound up thousands of miles away from the Japanese army that fought during World War II. The Coffeys speculated that the previous owners of the property may have used that area as a junkyard, CNN reported. The couple said they plan to buy a metal detector before doing any more work.

Sam Coffey, meanwhile, is breathing a sigh of relief and is happy his wife stopped him.

“I am incredibly grateful to be able to stand here and tell the story with all of my limbs still attached,” he told KSDK. “This is why women live longer than men because here I am, scraping a bomb with a steak knife when my wife makes me stop and call the sheriff’s department.”

Sam Coffey said a deputy told him he needed to take his wife out to a steak dinner.

“I’m very grateful to my wife right now,” he told the television station. “I do have life insurance so I guess she’s kind of missing out.”



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