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Wildwood police evacuate two blocks after World War II-era projectile found on beach
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Wildwood police evacuate two blocks after World War II-era projectile found on beach

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Saturday (30 oct 2021) marks the 60th anniversary of the biggest nuclear bomb blast of all time.

WILDWOOD — Authorities evacuated two city blocks Saturday after a World War II-era projectile was found on the beach and brought back to a home, police said.

At 10:10 a.m., police responded to a home in the 100 block of West Pine Avenue for a report of a found munition. Upon arrival, officers spoke with a resident, who said the munition was found on the beach and transported back to the home, police said in a news release.

Members of the Police and Fire departments responded to the area, as did three members of the Atlantic City police Bomb Squad. During this time, authorities evacuated several properties on Pine and Maple avenues. Police said the munition was a 120mm projectile from the World War II era and was live. Bomb Squad members removed the munition from the home and transported it to the beach, where it was rendered safe.

After about 2½ hours, the area was deemed safe and all residents were permitted to return home.

People do not find ordnance from more than 70 years ago every day, but it does happen periodically around the Jersey Cape, according to Bruce Fournier, the chief operating officer at the Naval Air Station Wildwood aviation museum at the Cape May Airport in Lower Township.

“It’s not unusual,” he said on Monday. “New Jersey has a very interesting World War II history.”

The battlefields of Europe and Asia may seem very far away from Cape May County, but remnants of the war remain along the New Jersey coast, including a former bunker built to guard the mouth of the Delaware Bay and other wartime installations.

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The hangar that now houses the aviation museum dates from the war, as does the airport itself. Originally built for the U.S. Army, the Navy later took over the airport and used it to train pilots, including training dive bombers for the fight in the Pacific.

The bombers practiced on targets in the marshes throughout the county, sometimes with dummy bombs, sometimes with live bombs, preparing for the largest armed conflict in human history.

“At that time, they weren’t too concerned about what would happen 70 years later,” Fournier said.

In Cape May, where the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center now stands, there was a blimp station, and there was another Naval Air Station in Atlantic City. Early in the war, residents of shore communities could see smoke during the day and flames at night from ships torpedoed by German U-boats.

“There was a lot of German activity,” Fournier said.

Beachcombers, clammers and anglers continue to find pieces of that history, including explosives that could still be deadly. Fournier told a story about a business expansion in the Rio Grande section of Middle Township delayed by the discovery of a bomb that had been buried in the mud for decades, most likely dropped by a young pilot training for war.

At times, the discoveries are less fraught. Sometimes, people find pieces of airplanes along the bay and ocean. A few years ago, a scallop boat pulled up an airplane propeller from Baltimore Canyon well off the coast of Cape May. It turned out to be from a TBM Avenger, a torpedo bomber built by General Motors.

“It’s on display at the museum now,” Fournier said.

If you find any munitions on the beach or anywhere else in the city, do not touch or handle them, police said. They are dangerous and should only be handled by qualified personnel.

Staff Writers Dan Grote and Bill Barlow contributed to this report.

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