SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/17 January) — He thought it would make him rich, but the “treasure” that a construction worker unearthed on Tuesday turned out to be a World War II vintage bomb.
Julito Calimpong, who did excavation work at the construction site in Surigao del Norte National High School three days earlier, said he discovered the bomb after his backhoe hit a metallic object and he decided to see what it was.
“I found it covered with soil six meters deep,” he told RPN-DXKS in an interview.
He added he informed his employer, former Bacuag, Surigao del Norte mayor Danilo Orquina about the bomb and surreptitiously brought it inside the latter’s compound in Bernadette Village.
Orquina, however, saw the “treasure” and warned Calimpong and other workers not to touch it saying it was a vintage bomb.
“I was told that they’re going to break the object with the use of backhoe or use a gas powered thermal torch and I told them not to do it,” he said.
Orquina contacted his son Ryan Orquina, who then asked Johanne Jake Miranda, a Philippine Military Academy graduate based in Surigao City to take a look at the object.
Miranda said the bomb measured 54 inches long with a diameter of 14 inches and a circumference of 44 inches and has retained its original olive drab color.
Th bomb was reported to be an AN-M43 or M64 (Army Navy designation) 500 pounder containing HE/TNT/Almatol which is indicated by a visible 1-inch yellow stripe. It was used by naval aircraft like the SBD and SB2C dive bombers and the TBM/TBF torpedo bombers.
“The pin that was removed was actually part of the arming wire which in this case is also part of the triggering mechanism,” Miranda said.
Explosive and Ordnance Division personnel of the 4th Infantry Division arrived at Bernadette Village on Tuesday morning to remove the bomb.
Some residents of the village were frightened upon being told to evacuate for their safety.
Saint Paul University-Surigao City in Barangay Luna campus suspended classes this morning and sent back the students home.
Miranda said the EOD team confirmed that the bomb was live with its nose, tail booster fuses and body in pristine condition.
The team initially planned to do a controlled detonation in the area but decided later to transfer the bomb to a more remote area where they would explode it.
Acting mayor Alfonso S. Casurra, who headed the City Crisis Management Team, helped facilitate the removal of the bomb with the use of a boom truck owned by City Councilor Baltazar Abian.
The bomb was safely removed from the residential area at around 11:30 am Tuesday with the use of military truck.
Lieutenant Colonel Rico Amaro, commanding officer of the 30th Infantry Battalion based in Bad-as, Placer in Surigao del Norte said they have with them the vintage bomb which will be detonated in a safer place later.
Chester Clark Yee, a military reservist and one of those who secured the area during the removal of the bomb, said there could have been a carnage had the bomb exploded.
He suggested that the area where the bomb was found must be searched thoroughly saying there may be more of it left there.
Several people have asked authorities not to detonate the bomb but instead have it defused so it could be displayed at a local museum.
Local historians said the bomb was among those that were dropped by the US bombers during WWII.
“A bombing raid was conducted by such aircraft from carriers USS Essex and USS Lexington in Surigao City on September 9, 1944. This particular bomb was aimed at a Japanese Army garrison located on a hilltop, which is now Surigao High School,” said Miranda who contributed significant work to the Battle of Surigao Strait Museum.
Dino Robert, a local historian based in Cantilan, Surigao del Sur showed a picture of the bombing run in Surigao which he had been keeping for years.
“This bomb could have been among several bombs that were dropped at Japanese soldiers,” he said.
“The bombings in Surigao ended on April 1945 after the Japanese soldiers surrendered,” he added. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)