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From World War II to today: Explosive Ordnance Disposal stands the test of time

Marine EOD
Robots like these are one of many tools that EOD Marines use to safely dispose of unexploded ordnance and bomb threats both in the U.S. and while deployed. (U. S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Robert Bliss)

During World War II, allied soldiers faced injury and death from unexploded ordnance left over from German troops. The allies needed a way to combat these threats without unnecessary risk to the service members who tried to clear these battlefields. It was from this challenge that explosive ordnance disposal was born.

“[EOD] was born out of necessity,” said Sgt. Matthew Prather, an EOD technician with Marine Corps Installations West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, EOD Team.

Prather explained that in World War II the Germans dropped bombs that would sometimes malfunction and detonate days, weeks, or even months after initial impact. EOD was developed by the British and later adopted by American forces to safely dispose of these threats.

Disposing of lethal ordnance is a very dangerous occupation, said Prather. In order for Marines to do so safely and efficiently, heavy emphasis is put on training.

“Training is the name of the game,” said Staff Sgt. Theron Lindenmuth. “EOD is all about staying one step ahead of the enemy. We need to be familiar with all of the tactics that are being employed with explosives. Whether it’s improvised explosive devices or ordnance, we definitely stay on top of the intelligence aspect and trends. It’s a constantly changing scenario.”

Lindenmuth, a technician with the team, said EOD Marines are always studying the nature of explosives. This includes the different parts of an explosive right down to the chemistry of what causes an explosive reaction.
“There’s no such thing as too much training when it comes to dealing with explosives,” Lindenmuth said.
Prather said EOD is set apart from other military specialties by the amount of stress those involved in explosive ordnance disposal are under.

“There are a lot of people depending on you when you’re doing this job,” said Prather. “You have to be right one hundred percent of the time, the first time, or people could get hurt. It’s just higher stakes, plain and simple.”
According to Lindenmuth, these high stakes make EOD all the more important. This MOS deals directly with saving lives.

“People look at us to be the solution to a very serious situation,” said Prather. “If explosives or ordnance cause a problem, we’re the answer.”

EOD Marines on Camp Pendleton work closely with other units to maintain safety and quick response to any situation concerning explosives.

“Marine Corps Installations Explosive Ordnance Disposal sections are a force protection asset and are first responders to incidents involving explosive threats along with other applicable emergency services,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Richard Oldham. “As first responders, they stand EOD duty ensuring a 24-hour per day response capability.”

This capability extends beyond the safety of the base and allows EOD Marines to participate on a global scale.
Oldham explained that explosive ordnance disposal units organic to I MEF support operations globally by locating, accessing, diagnosing, rendering safe or neutralizing unexploded ordnance, improvised explosive devices and weapons of mass destruction that are a threat to I MEF operations, personnel, or resources.

What started out as a safety measure during World War II has evolved into a sophisticated element of modern warfare. Today’s EOD Marines use robots and other advanced technologies to protect themselves and their fellow Marines in a 21st Century battle space.

Story by Pvt. Robert Bliss

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