EOD celebrating 75th anniversary

  • Published
  • By Mitchell Shimmel and Marshall B. Dutton
  • Air Force Civil Engineer Center Public Affairs
Explosive ordnance disposal was the first joint service school for the U.S. military. The career field also remainsthe only occupation to share distinctive emblems -- the EOD badges -- as the common symbol of the profession. Just like any highly competitive family, each service touts its force as the “premier EOD combat force.” The fact is, all U.S. military EOD forces are trained at the same advanced EOD schools, with each service specializing in specific types of ordnance or operating environments. Regardless of the service affiliation, combatant commanders have always tasked EOD forces to support operations enabling ground commanders to execute their missions. This can be traced back through Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Vietnam, Korea and World War II.  

Some military professions can identify their roots back to the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Like many of the others, EOD was created to answer the nation’s call to provide a capable and professional force charged with handling a specific mission -- disarming or disposing of unexploded ordnance. Sixteen weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in August 1941, the U.S. Navy graduated the first Navy Bomb and Mine Disposal Class. This marked the beginning of the U.S. military’s EOD program. That same year, the U.S. War Department created the Ordnance Bomb Disposal School at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Its first class graduated in February 1942 and consisted of 12 officers. Later in 1945, the two schools were combined.

As the U.S. observed the conflicts happening in Europe, the need for EOD forces became very apparent. The first recorded render-safe procedure was conducted in the days following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. As U.S. forces were trying to recover the harbor and ancillary airfields, unexploded Japanese aerial bombs were scattered throughout the bases, impeding recovery operations.

Identifying this shortfall in capability, the first U.S. forces were sent the British Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal School in Harper Barracks, Ripon. The British EOD pioneers learned their lessons through hard-fought battles and air raids with German forces during World War II just a few years prior. U.S. forces learned from its Allies and began a joint effort to develop bomb disposal fields. In September 1947, the U.S. Air Force became an independent branch of the military. On Aug. 5, 1948, the 4410th Bomb Disposal Unit was activated at Greenville Air Force Base, South Carolina. By November, one captain and six enlisted men arrived, thus the U.S. Air Force EOD Program was born. Initial missions of the 4410th were to support Tactical Air Command in bombing range activities and flying operations. Then in 1950, the Korean War began and Air Force EOD units were baptized by fire. The rest is history.

Commanders and military leaders around the world recognize U.S. military EOD forces as experts in their fields of explosive applications and rendering safe or disposing of unexploded ordnance. Other military occupations utilize explosives to clear obstacles or for construction purposes, however, no one else is trained nor equipped to disassemble the devices to identify the network behind constructing or financing the enemy. Information gained by weapon technical intelligence efforts helps drive offensive kinetic military operations. By merely disposing of an item in place, no actionable intelligence information is gained.

EOD may be one of the youngest military occupations but after 75 years of proud history, each U.S. military EOD Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine proudly stand shoulder to shoulder and apply their unique set of skills. The bonds forged through the wars resonate a camaraderie rarely seen in any other military occupation. The brother and sisterhood of the EOD family is united by one common symbol, the EOD badge. Once a person graduates and is pinned at EOD school, they are welcomed with open arms and share in the rich history.