Army explodes mortar


February 7, 2019

The Haines Sheldon Museum opened its doors to the public last week after being closed for several days after a staff member found a WWII-era Japanese mortar in its collection.

Staff contacted local police who got in touch with an army explosive ordinance disposal unit out of Fairbanks. Military personnel arrived in Haines on Thursday and x-rayed the mortar. They found remnants of explosive powder.

“They determined that the only course of action was to destroy the ordnance,” a museum press release stated. “As stewards of history, the staff at the Sheldon Museum are unsettled and sad about the loss of this object. Our primary concern as a museum and public institution has always been the safety of all the objects in our care.”

Norm Smith Senior donated the mortar in the early 1990s. His uncle brought it back from Japan after WWII, museum staff said.

Smith’s son, Norm Smith, said the mortar was at his house for decades. He’s skeptical the mortar was dangerous.

“Explosive powder is explosive powder,” Smith said. “It doesn’t go away. I don’t think there was enough in there to detonate by itself. It certainly blows up when you add C4 to it.”


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