HISTORY OF U.S. EXPLOSIVE ORDNANCE DISPOSAL (EOD)
“INITIAL SUCCESS OR TOTAL FAILURE”
Bomb disposal in the United States dates back to April of 1941. EOD developed as an outgrowth of the British experience with German ordnance. The British Royal Navy dismantled/recovered the first German magnetic mine on the mudflats at Shoeburyness in 1939. The United States was not yet at war, but we were actively preparing for that eventuality. Embassy personnel and military observers were reporting on the actions of warring nations and as these reports were evaluated by the War Department, Intelligence Sections, recommendations were made concerning actions that should be taken by the United States. One area stood out.
Delayed-explosion bombs were creating havoc in Europe, taking a heavy toll on lives and industry. It was expected that if the United States entered the war, we would experience bombing of our cities and industries. As a result, the need for a bomb disposal program in this country received immediate attention.
In the beginning, it was thought that bomb disposal would be under the Office of Civilian Defense. In April 1941, the School of Civilian Defense was organized at the Chemical Warfare School, Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, and part of the training was to be bomb disposal.
The Commandant of the Chemical Warfare School requested assistance from the War Department to set up the Bomb Disposal School. The request was approved and forwarded to General Julian S. Hatcher, who was the Commanding General of the Ordnance Training Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. General Hatcher selected Major Thomas J. Kane to provide assistance.
It was decided that both military and civilian bomb disposal personnel would be trained by the Army. All responsibility for bomb disposal was placed under the U.S. Army Ordnance Department. The Office of Civilian Defense would be responsible for bomb reconnaissance and the disposal of incendiaries in the United States. The location of the Bomb Disposal School was changed from Edgewood Arsenal to the Ordnance Training Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Newly promoted Colonel Kane was selected to be the school’s commandant.
In the interim the Navy, under a directive from the Chief of Naval Operations, instituted a Mine Disposal School in May of 1941. The school was located in Washington, D.C. and was tasked with the training of Navy personnel in the disposal of U.S. and foreign mines and other underwater ordnance. In December of 1941, the Chief of Naval Personnel issued another directive for the formation of the Navy Bomb Disposal School.
In 1947, the Navy was assigned Joint Service responsibility for basic EOD training and in 1971, the Navy was designated as the Single Service Manager for all common EOD training. This training continues to be provided by the Naval School, Explosive Ordnance Disposal School located at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
On 21 May 1951, the Air Force picked up EOD responsibilities and assigned explosive ordnance disposal operational duties within the Zone of Interior to Headquarters Air Material Command (HQ AMC). Accordingly, AMC activated its first explosive ordnance disposal squadron, on 16 June 1952, when the 1st Ordnance Squadron, Aviation, was re-designated as the 1st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron. The squadron was located at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, with an authorized strength of 11 officers and 65 enlisted.
On 24 November 1953, Headquarters, 1st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, had eleven detachments in the United States which were responsible generally for EOD within an Air Force installation’s geographical area. These detachments performed emergency EOD work at the following locations:
Tinker AFB, OK6- Griffis AFB, NY
Norton AFB, CA 7 & 8- Eglin AFB, FL
Hill AFB, UT9- Wright-Patterson AFB, OH
McClellan AFB, CA 10- Robins AFB, GA
Olmsted AFB, PA 11- Kelly AFB, TX
EOD in the United States is a joint service program. Each branch of the service has specific responsibilities assigned to it by DOD. Some of these responsibilities are unique to one service and some overlap between two or more services. In 1971, the Navy was designated as the single manager for all common EOD training and technology. Today, training continues to be provided by the inter-service staff at the Explosive Ordnance Schools located at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Division, Indian Head, MD.
Successful officer and enlisted graduates are awarded the joint-service EOD badge which dates back to 1942. This badge is also officially recognized by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
Milestones of US EOD Program
1940, Training began for USA, USMC, USN at Melksham RAF Station, Wiltshire, England.
1941, School of Civilian Defense organized at Chemical Warfare School, Edgewood Arsenal, MD. Major Thomas J. Kane selected as Commandant.
1941, U.S. Naval Mine Disposal School established at Naval Gun Factory (NGF), Washington, DC. Eight volunteer graduates of Naval Mine Warfare School at Yorktown, VA transferred to NGF.
1941 (Aug), first class of S.S. Naval Mine Disposal School graduates.
1942, U.S. Army Bomb Disposal School organized at Ordnance Training Center, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD.
1942, Maj Kane, Commandant of Bomb Disposal School at Aberdeen, with 8 other officers and EM traveled to UK for training and familiarization.
1942, a UK bomb Disposal team brought a complete set of Bomb Disposal equipment to Aberdeen for demonstrations and training.
1942, first U.S. Army Bomb Disposal unit, the 231st Ordnance Bomb Disposal Company, was organized and deployed.
1942, the pocket or sleeve insignias, red bomb on a black background, was approved for U.S. Army wear by all Bomb Disposal officers and those Bomb Disposal EM actually assigned to Bomb Disposal units.
1942, the distinctive badge for the Ordnance Bomb Disposal School was approved by the Army and authorized for wear by all Bomb Disposal Officers and Disposal EM assigned to the school (click on thumbnails below to see the approving orders and original badge).
Click on these thumbnails to see photocopies of the original orders authorizing the first US bomb disposal badge.
1942 (Jan) U.S. Navy Bomb Disposal School formulated at American University Campus, Washington, DC.
1942, U.S. Bomb Disposal officers were assigned to the Pacific Theater. The 232nd Ordnance bomb Disposal Company was the first U.S. Army Bomb disposal unit in the Pacific theater of Operations.
1942, British bomb disposal units accomplished bomb disposal operations in first European allied operation involving U.S. Army.
1942, Ensign Howard, USNR, was the first U.S. casualty in mine disposal. He attempted to safe a booby trapped German magnetic submarine-laid moored mine.
1943, Army Bomb Disposal Division set up in England for support of U.S. bomb disposal operation in Europe.
1943, LT Rodger, USA and TSgt Rap, (5th ORD Bomb Disposal Squad) USA were the first Army Bomb Disposal Technicians to be killed (carrying out bomb disposal operations on Attu Island).
1943, a number of U.S. Army bomb disposal units experienced casualties while working on sea mines and other underwater ordnance for which they had received no training.
1943, U.S. Marine Corps began training at American University.
1945, U.S. Army Bomb Disposal Center at Aberdeen deactivated; training transferred to the Ordnance School, Aberdeen.
1946, U.S. Navy Mine and Bomb Disposal Schools combined at Bellevue Annex of Naval Gun Factory, then moved to Naval Powder Factory, Indian Head, MD on Jackson Road. Training course designated as Explosive Ordnance Disposal, giving birth to “EOD”.
1947, U.S. Army Officer and Senior Enlisted started attending U.S. Navy EOD School. Junior Enlisted Army personnel continued training at Aberdeen, MD.
1947, U.S. Air Force became a separate service and began EOD training.
1947, Bureau of Naval Weapons designated the first Naval unit for the Research, Development, Test and Evaluation of EOD equipment at the USA naval Powder Factory. It was an integral part of the EOD School and later became the EOD Technology Center.
1949, All USA and USAR bomb disposal squads were redesignated as Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) squads.
1950, 98th EOD Squad arrived in Korea, joined seven days later by the 19th EOD Squad.
1951, U.S. Navy assigned Joint-service EOD responsibilities for basic training and research and development.
1953, Research and Development tasks were established as a separate organization, and redesignated the Naval Explosive Ordnance Technical Center. The training function was renamed the Naval School, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (NAVSCOLEOD).
1954, U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal Center was established by General Order 181.
1955, U.S. Army EOD School at Aberdeen, MD officially closed. From this date on, all Joint Service EOD training has taken place at Indian Head, MD.
1956, Dept. of Army approved the design of the basic EOD badge, which became available for wear in 1957.
1958, NAVSCOLEOD moved to its present location on Strauss Ave. from the original site on Jackson Rd.
1960, Aberdeen Proving Ground Center (U.S. Army EOD Center) was moved to Picatinney Arsenal, Dover, NJ to be the focal point of munition development.
1962, Naval Explosive Ordnance Technical Center redesignated the Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Facility (NAVEODFAC), and placed under direction of a Commanding Officer.
1965, EOD units arrive in Vietnam.
1969, Master EOD Badge approved for wear by qualified personnel.
1969, (14 Feb), an EOD Memorial Committee was formed and consisted of Senior Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force officers of NAVSCOLEOD.
1969, First EOD Memorial Ball held at NAVSCOLEOD, Indian Head, MD.
1970, (12 June), the EOD Memorial was dedicated to the men and women who have died on active duty as a result of an EOD mission since the declaration of World War II.
1971, EOD Memorial Scholarship Fund established.
1971, DoD Directive assigned the Secretary of the Navy as Single Manager for EOD Technology and Training.
1972, Patricia E. Brown, daughter of 1Lt Gilbert L. Brown, USMC (deceased), was awarded the first EOD Memorial scholarship.
1972, Procedural guidelines were established for the DoD EOD Program Board.
1977, Deputy Managers for EOD technology and EOD Training established (concurrent duty, respectively, for CO, NAVEODFAC and CO, NAVSCOLEOD).
1980, NAVEODFAC redesignated the Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Center (NAVEODTECHCEN).
1985, U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal Center was renamed the EOD Office.
1985, (1 Oct) NAVSCOLEOD Detachment, Eglin AFB, FL established.
1986, (Oct) Construction began at NAVSCOLEOD Detachment Eglin.
1988, (24 June) NAVSCOLEOD Detachment, Eglin AFB officially opened.
1993, (Jul) NAVSCOLEOD command relocated to Eglin AFB; NAVSCOLEOD Indian Head designated as detachment.
1993, (Oct) NAVEODTECHCEN redesignated NAVEODTECHDIV, a division of the newly established Naval Ordnance Center.
1994, (Nov) CO and HQ NAVSCOLEOD return to Indian Head due to MILCON delays at Eglin AFB, FL. EOD School at Eglin redesignated as detachment.
1998 (fall), Construction of new interservice EOD school at Eglin AFB complete and NAVSCOLEOD to move to Eglin winter ’99.
1999 (29 Jan) NAVSCOLEOD consolidation at Eglin AFB completed with a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony dedicating the facilities as the Kauffman EOD Training Complex in memory of RADM Draper L. Kauffman, USN, the first OIC of the Navy Bomb Disposal School in January 1942. Advanced EOD Course and Advanced Access and Disablement Courses remained at NAVSCOLEODDET Indian Head.
1999 (21 May) Groundbreaking Ceremony for the new EOD Memorial and Troop Formation Area in front of HQ Building NAVSCOLEOD Eglin AFB.
2000 (3 Feb) EOD Memorial and Troop Formation Area dedication ceremony.