Search for WWII munitions in South Jersey

February 11, 2008 3:38:44 PM PST
A search is underway for buried World War II munitions at a flea market in Burlington County. The 1.9 million dollar project is happening at the Tacony-Palmyra Flea Market on Route 73.

Using a powerful metal detector on wheels, munitions expects are going inch-by-inch GPS mapping the grounds of the old Palmyra Drive-In in search of unexploded artillery.

"That's sending an electromagnetic signal into the ground and any significant metal objects will react to that and send a signal back to the instrument which is recorded," explained geophysicist Russ Dobler.

"In processing they pick out all the targets and we'll come back here and pinpoint where everything is," said another geophysicist, Dann Hennessy.

Back in the fall, the borough found out that this area, which is part of Palmyra's redevelopment zone, was used by the Franklin Arsenal as a target range to test anti-tank artillery during World War II. Howitzer shells were also fired here from across the Delaware River.

It was paved over in the 1950s for the drive-in, but there could be shells underneath as large as two-feet long. Before a commercial and residential project can proceed, officials must ensure no explosives are buried here.

"My fingers are crossed. I hope not. We don't really expect to. It has been sixty years or whatever to this point," said Mayor John Gural.

The search means digging up every one of the old drive-ins' speaker poles because the metal in them could mask a piece of artillery underneath. If anything is found, the crews will dispose of it.

"If it cannot be moved, then the munitions would have to be exposed in place. A guard will be posted on it," said Charlie Holloway.

And then it will be detonated. So far nothing has been found.