Tateyama Ammo Dump Explosion
September 20, 1945

Contributed by Trooper
Wilburt K. Olsen, C Troop, 112th Cavalry Regimental Combat Team

Copyright 1999 by 112th Cavalry Association

All Rights Reserved

Below is an excerpt from a letter he wrote a few days later:

"I was working near the Mess Hall located at the end of our row of tents about 1:30PM. I heard a small explosion and looked toward an airplane revetment where Japanese ammunition was being collected and stored. The plan was to transport it out in the bay and dump it.

As I understood it, a phosphorus grenade fell off a truck they were unloading and exploded catching the truck on fire. There were all kinds of shells, torpedos and grenades in the revetment. I stood there watching it burn. At 1:55PM, the whole sky for a thousand feet in the air was one solid sheet of flame. The dump was about a thousand yards away. I stood there spellbound. It wasn’t till the noise and the concussion hit me that I dove behind the mess hall as the tin from it flew over me. Shells, detonater caps, knee mortars came down like rain all around us. Fortunately the detonaters were out of the shells but the shells still did a lot of damage.

After the first explosion died down, I got up and started to run toward a pile of timbers about 50 feet away. I got about half way when another explosion put me on the ground so I crawled on my hands and knees the rest of the way to the pile and got behind it, while more stuff came down.

I looked up and saw others running across the landing strip so I ran too. We were all trying to reach a sea wall on the other side of the strip. About half way across we heard another explosion but kept running because there wasn’t anywhere to take cover. A man near me was hit in the buttocks. I made it to the sea wall and dropped down behind it, finally out of range, gasping for air.

Staying behind the seawall we moved up the beach to the seaplane hangars. We stayed there the rest of the day and all night. One man from each tent got on a truck and went back to our area and brought back blankets and the cooks brought stoves and food. The man hit in the buttocks was kidded and told to get the lead out and that broke the tension.

I don’t know how many were killed and wounded but I know there were many, including US Soldiers and Japanese civilians.

Our hospital was damaged and the 148th Field Artillery barracks was smashed. Our mess hall frame was still standing but the windows were gone as well as all the tin siding. We had one shell go through our tent so it was replaced.

When the dump blew the Navy sent a fleet of ships that lined up to give us fire power thinking it was some Japanese attacking us. They left after they had been informed as to what was happening.

The Air Force sent in a DC3 with a medical team that landed on the airstrip still covered with all kinds of shells and explosives to take our most seriously wounded out. They were wonderful.

While I was running away from the explosion, I was thinking that I had survived three campaigns and now I was going to be killed after Japan had surrendered. I had a long and thankful talk with God that night."

Copyright 1999 Wilburt K. Olsen

Watercolor painting of the TATEYAMA AMMO DUMP EXPLOSION

September 20, 1945, as witnessed by Wilburt K. Olsen, C Troop, 112th RCT.

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