Mine Exploitation: What Happens When the Fleet Has to Clear Modern, Unknown Mines?

Across from the quarterdeck of the Naval School, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), the EOD Memorial bears the names of the 343 military EOD technicians killed in the line of duty since the beginning of the EOD career field. The earliest casualty on the wall is Ensign John M. Howard, killed on 11 June 1942, at Corton Sands, England. On that day, Ensign Howard and the British officer he was assisting did not know the T-type, “Tommy,” mine variant they faced had been altered with a booby trap to thwart recovery and exploitation. What they did know was that German magnetic mines were extremely dangerous to handle and recovering them intact was crucial to the war effort.

Early in World War II, mines that functioned when they sensed the magnetic field of a passing ship were an anticipated but still new development and could not be swept mechanically. For an island nation whose survival rested on the food and war matériel shipped by sea, the implications of sea mines were dire. If merchant ships could not land their goods in English ports, England would starve and the war would be lost. Disarming these mines so British scientists could unlock their secrets and develop vital countermeasures—such as degaussing and the “Double-ell” magnetic sweep—was essential to Britain’s survival.

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Source: U.S. Naval Institute