World War II-Era Bomb Successfully Defused Near German Soccer Stadium

The 1,110-pound ordnance is one of many bombs that have surfaced in Europe decades after the war’s end

Red soccer arena
The bomb was discovered near Mewa Arena, home of the Mainz 05 soccer club. Neil Baynes / Getty Images

Specialists in Germany have successfully defused an unexploded bomb dropped by American troops during World War II.

The 500-kilogram (1,110-pound) ordnance was discovered last Wednesday during exploratory work for a construction project in the city of Mainz, located about an hour’s drive west of Frankfurt. When experts with the Rhineland-Palatinate explosive ordnance disposal service responded, they determined the bomb would need to be defused.

Last Friday, the city evacuated the area. Roughly 3,500 people were required to leave (or were barred from entering). Defusing the bomb took a little more than an hour. According to a translated announcement from the city, “Work on the bomb went without complications.”

The bomb was found near Mewa Arena, home of the Mainz 05 soccer club. Although the stadium was located just outside the evacuation area, the club opted to reschedule a press conference and close the shop at the stadium because of the ordnance, reports CNN’s Ben Church. A game against FC Köln went on as planned on Sunday.

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During the war, Allied forces conducted more than 30 air raids on Mainz, according to CBS Sports’ Pardeep Cattry. Much of the inner city was destroyed—about 80 percent, per Encylopedia Britannica—but Mainz was quickly rebuilt after the conflict ended.

American and British forces dropped an estimated 2.7 million tons of bombs on Europe between 1940 and 1945—and Germany was the target of about half of them, as Smithsonian magazine’s Adam Higginbotham wrote in 2016. Up to 10 percent of those ordnances did not explode, leaving them to be discovered decades later.

Earlier this month, construction workers found an unexploded 1,100-pound bomb in the Rhine River in Cologne, Germany, which caused shipping closures and evacuations. In February, a woman who was renovating her home in Plymouth, England, found a 1,100-pound German bomb in her backyard. That discovery prompted one of the largest peacetime evacuations in Britain’s history, with more than 10,000 residents forced to vacate while crews removed the ordnance.

In East Yorkshire, England, coastal erosion has revealed hundreds of thousands of bombs and bullets at the site of a former Royal Air Force bombing range, as BBC News reports this week. Authorities are asking beachgoers to be careful; as many as 30 percent of the ordnances may still be live. A contractor has been hired to remove them safely.

This is also not the first time a World War II-era bomb has disrupted a sports venue. In 2015, a 550-pound unexploded British bomb was discovered by construction workers renovating Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, Germany, home to the Borussia Dortmund soccer team. A few months later, an unexploded German bomb was found near Wembley Stadium in London.

Researchers are still unraveling how these unexploded ordnances affect human and environmental health. According to a study published last month in the journal Royal Society Open Science, some actually become more dangerous over time: Many bombs contain a substance called Amatol, which becomes more volatile when exposed to iron and other metals found in soil. As they deteriorate, these leftover bombs can also “leak into the environment,” per the study, “poisoning ecological receptors and contaminating the surrounding soil and groundwater.”

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