Thursday, July 7, 2022

The Takeaway: NWN Investigates Missing US Military Explosives | NWN News

The US military cannot account for all its explosives.

An Associated Press investigation has found that weapons of war such as TNT and grenades have disappeared from military bases and shipments. All have been stolen or lost from the US armed forces in the past decade.

Some key facts from the latest in NWN’s AWOL weapons investigation,


Firepower Lost, Stolen

There is an exhaustive list of missing explosives.

These include hundreds – and possibly thousands – of armor-piercing grenades, and hundreds of pounds of plastic explosives. In small quantities there are land mines and rockets, artillery shells and mortars.

Still more explosives were missing, but then recovered.

Many were taken by soldiers, sometimes covered up by false records. In other cases, service members did not report the explosives missing, or failed to protect them in the first place.

In addition to collecting loss data from four service branches, the NWN traced 63 explosives investigations by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, the Army Criminal Investigation Command and the Defense Criminal Investigation Service. In the majority, the military did not realize that the explosives were gone until someone found them where they were not.

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military response

Military officials said that very few service members are thieves, and that the amount of explosives in terms of overall stockpile is small.

The military said it could account for more than 99.9% of the explosives from 2010 to 2020.

When small quantities of certain explosives go missing, there is no need to report the loss to the military bureaucracy. This means that the loss and theft numbers collected by the Office of the Secretary of Defense underestimate the full extent of the problem.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Uriah Orland said the military took the loss very seriously. “We want to get the number down to zero, so there’s no harm,” he said.


dangerous result

Civilian deaths from military explosives are uncommon, but do happen.

Taking a break from the August heat, Chris Smith, drinking water and chewing tobacco at the recycling yard in Mississippi where he worked without warning, was thrown into the air.

An artillery shell had exploded. His colleague died due to bleeding from his feet. “For no reason,” Smith said in an interview.

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Two days later, an intact shell was found at the scrap yard. Officials are investigating whether the shells came from an Army National Guard base about 40 miles away. Mississippi National Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Deidre Smith said she had found no evidence that the shell originated at Camp Shelby.


Explosive Vs. guns

It’s not just explosives.

NWN’s AWOL Weapons Investigation revealed that poor accountability and insider piracy have resulted in the loss of more than 2,000 military firearms since 2010. Some guns were used in civilian crimes, including shootings.

Explosives are harder to track than firearms.

The soldiers checked the guns, then returned them. Explosives are delivered on the understanding that they will be detonated. Despite security measures, people with access to explosives operate on a respect system.

Unlike guns, explosives may not have separate serial numbers for tracking. And, like Play-Doh, plastic explosives can be cut or shaped—making them easier to conceal.


Hall reported from Nashville, Tennessee; contact him, Pritchard reported from Los Angeles; contact him,


Email NWN’s global investigation team at or via, View other works,


Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
Nation World News is the fastest emerging news website covering all the latest news, world’s top stories, science news entertainment sports cricket’s latest discoveries, new technology gadgets, politics news, and more.
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