St. Pete Beach, where Anitra and I got married nearly five months ago, had a little excitement this weekend when an unexploded WWII-era bomb washed ashore and was discovered by beachgoer just before 9 on Sunday morning. Over decades of being submerged in the gulf water, the bomb had accumulated a thick covering of barnacles and looked like a log from a distance. Only after taking a closer look did the beachgoer call the police.
The device was identified as an M122 photo flash bomb. It’s essentially a giant flash bulb used for nighttime aerial photography. If you wanted to get a photo of enemy territory at night back then, you’d drop one of these over the desired area, where it would explode in mid-air and provide enough light — 45 million candlepower — for you to get a decent picture.
M122 flash bomb diagram. Click the diagram to see the bomb’s specifications.
The bomb was found on the beach not far from 22nd Avenue. That’s about two miles south of our wedding venue, the Grand Plaza Hotel and Resort. You can find out more about the location on our wedding site:
The situation was resolved in true chain-of-command fashion:
- Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the call, set up a 900-foot “no-go” zone on either side of the beach around the bomb, evacuated a couple dozen nearby homes, and called neighboring Hillsborough County’s bomb squad.
- Hillsborough County’s bomb squad took a look at the bomb and determined it was military ordnance, and called nearby MacDill Air Force base.
- MacDill Air Force base sent their ordnance disposal team to detonate the bomb.
While the area had been cordoned off, the announcement of the the bomb would be detonated brought crowds of spectators:
…and Maria Lowe, mayor of St. Pete Beach came to observe and play MC:
“I hope you’ve had a great day at the beach with a little excitement,” Lowe said to beachgoers with a laugh as she announced a time for the explosion. “I don’t know if I’m going to have the opportunity to do a countdown, so please do not be taken off guard if you hear a large boom.”
The Tampa Bay Times reported:
A little after 5 p.m., a bolt of black and gray smoke burst from the ground, followed by a dull cannon thud and the screeching of seagulls wheeling away from the blast. The crowd yipped and clapped and then, as white smoke was still drifting over the dunes, began to scatter. Beachgoers shook out towels, folded up umbrellas and wheeled coolers up the boardwalks to their cars.
The show was over.