- Last Updated on 07:59 AM 10/20/10
- BY Doug Ford
A day last Saturday at the South Boston/Halifax County Museum of Fine Arts and History proved a little more interesting for Col. (ret.) Gene Smith than he had ever imagined.
The retired JROTC instructor at Halifax County High School and museum volunteer was organizing some military items at the rear of the museum along with another volunteer when he came upon some military ordnance.
Smith explained he was assisting a scout doing some public service work as part of his Eagle Scout requirement when he came upon the ordnance.
“We were going through some of the military items in the back of the museum, items which have been donated or on loan to the museum, and I found a couple of military rounds, some of them fairly large,” said Smith.
Smith said there were a couple of .30-06 rounds mixed in among some anti-aircraft artillery rounds, and he thought it would be a good idea to have them checked out.
“These things have been here for years, and I advised Beth (museum director Beth Redd) to call Ft. Lee Monday or Tuesday to see if they would come down and check the items out,” said Smith.
Somehow word got out, and both Ft. Bragg and police were notified, Smith continued.
“Evidently, someone chose to call the police and Ft. Bragg without talking to us, and it’s kind of an overreaction as far as I’m concerned,” he added.
“There was an old anti-aircraft artillery shell here, probably about .75 millimeter, but as I understand it from talking to Beth, it was determined to be a dud or dummy round.”
All army installations have EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) units, and the unit at Ft. Lee is always busy with its location adjacent to a number of Civil War battlefields, Smith noted.
“People there are always digging things up, but as far as I’m concerned this was an overreaction,” said Smith.
“Ft. Bragg came up Saturday and determined, I believe, that both of the larger rounds were dummy rounds.”
The bullets, he explained, were nothing more than your average hunter would have at his home.
Evacuating the museum, which reportedly occurred Saturday after his discovery, is standard operating procedure (SOP), Smith explained.
“Evacuating the museum is an automatic SOP, but I told Paul (Paul Smith, president, museum board of directors) that I took 100 more chances driving over here this morning.
“I talked to Beth, and my instructions to her were if [Ft. Bragg] couldn’t identify it or positively certify it as safe for the museum to keep it, then instruct them (Ft. Bragg) to dispose of them accordingly, and she followed that to the letter,” said Paul Smith.
“We don’t know all the details, but bottom line, it has been resolved. Whatever we have here now has been certified as perfectly harmless and safe to keep at a museum, and anything not identified as safe has been removed from the property,” Paul Smith concluded.