GRANTS, N.M. – In the case of the Kirtland Demolition Bombing Range, nearly 9-square miles of present day El Malpais National Monument are considered a Formerly Used Defense Site, because of the land's use by the U.S. Army Air Corps more than 70 years ago.
During World War II, 649 acres of the lava flow around McCartys Crater was used as a practice bombing range to train bombardiers before their deployment to combat.
In spite of the munitions’ impact with the tough lava surface, some unexploded bombs and fuses have been discovered.
"The munitions used at the DBR were 100-pound explosive bombs," said Ordnance and Explosive Safety Specialist Henry "Hank" Domme. "Bomb case fragments, fuze parts and jagged metal from bomb fins remain in the area."
The Kirtland DBR saw limited service from 1942-44, due in part to the rugged terrain proving too difficult for the Army to place and maintain targets.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and military Explosive Ordnance Disposal units have extensively surveyed the DBR and did destroy several unexploded bombs and fuzes during clean-up operations in 1994 and 1995.
"Time and exposure to weather do not make explosives less dangerous. Only trained bomb disposal personnel can determine if a munition or fuze is safe to move," added Domme.
Because remediation of FUDS properties is an ongoing process, the Corps encourages the public to follow the 3Rs of Explosives Safety: Recognize you may have encountered a munitions or explosive item; Retreat from the munitions. Do not touch or disturb it, move away carefully, walking out the same way you entered the area; and Report what you saw and where you saw it by calling 911.
The land was ultimately returned to the Bureau of Land Management in 1947. On New Year's Eve 1987, 114,000 acres were designated a national monument under the care of the National Park Service, with another 262,000 acres set aside as the El Malpais National Conservation Area, managed by the BLM.