WWII Rockets Removed from Beach at Reid State Park
We now return to the beaches of Reid State Park. This web page
is a follow-up to the "Shells on the Beach" web page
which has further information and pictures.
|During World War II aviators practiced aiming test rockets at a barge
anchored next to Mile
Beach (See the Bureau of Parks and Lands website for a location map of Maine State parks). Rocket motors and warheads
landed on the beach and were worked down into the beach by waves. During
periods of extreme beach erosion, such as in the 1978 blizzard, pieces
of metal ordnance were reworked deeper into the beach. Today, debris is
buried a few feet below the average winter beach profile. Geologists Steve
Dickson and Robert Johnston (Figure 1) of the Maine Geological
Survey recorded beach elevations through the summer and fall of 1997. Beach
profiles were made out to wading depth. Profiles were used to monitor the
amount of sand burying the ordnance as a measure of safety for park visitors
and to plan a cleanup effort for the fall.
As fall storm waves eroded the summer beach, sand on the beach shifted
offshore and resulted in a lower beach profile (Figure 2).
A summer accumulation of sand, in the form of a 40-foot wide berm, disappeared
in October and created conditions ideal for cleanup of the WWII debris.
The resulting "winter" beach profile left little sand over the ordnance
and allowed cleanup crews easier detection with metal detectors (Figure 3) and digging with shovels (Figure 4).
The cleanup effort by Human Factors
Applications, Inc. for the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Maine began on November 24
and ended on December 10, 1997. During the ordnance removal Reid State
Park was closed to visitors because demolition with explosives occurred
on the beach at the excavation area, following Army
|The cleanup process removed 72 pieces from the beach. Most common were
44 rocket motors, metal pipes from 3.5 to 4.5 inches in diameter and a
few feet long. Twenty-eight larger 5 inch warheads (shells) were removed
from the beach (Figure 5). No live ordnance was
found and there were only traces of rocket propellant detected. Between
last winter and the end of the cleanup operation over 200 pieces were removed
from Mile Beach.
Several interesting results came from the beach surveys as shown in the beach profiles (Figure 6) and in photos of the beach (Figure 7).
- The profile variability seen on the beach face is natural and due to
beach cusp formation, movement, and degradation. Beach cusps are curves
in the beach elevation that form parallel to the water line and shift with
different kinds of surf.
- Comparison of beach profiles from June through December 1997 (not all
shown in the graph) indicated that the cleanup effort occurred during a
period with the least amount of sand on the beach in that time period.
A week after the completion of the work (December 16), the low tide terrace
had gained a large volume of sand which would have buried the ordnance
under as much as two more feet of sand. It is apparent that the cleanup
effort occurred at an optimal time.
- The surveys did not detect any permanent alteration of the beach profiles
or damage to the beach from the ordnance removal process.
- The berm that forms in summer buries ordnance several feet further
below sand and helps protect summer park users from any remaining sharp
metal rocket fragments.
Maine State Agencies participating in the cleanup:
Originally published on the web as the January 1998 Site of the Month.
Last updated on April 19, 2012