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Jeffrey M. Leatherwood, Ph.D.
Nine from Aberdeen
In the wake of Pearl Harbor, Col. Thomas J. Kane and eight U.S. Army Ordnance soldiers traveled to wartime England. Their mission: to study bomb disposal methods under the British Royal Engineers, who were contending with unexploded bombs (UXBs) from the menacing arsenals of the German Luftwaffe .
These nine men from Aberdeen Proving Ground were among the first pioneers of the U.S. Ordnance Bomb Disposal services, better known today as Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD).
Returning stateside after a memorable tour, Col. Kane and his new cadre helped establish the Army Ordnance bomb disposal school at Aberdeen Proving Ground, responsible for training both Army and Air Force personnel in the valuable skills of bomb reconnaissance and actual disarming procedures.
Envisioned as a national defense asset at the start of WWII, Army Ordnance bomb disposal units did not realize their full potential until Kane's campaigning at the Pentagon resulted in overseas combat deployments toward the end of 1942.
Three of Kane's original party -- Richard E. Metress, Joseph C. Pilcher, and Ronald L. Felton -- rose to command individual bomb squads. More than 200 of these elite seven-man teams were dispatched across the globe, supporting combat missions, promoting security, and helping to rebuild war-torn nations, including Italy, Germany, the Philippines, and Japan.
Col. Kane's WWII significance expanded with his appointment to SHAEF as Gen. Eisenhower's Bomb Disposal officer. Arriving in time to assist in planning for Operation Overlord, Kane sent three of his best squads ashore with the first wave on D-Day.
Shrouded by secrecy and often credited to other services, the courageous deeds of U.S. Army Ordnance "disposaleers" have been largely ignored by military historians -- until now.
Top photo: Col. Thomas J. Kane, the founding father of U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) in WWII. Lower photo: Kane (at right) with an unknown NCO, Richard E. Metress, and Joseph C. Pilcher. Metress and Pilcher later commanded bomb squads in the field.
Colonel Thomas J. Kane and his men are among the best of what Tom Brokaw christened our Greatest Generation. These men, volunteers all, stepped into an unknown world in days following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. They were the first of what has become one of the most respected, revered, and frequently misunderstood disciplines of the military: bomb disposal, now called Explosive Ordnance Disposal.
CSM James Clifford (U.S. Army EOD Retired) -- Military Advisor for "The Hurt Locker."