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Trawler Brings Up WWII German Mine off France. Many more still down there.

Finnish seamen of minelayer Ruotsinsalmi lay contact mines in the Gulf of Finland, May 18, 1942. (Jared Enos)

PortandTerminal.com, January 22, 2020

How many World War 2 naval mines are still in the water after all of these years?

ROUEN, FRANCE – On Sunday a fishing boat off the coast of France, in the region where D-Day took place, brought up in its nets a WWII German naval mine. Fortunately, the crew on the fishing boat did everything by the book, didn’t just dump it back into the ocean, and notified the authorities instead.

French naval divers onboard the trawler Steneca II

The authorities then helicoptered out to the fishing trawler that had hauled up the mine, the Stenaca II. Once on the boat, given the bad weather and the difficulty of keeping the ammunition onboard, the mine-clearing divers decide to throw it back into the sea and treat it later. It was determined that the device that had been hauled up is the remains of a German Navy mine type BM 1000.

All of this raises a question. How many World War 2 naval mines are still in the water after all of these years?

The photograph was taken after WW2 on a Normandy beach where the mine had washed up in 1949. 

A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to damage or destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, any vessel. 

How many World War 2 naval mines are still in the water after all of these years?

Overall it is estimated that 600,000 sea mines were laid in the European theatre during the Second World War.  After the war, the western Allies in Europe, and the USA in occupied Japan, “enlisted” their former enemies in clearing these minefields to lessen the danger to their own sailors.

In Europe, the German Mine-Sweeping Administration, or GMSA, was formed in 1945 and tasked with clearing naval mines. This civil service used surrendered German sailors and ex-Kriegsmarine vessels to sweep the North and Baltic seas. 

The Kriegsmarine’s converted fishing trawler KUJ-12 survived WWII and was disarmed and used by the German Mine-Sweeping Administration, or GMSA

The GMSA consisted of 27,000 members of the former Kriegsmarine and had a fleet of 300 vessels including the one shown in the photo above. The group disbanded in 1948.

How many mines are still in the water is unknown. But most estimates, there are a lot.

The head of Estonia’s navy, for example, estimates that there are still around 80,000 World War 2 mines in the Baltic off of his country’s coast. And like the one that was trawled up in France on the weekend, mines still keep turning up.

A British Mk.XVII mine being inspected by an EOD specialist of the Icelandic coast guard in 2016.

In Asia when the war ended there were still 25,000 U.S.-laid mines in place. The Navy was unable to sweep them all, limiting their efforts to critical areas. After sweeping for almost a year, in May 1946, the Navy abandoned the effort with 13,000 mines still unswept.

The modern Pacific nation of Kiribati, site of the Tarawa and Makin battles during WWII, found this WWII American Mk6 mine in June 2014.

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