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Station 16:
Bombs of World War II

Location

About 33 meters from the Lighthouse you will find a fork to your left and a couple of meters  will observe  a crater that during the  season  rainy is full of water. This large hole, about 16 meters wide and 3 meters deep, was  done  by a 500-pound bomb dropped from an airplane during World War II and some 10 years after the war ended.

hiking
sendero isla iguana

Iguana island  was a practice target for American pilots between 1941 and 1952

April 1943… A US Army bomber plane takes off from the runway at La Candelaria, about 20 km north of Pedasí. As he nears his target, he readies his weapons…and fires, dropping several bombs and machine gun bursts on his practice target: Iguana Island. This scene was very common during World War II and the following decade. The American pilots used several islands in the Panamanian seas as practice targets before being sent to the South Pacific, Europe and even Korea, eliminating practically all the original vegetation of the island.

II guerra mundial
II world war

Airplanes of the Army of the United States of North America used in air attack practices on ground targets during World War II and the following decade.

Today, more than 77 years later, the craters of the 500 and 1,000 pound bombs that were dropped on the island can still be seen, and even unexploded bombs remain. Many people knew of the existence of these bombs. There are even stories of people who, sitting on these, hit them with a hammer looking for gold inside them.

bombas isla iguana
bombs iguana island

Aerial views of the southern lobe of the island, which resembles a colander. This was the most heavily bombed area. The oldest residents of Pedasí affirm that it was due to the fact that it has dimensions similar to a  aircraft carrier  of World War II.

Minsín explained to us that he parceled out the island in the 1950s and reached an agreement with the North Americans, he used the northern lobe and they practiced in the southern lobe.

bombs isla iguana
bomba de la II guerra mundial

These craters fill with water during the rains and are the only remnant of fresh water during the dry season, which is used by the animals that inhabit the island.

Nine bombs have been detonated  holdovers

Unexploded bombs remained. Many people in neighboring towns knew about the existence of these bombs. Even  we hear  stories, told by their protagonists, who sitting on them, hit them with a hammer to extract gold and other precious metals that they claimed they contained.

bombas isla iguana
bomba coral
Bomba 1
bomba isla iguana
Bomba 2

Palm  traversed  by the shards of Bomb 3.

bombs isla iguana
Bomba 3
vegetation iguana island

When we began our work on Isla Iguana, three bombs were known. One of 1,000 pounds embedded in the coral reef and two in the north lobe. After the US invasion of Panama, we asked the Foreign Ministry to contact the US Army to inspect them and tell us what to do. Members of the Southern Command detonated them on site in May 1990. Nine days  later  of the detonations we evaluate the environmental damage caused by each detonation. It is the only environmental impact report caused by bomb detonations on Iguana Island. You can download it by clicking the following link.

Diaz V., Marco L.  1994. Photographic Archive of "Las Bombas de Isla Iguana", Pedasí, Province of Los Santos, Pacific of Panama. PROMAR Foundation and Pedasí Conservation Group.  First edition.  14 p.

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Every bomb found is detonated on site, following strict security measures, by experts from the Panamanian National Police. The detonation of one of these bombs in 1990 caused a hole in the coral reef 15m in diameter and 2.8m deep, and killed all the coral and fish around it in an area of 900m2. More than 90% recovered naturally in a period of eight years. The bombs detonated on the island destroyed all vegetation within a radius of up to 50m. Palm trees and trees hundreds of meters away were pierced and even mutilated by shrapnel. Remains of iguanas, earwigs and other butchered animals were found in the area.

bombas isla iguana
Bomba 4
hueco bomba

Photos: Eduardo Moscoso

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Bomba 7
detonacion bomba
bomb detonation

Photos on the island: Analio Melgar. Photo of the explosion from El Bajadero: Miguel Batista

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bomba detonada

Photos: Analio Melgar

Bibliography:

Diaz Villani, Marco Lisandro. 2005. Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge: Field Guide. Illustrations by María Gabriella Díaz de Restrepo and Juan Sucre. 2a  Edison. Panama: Post Depot Press. 70 pages. 593.6 D542.

Diaz V., Marco L.  1994. Photographic Archive of "Las Bombas de Isla Iguana", Pedasí, Province of Los Santos, Pacific of Panama. PROMAR Foundation and Pedasí Conservation Group.  First edition.  14 p.

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