Pamela Coffey just wanted to do some work on her grapevines Saturday when she noticed something out of place in the yard of her Missouri home.
It was relatively small — enough to fit in the palm of the hand — and caked with dirt, photos she posted to Facebook show.
She and her husband, Sam Coffey, took the mystery item inside to clean it up and try to figure out what exactly it might be.
“She sees this Japanese lettering on it. The next thing you know I’m sitting at our dining room table scraping on it with a steak knife trying to clean it out,” Sam Coffey told KSDK. “We’re trying to figure out what the heck this thing is when from the kitchen she yells, ‘Stop! I think that might be a bomb!’”
The couple called the police and for the next several hours, officials from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, ATF, the St. Louis Regional Bomb and Arson Unit and the Air Force descended on their home, CNN reported.
Officials soon told the Coffeys the item was a Japanese Navy mortar from World War II — and it was still live.
“They said it has a 500-foot blast range,” Pamela Coffey told KSDK. “I want to see what that looks like!”
A bomb robot moved the mortar into a truck so it could be taken to Scott Air Force Base.
Officials with the base confirmed to CNN that they’d removed and detonated the explosive.
“They said this was a super rare find and we’re lucky we found it before we started excavating,” Pamela Coffey wrote on Facebook. “All is well and we’re finally allowed to leave our house again.”
The couple has found a collection of odd items in their yard — everything from car parts to home goods — and told CNN they’d bought an excavator to help dig larger items out of their hillside.
As to how the mortar ended up in the Coffeys’ yard? It’s still a mystery.
But Pamela Coffey said she believes the property’s previous owners used that area as a junk yard, CNN reported. The couple plans to purchase a metal detector before they do any more work.
“I am incredibly grateful to be able to stand here and tell the story with all of my limbs still attached,” Sam Coffey told KSDK. “This is why women live longer than men because here I am, scraping a bomb with a steak knife when my wife makes me stop and call the sheriff’s department!”