A Missouri woman was out gardening in her yard last week when she discovered something unexpected in her grapevines — a World War II era Japanese bomb.
Pamela Lovett saw a small object covered in rust and mud, buried just beneath where she was gardening on Saturday, her husband Sam Coffey told NBC News.
She brought it to her husband right away and they both took it inside of their house to examine it further, Coffey said.
Lovett took the object, slightly smaller than her hand, inside to wash it off for a better look when she noticed Japanese lettering engraved on the outside.
"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," Coffey said. "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!'"
Lovett was using the Google Lens tool to try to identify the strange object, which Coffey initially thought was a deep sea diving weight. The online search led them both to realize it was likely a bomb.
The couple immediately called the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department for help. The sheriff's office responded shortly thereafter — along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Air Force, Coffey said.
The severity of the situation became apparent when a perimeter was secured around the property and the couple was forced to stay inside their home, instructed to stay away from all doors and windows for hours while the bomb and the surrounding area was investigated.
It was determined that the bomb, even in its old age, was live and still had a 500-ft. blast range. "It wasn't just the shell. This thing was live. They confirmed it," said Coffey.
Both Coffey and Lovett posted about the incident on Facebook, earning dozens of comments and shares from users fascinated with the especially rare encounter.
Hours later, the mortar was safely removed from the family's property by the The St. Louis Regional Bomb and Arson Unit. Throughout the removal process, authorities emphasized to the couple just how dangerous the decades old bomb was and how lucky they were to not have been hurt, Coffey said.
"They took it away in this huge blast-proof truck. I guess because it was so old, it was extremely volatile, so it had to be handled with extra precaution," Coffey said.
Coffey is especially thankful to his wife for identifying the potential threat. He jokingly commented that he really owes her his life. Had she not yelled for him to stop during his effort to clean off the bomb, things could have gone very wrong.
"I guess this is why women live longer than men," laughed Coffey.
The bomb has since been safely detonated at an air force facility in Missouri, according to a spokesperson for the Scott Air Force Base.
As for the Missouri couple, this unique find has made them increasingly curious about what other historic "treasures" could be nearby. Coffey says that his wife was already interested in antiques and miscellaneous or forgotten objects and is looking forward to what they will find next.
There is still no reasonable explanation as to how this bomb could have wound up buried on their property, but Coffey says that in a matter of days he has grown fascinated with World War II history and is eager to learn more.