Dr. Alex Souchen, “Unexploded Legacies: Canada’s Underwater Munitions and the Environmental History of Disarmament”

On Wednesday, March 7, Dr. Alex Souchen of the LCMSDS presented on “Unexploded Legacies: Canada’s Underwater Munitions and the Environmental History of Disarmament,” at the Royal Canadian Military Institute.

From the event description:

During the Second World War the Allies manufactured an astonishing amount of weapons and ammunition. By 1945, American, British, and Canadian factories had produced thousands of tons of chemical weapons and roughly 55 billion rounds of ammunition and shells. However, when the war ended not all of this ordnance was expended, needed for postwar operations, or sold off to other Allied countries; while the bulk of captured German and Japanese munitions added considerably to the surpluses accumulating in ordnance depots. Victory precipitated a serious logistical problem for the Allies because these stockpiles of leftover munitions required disposal. So what happened to these implements of war? How and where did their disposal take place?

Drawing extensively from his ongoing research, Alex Souchen looks at these questions and recounts the shocking history of how the oceans were used to expedite postwar disarmament and demobilization. With little regard for the environmental consequences, millions of tons of conventional and chemical munitions were dumped at sea by the Alliesfrom the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Baltic Sea, to the Great Barrier Reef, Atlantic Seaboard, and practically everywhere in between. Today, the pollution of underwater munitions threatens marine life, human security, and off-shore economic developments with toxic chemicals, carcinogens, and spontaneous explosions.

In his presentation, Souchen will use Canada’s postwar dumping program as a case study demonstrating how the Allies approached the challenges of demobilization and disarmament. He will discuss why policymakers preferred ocean dumping over other destruction methods, how the act of dumping transpired in practice, contextualize contemporary knowledge and assumptions about the oceans, and highlight the troubling environmental legacies of underwater munitions.


Posted by:

Kyle Falcon

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