Between October 1943 and the fall of 1946, the military used approximately 18,240 acres in Sumter and Hernando Counties to create the Withlacoochee Chemical Warfare Service Field Trials and Air-to-Ground Bombing and Gunnery Range. The site, approximately 18 miles northeast of Zephyrhills, is now part of the Richloam Wildlife Management Area of the Withlacoochee State Forest. The Florida Division of Forestry manages the site for timber, and the public uses it for recreation. It also includes the Florida Bass Conservation Center offices and the Richloam State Fish Hatchery.
As the name implies, the site had two distinct purposes: as a practice range for conventional munitions and as a research and testing area for chemical agents and munitions. The Army Air Forces constructed targets for strafing, dive and skip bombing and rockets. In other areas of the site, the Chemical Warfare Service conducted carefully controlled experiments to determine the effectiveness of chemical agents under tropical and subtropical conditions.
The Corps completed a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study in 2016, and based on the results of the investigation, the Corps divided the Withlacoochee site into two areas known as Munitions Response Sites: Remaining Areas (17,991 acres) and Testing Areas (249 acres). No further action is necessary for Remaining Areas, and the project was closed. The selected remedy for Testing Areas is public awareness which means the Corps will make every effort to inform the public about the military’s use of the site and what to do should someone encounter a suspected munition.
While the potential of finding munitions is low, always use caution in areas where the military has trained. Remember and follow the 3Rs of Explosive Safety: Recognize, Retreat, Report.
Recognize - The object you found could be dangerous.
Retreat - Leave the area without touching or moving the object.
Report - Call 911 immediately.