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How Air Force database is preventing its old bombs from claiming new victims

The US military estimates that an Air Force lieutenant colonel is saving hundreds of lives a year through a new database he is creating of past bombing campaigns. He's also challenging the history books.

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The work of one amateur historian in the US Air Force is quietly upending the conventional wisdom and history of America’s wars.

It is also helping to map the unexploded bombs of America’s air campaigns across Europe and Southeast Asia, saving hundreds of lives each year, by US military estimates.

It has the weighty warrior acronym of the old Nordic god of thunder: THOR, the Theater History of Operations Report, which is fast becoming a critical tool for Air Force officials.

Lt. Col. Jenns Robertson, a space strategist by training, was working in a staff job in 2005, and his bosses routinely wanted to know how many bombs various US planes had dropped during a particular battle or air campaign.

“I thought, ‘There’s got to be a database for this,’ but much to my surprise, there was no database,” Robertson says. “We’re using all of this energy finding targets, but we weren’t keeping track of whether we were hitting them or not.” 

Robertson put together a database of the bombs America has dropped since 2001, in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and posted it to a classified network that US troops use to plan attacks and chat with one another. “In the process, it got quite popular,” he says.

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