Hi there! I am the DU Penetrator. And this is my story. But first let me introduce myself. My wartime name was 30 mm PGU-14/B armor-piercing incendiary round. But not anymore, now I am simply DU Penetrator. It is obvious from my name that I am a sharp guy. Originally I came from some very important families. They are not royal families. I don’t have any drop of blue or red blood in my veins. Actually I am not sure that I have veins. My roots come from heavy metals. I am about 97 percent Uranium, little less than 3 percent Titanium, with the possibility of some traces of Plutonium. I think now it is clear for everyone that I am related to some very scary folks. But don’t panic, I am not as radioactive as most of my relatives. I am rather weakly radioactive. My personal radiation level is about 60 percent compared with natural Uranium. This is it.
Also for your references I have the nickname: “Depleted”. Not a pretty one, but I get used to it. Where it comes from this is a separate story. The important thing for you to remember is that I am Uranium. They call me Depleted Uranium or simply DU… And here is one more thing about me. I am much heavier than I look. This is because of my high density, about two times higher than that of lead. But you probably already know that. A lot of people know that. Let’s talk about things that other people don’t know about.
You have heard all those talks about near death experience. That you are inside of a tunnel, and only darkness is around you. Then you see a light at the end of the tunnel. I heard that too, but did not believe a single word. Not until I had my personal experience. Everybody thinks he is ready for that. I thought I was ready. You may ask: why? It is simple, because this is your destiny. You were created for this very moment. You were told that it is very simple. You locate your perfect target, that big fat tank. And you hit it. At this very moment you drop your aluminum jacket, which is your uniform, because you don’t need it anymore. You are piercing the armor. When you are working yourself through the armor, your body temperature increases up to 600 degrees Celsius. This heat awakens your hidden ability to ignite everything flammable. You lost some weight. You are leaving a trail of black dust behind you. You rush inside the tank. You don’t care about a crew. You are looking for fuel and ammunition. You find it. You start a fire. Then “boom”! This is it, the happy end. This is the perfect life as you had seen it in your dreams.
Sometimes you have bad dreams. In the bad dream you are hitting the armor and can’t penetrate it. You just can’t, no matter what you do. You have been told that this is impossible, because you are designed and built to penetrate any armor. You are unstoppable. You were told that, and you want to believe it. Sometimes you have nightmares. The nightmare is when you missed your target. You did not ricochet. You did not even scratch the armor. You simply missed it. After that you would wake up in cold sweat. And you are afraid to fall asleep again.
Now let’s get real. I know how strange it sounds but in real life it is a dark tunnel, the dark tunnel of GAU-8 Avenger. The creation of GE engineers pushes you through that tunnel of death. It is dark and awfully hot, full of fumes, and absolutely impossible to breathe. You are spinning inside faster and faster. You think you are dying. All of sudden you see a light, the light at the end of the tunnel. And you realize that this light is your only hope. It becomes brighter and brighter. Without any hesitation you jump into this light. It is so bright, that you are blind for a while. You feel that everything is changed. You are free now. You can fly. Do you like speed? How about 3,500 feet per second? Absolutely love it! Your vision is back. You can see everything: sky, land, and your target.
I experienced that during the NATO’s Operation Allied Force in Montenegro, Yugoslavia. It was 1999. NATO airplanes attacked a target at Cape Arza twice, first time on May 29, then on May 30. Total of 480 bullets were fired, including 300 bullets with depleted uranium penetrators, and I was one of them. I landed during the first attack on May 29. That is why I know what the term “friendly fire” means. No comments about that. Let’s just go back to my personal near death experience.
I remember my feelings, as if it were happening right now. I can see blue sky, and the sea, and narrow strip of land with a citadel and a hill behind it. I know that I have only four seconds, maybe less. I need to locate my target and penetrate armor. On the battlefield four seconds feels like infinity. But where is my target? I don’t see a big fat tank. I don’t see anything that looks like a target. Wait a minute. I see a “fortified anti-aircraft gun position”. It is not a tank! Where is my tank?
This is too bad, but I don’t have choice. This is the war. I must follow orders. And any kind of gun now is better than nothing. The next thing I realize is that I am not going to hit that target. I thought we would be following each other. No way, the other guys ahead of me are flying above me. If I look back, some guys are flying under me. It cannot be my fault that the pilot can’t keep his “flying Gatling gun” A-10 aimed on the target. Suddenly I understand that only a few lucky ones would be able to hit the target, the others would go elsewhere, but never ever reach the target. And I am one of them. My worst nightmare is coming true.
I found myself deep into the red soil, about two feet under the ground level, between two big rocks. Even though my whole body was covered with fine cracks from impact with the ground, I did not remember feeling the pain. I was so disappointed with myself, so I didn’t appreciate my new location at first. I fully appreciated it the next day, when other guys were trying to land, but they were crashing into stones instead. Pieces of their uranium bodies were scattered around within a half mile radius. Awful death, I don’t wish that for anybody. Then it was quiet for more than a year, until they showed up. Their uniforms looked different, and their language was strange. My first thought was that they were using a code then I understood. It wasn’t English at all. It was a completely different language. This discovery did not make me feel any better. I became very suspicious, when they cleared the whole terrain of bushes. The big hunt began.
They used rope to divide the terrain into rectangular sections about thirty inches wide and thirty feet in length. They began with picking up parts of uranium bodies and lost aluminum jackets from the ground. It was fine with me. The battlefield must be cleaned anyway. Then they showed up with new device. I recognized it in no time at all. Dosimeter! They were well prepared. They knew everything about us. They knew that we could seat deeply into the soil absolutely silent and without any movement. They knew that we could hold our breath for an enormous amount of time without any problem. They knew that there is only one sign of our presence, which we cannot hide. And this is radiation. It is part of our nature. Even, when we are dead and broken into pieces, we are still radioactive. They knew that for sure. That is why they brought the dosimeter. Now I had a very bad feeling about what was going to happen next.
They were moving very slowly. They kept the dosimeter very close, about two inches above the ground. They made frequent stops using our only weakness against us. You know we are weakly radioactive, we are strong in everything else. Every time they suspected our presence, they would start digging, removing the soil layer by layer, checking over and over again with the dosimeter. If the signal became stronger, they kept digging until they could take another penetrator out from his hole. They were taking us out one by one.
They were coming back again and again for two long years. They were searching for us day by day, a total of two hundred twenty days. After that they took away their tent and air sampling pumps. Few of us, the survivors, believed that everything was over. We were wrong. They showed up again, one more time…This last time they came with a group of international hunters from USEF. The new hunters had better equipment and most important they had experience. They recently returned after the victorious hunt on penetrators in Kosovo. They wanted to prove to the world that they were the best…
Last night it was raining the whole night. I hate rain. They did not find me. I was one of a few lucky ones, who as they claimed “ended up at the bottom of the sea”. I don’t care what they said. I did not drown. They did not find me. That is why I am still there. I live near the sea, not a friendly climate for the metal guy like me, and rain just makes it worse. During rain, especially at night, I feel envy for guys who were found and moved to a city. For some reason I think they received better treatment than I, or at the very least they have a roof over their heads. Even slightly radioactive stones and soil were moved into the old World War I bunker away from rain.
As for me I lost some weight, and my color has changed to yellow-greenish. Not a healthy sign. Overall, scientists are convinced that my condition is not stable, and they came up with a bizarre solution. I don’t know what they were thinking. The scientists from one university in UK discovered fungi with, how they phrase it, “an amazing ability” to transform unstable depleted uranium into stable uranyl phosphate minerals. Never thought that would come my way. To be honest, I don’t know what is going to happen to me. I keep losing weight. But don’t worry I will stick around for another 10 to 15 years. That is what USEF experts said. So if you are planning to visit Cape Arza sometime before 2020, I will be there for you. My UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) coordinates are 34TCM01479634. Otherwise I am on Facebook too. You are more than welcome to take a look at some pictures from my family album.
Or maybe you should worry, because every time corrosion takes a little bite of me, it goes into soil, water, and air. And I am toxic, you know. So maybe you should worry, or even better, you should do something about that.