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There never was a good war or a bad peace. ~Ben Franklin

Two dramatic nuclear accidents described in book detailing U.S. Air Force gaffes. The information is based on FOI (Freedom of Information) requests, part of your "right to know" under U.S. law.

Schlosser's central narrative is built around a deadly 1980 explosion at a missile silo in Damascus, Arkansas, where the W-53 thermonuclear warhead, the most powerful weapon ever mounted on a missile, sat atop a Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

On January 23, 1961, a B-52 packing a pair of Mark 39 hydrogen bombs suffered a refueling snafu and went into an uncontrolled spin over North Carolina. In the cockpit of the rapidly disintegrating bomber was a lanyard attached to the bomb-release mechanism. Intense G-forces tugged hard at it and unleashed the nukes, which, at four megatons, were 250 times more powerful than the weapon that leveled Hiroshima. One of them "failed safe" and plummeted to the ground unarmed. The other weapon's failsafe mechanisms—the devices designed to prevent an accidental detonation—were subverted one by one.

Absent the Soviet threat, it's easy to forget that these ungodly devices are still all around us. An entire generation is blissfully unaware of the specter of nuclear devastation.

A Sneak Peek at Eric Schlosser's Terrifying New Book on Nuclear Weapons
His six-year investigation of America's mishaps and near-misses will scare the daylights out of you.

—By Michael Mechanic
| Sun Sep. 15, 2013

excerpt from the book available here: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/08/eric-schlosser-command-...

also see the related video:

How the U.S. Narrowly Avoided a Nuclear Holocaust


and the list of broken arrow incidents, in the comments to the above video

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Little short of a villain: this U.S. pilot, 50 years ago, dropped a nuclear bomb in U.S. waters, a bomb nobody has been able to find and make safe.

Shortly after midnight on 5 February 1958, Howard Richardson was on a top-secret training flight for the US Strategic Air Command.

It was the height of the Cold War and the young Major Richardson's mission was to practise long-distance flights in his B-47 bomber in case he was ordered to fly from Homestead Air Force Base in Florida to any one of the targets the US had identified in Russia.

Colonel Howard Richardson
We thought maybe it was something from outer space, but it could only be another plane
Colonel Howard Richardson

The training was to be as realistic as possible, so on board was a single massive H-bomb - the nuclear weapon he might one day be instructed to drop to start World War III.

As he cruised at 38,000 feet over North Carolina and Georgia, his plane was hit by another military aircraft, gouging a huge hole in the wing and knocking an engine almost off its mountings, leaving it hanging at a perilous angle. His bomber started plummeting to earth and he struggled with the flight deck to get any kind of response.

As he dropped to 20,000 feet, he somehow got the damaged craft under control and levelled out.

He and his co-pilot then made a fateful decision which probably saved both their lives and the lives of countless people on the ground.

As he dropped to 20,000 feet, he somehow got the damaged craft under control and levelled out.

He and his co-pilot then made a fateful decision which probably saved both their lives and the lives of countless people on the ground. He managed to direct the B-47 a mile or two off the coast of Savannah and opened the bomb doors, dropping the bomb somewhere into the shallow waters and light sand near Tybee Island.

Immediately after the crash, a search was set up to find the unexploded nuclear weapon, buried somewhere too close for comfort to the US's second-largest eastern seaport and one of its most beautiful cities.

Numerous other searches have followed, both official and unofficial, and each of them has also proved unsuccessful.

So the bomb remains tucked away on the sea-bed, in an area which is frequently dredged by shrimp fishermen...

[Some] raise apocalyptic fears of a thermonuclear explosion which could destroy much of the US eastern seaboard.

Fears have also been expressed that the bomb could be located and recovered by a terrorist group, and there are even some who believe that may already have happened.


The Mars Bluff "mishap": On 11 March 1958, in Mars Bluff, South Carolina, a man called Walter Gregg was building shelves in his shed with his son, when a Mark 6 atom bomb landed in his yard. Mrs Gregg was inside, sewing. The little Gregg girls were playing outside. The fissile core of the bomb had been removed for safer transit, but the explosives that powered it nonetheless blew the Gregg house to bits, killing half a dozen of the Gregg chickens. In military talk this sort of thing is known as a "broken arrow", an accident involving nuclear weapons that falls short of causing risk of war, and Schlosser's book is about the several dozens of these that have happened – counting only those of US origin – since the atomic bomb was invented in 1945. The next-up sort of accident is called a Nucflash. So far, it hasn't happened, but Schlosser considers this due as much to luck as anything else.

excerpted from the book review:

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident and the Illusion of Safety
shocking details of nuclear accidents
by Jenny Turner

25 Oct 2013
The Guardian


May 22, 1957- A U.S. B-36 bomber accidentally dropped a Hydrogen Bomb on Albuquerque, New Mexico. The bombardier, Lt. Robert Carp lost his balance in the bomb bay area and grabbed for a handle that released the nuke. He ran back to the cockpit yelling: "I didn't touch anything! I didn't touch anything!"
The bomb blew up a mesa and killed a cow but miraculously the thermonuclear triggering mechanism didn't kick in.
This was kept a classified secret until the late 1980's.

Well, not Albuquerque, per se.  Wikipedia gives the location for this broken arrow as Kirtland AFB in New Mexico. "A B-36 ferrying a nuclear weapon from Biggs AFB to Kirtland AFB dropped a nuclear weapon on approach to Kirtland. The weapon struck the ground 4.5 miles south of the Kirtland control tower and 0.3 miles west of the Sandia Base reservation. The weapon was completely destroyed by the detonation of its high explosive material, creating a crater 12 feet (3.7 m) deep and 25 feet (7.62 m) in diameter. Radioactive contamination at the crater lip amounted to 0.5 milliroentgen.[16] "

Again this was a non-nuclear unintentional detonation of a Mark 17 thermonuclear bomb, caused by human error ('the human factor').


Iin 1964, in Oklahoma, a missile exploded while housed at the Frederick site of Altus Air Force Base, although the nuclear warhead remained unaffected. The resulting explosion blew the 3-foot thick 75-ton concrete doors of the nuclear silo right off of their hinges. The Frederick site was never rebuilt after this accident and remained closed until the Atlas program was deactivated in the Spring of 1965.

http://www.atlasmissilesilo.com/Accidents_577thSMS_Site6.htm [date accessed 18 June 2018]


Compare the 1980 accident in Damascus, Arkansas, where a Titan missile exploded in its silo.

Atlas ICBMs, part of the nation’s Cold War nuclear deterrent, were stored vertically in deep, heavily-reinforced underground silos at 12 locations near Altus AFB from 1962 to 1965. Each missile carried a warhead more than 200 times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WWII.

Also, see on YouTube [no sound]:

Atlas Missile Malfunction in HD
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I55LkRz3Gok [date accessed 26 June 2021]

This was a test of the Atlas E Missile outfitted with a dummy warhead at Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast.


For good measure, the list of the

Three missing US bombs

One Mark 15 thermonuclear bomb. Where? Tybee Island, Georgia. When? February 5 1958. How? It was jettisoned to reduce the plane's weight for a safer landing. (see details above, in this discussion thread)

One B43 thermonuclear bomb. Where? The Philippine Sea. When? December 5 1965. How? A bomber plane, pilot and nuclear weapon slipped off the side of a carrier boat, never to be seen again.   

One B28FI thermonuclear bomb, second stage. Where? Thule Air Base, Greenland. When? 22 May 1968. How? A cabin fire forced the crew to eject, leaving the plane to crash with its nuclear payload onboard. 

"The lost nuclear bombs that no one can find"
By Zaria Gorvett
4th August 2022
BBC News 

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