Nuclear disasters involving B-52 Bombers

In 1968, a B-52 Bomber Crashed (With 4 Super Lethal Nuclear Weapons Onboard That ‘Exploded’) The National Interest,  Matthew Gault December 15, 2016 Throughout the 1950s and ’60s American bombers carrying nuclear weapons crisscrossed the globe, ready at a moment’s notice to fly into the heart of Russia and bomb it back to the stone age. Strategic Air Command — a now defunct branch of the U.S. Air Force — commanded this airborne alert force.

It was once the pride of the American military. For more than a decade, SAC bombers were no more than 15 minutes from nuking Russia. But the shifts on the bombers were long — sometimes more than 24 hours — and keeping such an alert force ready was taxing on pilots and crew.

There were many accidents.

In 1958, a B-47 carrying a nuke collided with an F-86 Sabre in the skies above Savannah, Georgia. The B-47 jettisoned its nuclear payload into the Atlantic Ocean. Authorities never recovered the bomb.

Months later, another B-47 dropped its nuke over South Carolina when a bomb technician aboard accidentally activated the emergency release. The bomb’s conventional explosives detonated and destroyed a nearby house.

 In 1966, a B-52 crashed in Spain, spilling the nuclear guts of two bombs onto nearby farms. After the accident, Spain halted nuclear-armed American planes from passing through its air space.

Those were bad, but SAC and its airborne alert survived them. Then, in 1968, a B-52 crashed near Thule Monitoring Station in Greenland and spilled its payload all over the ice. It was one disaster too many, and it signaled the end of America’s airborne alert program … and Strategic Air Command’s prestige……..

The Arctic’s climate is harsh and the radar station was fragile. Outages were frequent, and SAC needed redundancy to ensure that it didn’t attack Moscow just because it lost contact with Thule.

So SAC did what it always did. It strapped some nukes on a bomber. The air command sent one of its airborne alert bombers — complete with live nukes — to fly above the Thule monitoring station 24 hours a day … forever.

It seemed silly to keep live nukes in the air above the world’s head all day, every day. It was a sword of Damocles and it dropped in 1968.

On Jan. 21, 1968, fire swept through the cabin of the airborne B-52 watching Thule station. Smoke and flames consumed the plane and the seven crew members ejected. Six survived. The bomber crashed into an ice cap in the bay near the base.

The conventional explosives in the plane’s four hydrogen bombs exploded and cracked their nuclear payloads. Radioactive elements slid out of the bombs and onto the ice.

SAC’s Operation Chrome Dome was already on its last legs. The Thule accident just confirmed what many politicians and military leader already thought — keeping a fleet of nuclear-armed bombers in the air at all times was dangerous and insane……….

Only one of the B-52’s crew died during the Thule disaster, but his death wasn’t the end of the tragedy. The hydrogen bombs spread jet fuel and radioactive materials across the ice cap. It busted up the flow of the sea, blackened the ice and spread plutonium, uranium, americium and tritium into the ice and water……..

the Danish workers who helped clean up the site are dying of cancer. Crested Ice was a rush job done under pressure from the international community, and its leadership cut corners. American and Danish workers didn’t have the protective gear they needed to work with the radioactive materials.

The Danes tried to sue the United States for compensation and 1987, but failed. In 1995, Copenhagen paid a settlement to 1,700 members of the crew. Crested Ice, the plight of its workers and the possibility that America left contaminated material behind is a recurring story in the Danish press to this day……..This first appeared in WarIsBoring here.    http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/1968-b-52-bomber-crashed-4-super-lethal-nuclear-weapons-18746

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