Nuclear weapons have existed in the world for over seventy years. Currently, there are 12,000 warheads under the control of less than a dozen countries, although during the Cold War, the number of these atomic devices increased to 70,000, according to ICAN.
In any case, no country should lose sight of part of its nuclear arsenal, especially not to lose a warhead, but the truth often surprises us. The United States has lost at least three nuclear bombs, one of them in a secret operation.
A bomb went off on Tybee Island
According to NPR, the strange event happened on February 5, 1958. At that time, the Air Force of the United States conducted secret training aimed at imitation. attack against the Soviet Union with the Boeing B-47 Stratojet bomber.
In the evening of that day, a Mark 15 thermonuclear bomb was loaded onto one of the two bombers participating in the test. It is planned to replace Moscow with the city of Radford, Virginia, in America, but no launch of any kind will be carried out in the area.
The main idea of this exercise is to test the ability of all attack components to fly with heavy weapons within a few hours. In principle, everything went as expected, but when the planes flew back to base, they encountered something unexpected.
Another training session took place in the area where the B-47 was flying, and a North American F-86 Saber fighter jet flew the B-47 into the air. Clarence Stewart, the pilot of the smaller plane, managed to eject in time, but the bomber remained in the air.
Archive image of an MK 15 bomb
After the incident, it was obvious that the B-47 would not be able to fly as long as the fuel tanks were damaged. Howard Richardson, the bomber commander, did not want to attempt an emergency landing with an atomic bomb, so he removed it.
Before landing, Richardson received permission to release the device off the coast of Tybee Island in Georgia (USA). Although it fell from a great height, the bomb did not explode. NPR defense specialist Guy Raz says this may be because the bomb is incomplete.
The truth is that there is no consensus on whether the Mark 15 device involved in the incident contains radioactive material. The Air Force initially said the bombs were from tests They do not allow an “active capsule,” but a document promulgated in 1994 shows the opposite.
Tybee is an island
This is a testimony from Deputy Secretary of Defense WJ Howard from 1966, in which he mentions three “complete bombs” lost in the United States. The bomb from the Tybee Island incident in 1958 was included there, so it’s unclear whether it represents a hazard.
The day after the F-86 Saber was destroyed and the B-47 made an emergency landing, the Air Force formed a 100-member special squad to find the missing bomb. Efforts lasted for 10 weeks, but without success.
Years later, in 2004, a private search operation led by a retired lieutenant was launched, and the level of radiation in the water was measured. The search also yielded no results, but they discovered that part of the area had “high” levels of radiation.
The Air Force got involved again and, after its studies, found that the radiation levels classified as high were actually the result of a natural deposit of monazite. Years later, the Mark 15 bomb is still missing
The Navy says that if the bomb is still intact, the risk is low. “An intact explosive can pose a serious explosion hazard to personnel and the environment if interrupted by a recovery attempt.” The recommendation, as we can see, is to leave the bomb wherever it is.