Atomic Accidents

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Atomic Accidents

As we have a fit about the outside possibility that Iran might acquire nuclear arms in the next ten years, a more dangerous threat can be found in our own backyard. We all know these weapons are dangerous, but were you aware of just how many goofs and blunders there have been? Are you aware of just how close we've "accidently" been to the brink of nuclear annihilation? It is now known that the NAVY routinely covered up such incidents:

A May 8, 1984, directive from Admiral William Crowe, then commander in chief in the Pacific, ordered commanders "to recover or remove, if at all practical, all evidence of the nuclear weapon accident or significant incident as expeditiously as possible" and " a denial should characterize the accident or incident as a non-nuclear event."

What follows is a list of six such "accidents" that can be found in a wonderful book called "Weird History 101" by Richard Stephens. I happen to think real nuclear weapons are more dangerous than imaginary ones. Read the following and let me know what you think:

1. In July 1956, a B-47 aircraft plowed into a storage igloo 20 miles outside of Cambridge, England. The plane's jet fuel burst into flames almost immediately, but for some reason didn't ignite the contents of the igloo. A lucky thing, too–it contained three Mark 6 nuclear bombs.

2. In 1958, a B-47E accidently dropped a nuclear bomb into Mars Bluff, South Carolina, family's vegetable garden. The bomb didn't explode, but the impact damaged five houses and a church. Air Force officials "apologized."

3. In 1961, a B52 dropped two 24-megaton bombs on a North Carolina farm. According to one physicicist: "Only a single switch prevented the bombs from detonating."

4. In 1966, another B-52 carrying four 20-megaton bombs crashed in Palomares, Spain–with one of the bombs splashing into the Mediterranean Sea. It took the U.S. 6th fleet–using 33 ships and 3,000 men–several weeks to find the missing bomb.

5. In 1980, a repairman working on a Titan II missile in Arkansas dropped a wrench–which bounced off the floor, punctured the missile, and set off an explosion that blew the top off the silo and threw the warhead 600 feet into the air.

6. Did June 3, 1980, seem tense to you? It did to the Strategic Air Command in Omaha, Nebraska. Their computers detected a Soviet submarine missile attack in progress. Within minutes, more than 100 B-52s were in the air, but the SAC soon called off the counterattack–the computers had made a mistake. The culprit: a $0.46 computer chip. Three days later the same mistake happened again. During an 18-month period NORAD had 151 false alarms caused by computer errors–4 of which put bomber and missile crews on alert.
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Published in: on April 13, 2006 at 12:04 am  Leave a Comment  

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