by Colonel Derek L. Duke

As told to Fred Dungan

Front Cover:  Chasing Loose Nukes by Derek Duke
Cover from a painting by J. Paulsen Helmken. Click on cover to order. FREE SHIPPING! from CCNow with coupon C59W47.

Buy a copy of Chasing Loose Nukes from Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu. or purchase from Paypal/CCNowor

Copyright © 2007 by DUNGAN BOOKS. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except for brief quotations embodied in critical articles and short excerpts used for educational purposes by public schools.

Library of Congress Control Number 2007921157

podcast of Colonel Duke being interviewed on the radio


This work is dedicated to my wife, Pat, who has been the light of my life. Through all of these almost 40 years she has been the Champion of our God, our Country, and our Family. Her strength has never faltered. Simply said, she is a terrific person who does Right.

Colonel Derek Duke and his wife, Pat, at 
Restaurant Rössli in Lake Lucerne, Switzerland two weeks prior to the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01

Author’s Note

This is a work of non-fiction. However, since loose nukes fall into the category of Weapons of Mass Destruction, I occasionally found it necessary to alter and/or omit certain aspects of their design so as not to provide a blueprint for their construction. Nobody wants these Doomsday Devices to get into the wrong hands. Nitpicking critics are advised to get over it and move on.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Appendix alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta


Interstate 95 is the East Coast’s main artery. I never counted them, but there must be hundreds of thousands of vacationing families that pass by Savannah on their way from Yankee Land up north, to the Magic Kingdom down south. If they knew what I and many of the other locals know, they wouldn’t be so quick to come back. Maybe that’s why we’ve mostly kept the secret to ourselves all these years.

Truth is that there is a 3 megaton monster that puts the Loch Ness monster to shame lurking somewhere out there in the shallow coastal waters. Not only is this monster very much real; it is fully capable of destroying families, vehicles, I-95, and anything else that gets in its path. That it hasn’t done so already does not mean that it will not do so sometime in the future—maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but sooner or later it may, so help me Hannah, do what the mad scientists who created it 50 years ago intended it to do.So Long, Savannah! - The View from I-95 And, as if that wasn’t enough, there are at least 10 more like it hiding somewhere in the waters along I-95, two of which are biding their time, waiting for the right moment to devour New York and New Jersey. Fifty more of their species lurk along the continental shelves of Britain, France, Greenland, Japan, Russia and China.

Don’t believe me? I’ve seen them up close; so close that, if I didn’t have more sense, I might have been lulled into forgetting what these monsters can do. I have reached out and touched them. In fact, I used to work for the megalomaniacs who put the mad scientists up to letting these monsters loose on us. In a way, it’s ironic that the megalomaniacs and mad scientists lost their sway at the end of the Cold War, but their monster minions—loose nukes—have proved harder to find.

My name is Derek Duke and I chase loose nukes. It’s a job fit for a super hero, but it doesn’t pay much—most expenses are out-of-pocket—so I’ll just have to do until a super hero comes along. As it stands, I’m spread pretty thin.

For many years, mine was a lone voice lost in the political universe. The Air Force figured that the least the public knew about lost nukes, the better. After having screwed up, they elected to cover up. They said the abandoned thermonuclear weapons weren’t armed (technically true, more about that later), that they didn’t pose a risk to anybody (an outright lie), and that—for the most part—they didn’t know where they had lost them.

Of course, that didn’t sit well with anyone who lived anywhere near an abandoned nuke. After hurdling numerous obstacles such as the Official Secrets Act and threats of being prosecuted for violating national security, I and a few others managed to get the ball rolling. The Tybee Island, Georgia, City Council passed a resolution calling on the Air Force to conduct a search to locate the missing hydrogen bomb that at one time was thought to be located somewhere just beyond the pier. Congressman Kingston, who represents the region, asked a lot of pertinent questions to which the Air Force would have rather not have had to answer. Finally, out of desperation, they agreed to conduct with me a one day search of an area about as big as a football field and to lend me the services of NEST, the Nuclear Emergency Search Team [The name tended to scare the dickens out of people. It was nowhere near being politically correct. Consequently, these fine young men, right after 9-11, were rechristened DTRA (pronounced Dee-Tra), the Defense Threat Reduction Agency Team].

Harris Parker with Colonel Derek Duke

On September 30, 2004, the 20 man strong DTRA team—experts in nuclear weapons, gamma spectroscopy, and underwater salvage—showed up with enough weapons to fight a small war. Ostensibly, the weapons were needed to defend the secret equipment they possessed. This is the elite unit tasked with defending America from weapons of mass destruction. They placed sensors in the water and attached wires to mysterious black boxes. The Zodiac boats sped off into Wassaw Sound, the divers suited up, and the scuba teams went in. I, being the acknowledged leader of the ASSURE team that found the radiation, dutifully followed in our flagship, a decidedly unmilitary, king-sized cabin cruiser. The hunt was on.

Map of Savannah/Tybee Search Area

Imagine a band of heavily armed commandos in wetsuits thrashing in the water, scooping muck from the ocean bottom—desperately searching for a hydrogen bomb that had been lost at the height of the Cold War, nearly 50 years earlier, a Doomsday Device of such enormous magnitude that if it were to detonate full force, Savannah, Hilton Head, and Tybee Island would instantly disappear and would remain uninhabitable for generations. What a picture we must have made for the good citizens of Savannah, Georgia—the first official United States government search for a loose nuke in decades, and it was happening here, right under their noses.

Chapter 1

Nuke ‘em

“The fact that no limits exist as to the destructiveness of this weapon [the hydrogen bomb] makes its very existence and the knowledge of its construction a danger to humanity as a whole. It is necessarily an evil thing considered in any light.”—General Advisory Committee Report to the Atomic Energy Commission (1949)

While it is often said that the Cold War was won without a shot being fired, the nuclear weapons program nevertheless inflicted casualties, often on the very people the government sought to protect. A combination of secrecy, lax enforcement, neglect, and an overriding emphasis on production at all costs created an unprecedented legacy of toxic and radioactive pollution at dozens of locations around the country. It may take decades and cost millions of dollars to clean up the mess.

Situation based ethics and a very real sense of urgency led to American citizens being exposed to high levels of radiation. Those most at risk were uranium miners and workers at reactors and processing buildings and facilities where uranium and plutonium components were fabricated, especially from the 1940’s through the early 1960’s. Also exposed were a quarter of a million military personnel who took part in “atomic battlefield” exercises in the Pacific and at the Nevada Test Site.

From 1951 to 1963, 100 nuclear bombs were detonated on or above the desert floor in Nevada. Fallout clouds drifted mostly eastward, depositing radioactive particles as far away as Canada and the East Coast. Among the hardest hit were inhabitants of northern Nevada and Utah. Although the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) knew that fallout was dangerous, the agency consistently deceived the public assuring them that they were safe, even as it undertook secret studies of fallout in milk, water, and foodstuffs to better track the path of the clouds. The people just east of the nuke blasts in Utah and adjacent states are now called “Downwinders” and have been doomed to cancer deaths at a high rate. Proving it in court while fighting the deep pockets of the Federal Government paid lawyers has been very difficult. Claims have been restricted to only certain precise, small areas.

Also affected were thousands of Marshall Islanders, whose atolls the United States used to test 67 nuclear bombs from 1946 until 1958 (these were nukes that were too big to blow in the continental United States—really big, HUGE). In the process, their way of life was destroyed and several islands, including Bikini, were left uninhabitable. Japanese fishermen at sea many miles beyond the restricted zone were similarly affected.

On March 1, 1954, at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the United States detonated the first in a series of practical hydrogen bombs capable of being delivered by an airplane. This thermonuclear weapon, the first in a series of tests designated Castle Bravo, succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. What was supposed to be an 8 megaton device yielded more than 15 megatons, 1,000 times more powerful (the mushroom cloud extended beyond the earth’s atmosphere) than the fission bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima at the end of the Second World War. Consequently, the damage from fallout extended well beyond the area that had been evacuated.

Farther out in the South Pacific, the 23 member crew of the Japanese long-line fishing vessel Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon 5) watched in awe as the sun arose in the wrong location—on the western horizon. “The sky in the west suddenly lit up and the sea became brighter than day,” Lucky Dragon crew member Yoshio Misaki recalled years later. “We watched the dazzling light, which felt heavy. Seven or eight minutes later there was a terrific sound—like an avalanche. Then a visible multi-colored ball of fire appeared on the horizon.”

Fine gray ash began to fall from the sky, blanketing the boat, gently snowing down for three hours as the crew went about their business. No safety measures were taken, as they had no idea what the white ash was and ionizing radiation cannot be sensed. Curious as to what the strange substance could be, they scooped bagfuls of it from the deck with their bare hands. The “death ash” (shin no hai) stuck tenaciously to things, remaining on hair, fingernails, skin, clothes, and all the surfaces on the boat for their two week journey home. Breathing, drinking, and eating brought the radioactivity inside of their bodies. One man slept with a sample of the novel substance under his pillow.

Lucky Dragon 5

On March 14th upon their return to port in Yaizu, Japan, everyone aboard had to be hospitalized for more than a year for radiation sickness. Seven months after having been exposed, despite extensive treatment, the Lucky Dragon’s radio operator, Aikichi Kuboyama, age 40, died of kidney failure and blood damage. His dying wish was to be the last victim of an atomic bomb. It was estimated that the crews of more than 100 boats were affected to some degree by the blast.

Several hundred native Marshall Islanders who resided downwind became ill from the nuclear fallout, along with 30 U.S. government employees who unwittingly ended up as the guinea pigs in an ill-conceived, poorly executed, out-of-control nuclear fusion experiment which left several islands uninhabitable. Sixteen crew members of the aircraft carrier USS Bairoko received beta burns and as a result experienced a greatly increased cancer rate.

Tons of contaminated tuna and shark brought back by the Lucky Dragon were buried at the Tokyo Central Wholesale Market when a panic ensued and sales of imported fish dropped severely. Decades later, what remained of the radioactive fish was removed to make way for a subway. Matashichi Oishi, who served aboard the Lucky Dragon, delivers lectures worldwide and collects donations for a proposed memorial to the victims that he intends to erect on the site of the former market.

Unlike the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the crew of the Lucky Dragon are not entitled to medical and financial support from the Japanese government because the United States agreed to pay crew members between 1.91 million yen and 2.29 million yen each, an average of two million yen ($18,350), as “sympathy money” in a political settlement.

Today, the Lucky Dragon bears mute testimony to the continuing inability of men to safely harness nuclear energy. In 1956, the ship’s radioactive levels were deemed to have subsided sufficiently for it to be sold to the Tokyo University of Fisheries as a training ship. Ten years later it was sold for scrap and lay abandoned at its moorings on Dream Island in Tokyo Bay. A 1968 letter to the editor of a newspaper prompted renewed interest and a donation drive was launched to save the boat. In 1976 the Lucky Dragon museum was built near Tokyo Bay to house the restored vessel. Each year approximately 300,000 people visit the museum. The exhibits demonstrate how a miscalculation in the strength of a hydrogen bomb disfigured, maimed, and killed people 100 miles from the blast.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the nuclear disaster on March 1, 2004, 2000 peace activists marched through the streets of the Lucky Dragon’s home port, Yaizu, Japan. “The tragedy 50 years ago must not be repeated in the 21st century,” survivor Yoshio Misaki, 78, told an assembly in the city. Twelve of Yoshio Misaki’s shipmates have died, many having perished in their 40’s or 50’s from cancer, liver disease, kidney disease, and/or hepatitis.

John Anjain, the community leader of Rongelap Atoll at the time, also visited Yaizu for the anniversary. “On the day of the hydrogen bomb blast, white powder fell on us like snow,” he told reporters. “We soon began to feel sick and our hair started falling off.” [Editor's Note: The white powder was primarily calcium precipitated from vaporized coral. The U.S. refused to reveal the composition of the radioactive isotopes for fear that the Soviets would learn that the bomb had been fueled with lithium deuteride. Lewis Strauss, the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, had told Eisenhower's press secretary dismissively that the Lucky Dragon was most likely “a Red spy ship.”]

The fallout from the Castle Bravo tests spread traces of radioactive material as far away as Australia, India, and Japan. Castle Bravo quickly became an international incident, prompting calls for a ban on the atmospheric testing of thermonuclear devices. Anxious to maintain the secrecy of nuclear testing, the United States government issued an official apology to Japan and paid more than $2 million in compensation.

The radioactive cloud formed by the blast covered a 7,000 square mile area—roughly the size of New Jersey. Approximately 100 miles downwind, the 232 inhabitants of Rongelap and Utrik atolls suffered a near-lethal dose of radiation from the powder that fell from the sky like snow. Arriving the next day, U.S. soldiers with Geiger counters found them weak and vomiting. The islanders were exposed for more than 50 hours before being evacuated to the military clinic at Kwajalein where they were scrubbed with detergent. Within a decade of the Castle Bravo tests, 90 percent of the children who were under 12 years when the testing occurred, developed thyroid tumors. Almira Ainri of Rongelap atoll gave birth to what she described as “a bunch of grapes, that had to be pulled from me.” There was an epidemic of birth defects. Ainri and other islanders were allowed to return to their contaminated homeland in 1957, but were ultimately forced to leave because radiation continued to plague the 388 square mile lagoon and the 61 islets which comprise Rongelap Atoll.

Six days after detonation, on March 7, 1954, Project 4.1, Study of Response of Human Beings Exposed to Significant Beta and Gamma Radiation due to Fallout from High Yield Weapons, established a secret U.S. medical program to monitor, analyze, and evaluate the victims without their consent. Contrary to recommendations by U.S. medical officers that the islanders should not receive any more exposure to radiation during their lifetimes, they were given radioactive tracers as part of their treatment.

For medical conditions resulting from its nuclear testing, the U.S. government pays compensation. Islanders diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, stomach, pancreas, small intestine, or bone are awarded $125,000. Those with severe impediments to growth resulting from thyroid conditions receive $100,000.

By 2003, a U.S. trust fund had paid 1,808 islanders a total of $79 million. However, 46 percent of affected islanders died prior to being fully paid. The five southernmost, least contaminated islets are slated for resettlement. When or if this will occur is still being debated.

Tibon Bejiko, a 72-year-old islander, who left Bikini in 1946, says his compensation was inadequate: “I'm an old man now...I haven't been able to go back and live on my homeland Bikini, my gift from God.... Now I'm getting ready to die and I know I'm not going to see Bikini…before I'm gone.”

A 2004 study by the US government’s National Cancer Institute estimated 530 cancers had already been caused by the Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb tests. It said another 500 cancers were likely to develop among Marshall Islanders who had been exposed to fallout. “We estimate that the nuclear testing program in the Marshall Islands will cause about 500 additional cancer cases among Marshall islanders exposed during the years 1946-1958, about a nine percent increase over the number of cancers expected in the absence of exposure to regional fallout,” the NCI study said. The study said because of the young age of the population when exposed in the 1950s, more than 55 percent of cancers have yet to develop or be diagnosed. Although the National Cancer Institute completed the study in September 2004, it was only publicly released in April 2005 after officials from the Marshall Islands noticed a reference to it in a US Congressional report and requested a copy. The report was prepared for the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which is scheduled to launch hearings to review a petition from the Marshall Islands seeking more than three billion dollars in additional compensation for nuclear test damages and health care.

At the time of the Bravo test at Bikini Atoll, US officials played down the health implications for islanders. Although many islanders developed severe radiation burns and had their hair fall out as their land was engulfed in fallout, US Atomic Energy Commission authorities issued a statement following the Bravo test which stated that “there were no burns” and the islanders were in good health.

Testing in the Marshall Islands required an extensive logistic effort and an inordinate amount of time. It soon became apparent that weapons development lead times would be reduced and considerably less expense incurred if nuclear weapons, especially the lower yield weapons, could be tested safely within the continental boundaries of the United States. In addition security of the test operation could be ensured, a considerable concern at a time when the Korean War was raging in Asia, and the possibility of direct conflict with China and the Soviet Union was feared. Consequently, on January 11, 1951, President Truman established the Nevada Test Site in southern Nevada on 1,350 square miles of desert and mountainous terrain.

The United States conducted 216 atmospheric tests between 1946 and 1962, 106 of which were detonated at the Nevada Test Site. During the 1950's, the mushroom clouds from these tests could be seen for almost 100 miles in either direction, including the city of Las Vegas, where the tests became tourist attractions. Americans headed for Las Vegas to witness the distant mushroom clouds that could be seen from the downtown hotels.

Soon after the tests began, rural residents began to notice that birds and deer dusted with fallout from the upwind Nevada Test Site were dying off. Cattle and sheep received radiation burns. Millions of people downwind of Ground Zero received substantial doses of radiation.

For much of her childhood Sheri Garman drank poisoned milk. Like other children in eastern Idaho in the 1950‘s, she regularly consumed locally produced raw milk. But the cows on Garman's family dairy and other regional dairies were ingesting radioactive fallout from atmospheric nuclear testing in Nevada, and passing on the radiation to humans through their milk. “Radiation fallout was like dew on the grass,” Garman told researchers with National Academies Board on Radiation Effects Research. Several years ago, Sheri was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. All too soon, it spread to her breasts.

On August 1, 1997, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) revealed that as a result of U.S. nuclear tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site, American children were actually exposed to 15 to 70 times as much radiation as had been previously reported to Congress. As a result, many thousands of today's adults are at risk of developing thyroid cancer. The data comes from a congressionally mandated study, 14 years in the making. The NCI report details estimated radiation doses to the thyroid gland due to releases of radioactive iodine 131. Most of the releases occurred from 1951 to 1958. Although areas near the Nevada test site were most often contaminated, the newly released data show that virtually the entire continental U.S. was affected, and “hot spots” also occurred in unpredictable places far from the site. These hot spots occurred because rainstorms sometimes caused locally heavy deposits of fallout. As a result, some children in large portions of the Midwest, parts of New England, and areas east and northeast of the test site (Idaho, Montana, and the Dakotas), received doses of iodine 131 as high as 112 rad. Estimates of thyroid doses, first reported in testimony to Congress in 1959 and still cited in 1997, range from 0.2 to 0.4 rad. According to the NCI, 0.4 rad is roughly the radiation dose delivered by one mammogram. However, American children on average actually received an estimated cumulative dose to the thyroid of 6 to 14 rad, and in the 24 most heavily contaminated counties, between 27 and 112 rad. The exposure of millions of children is especially troubling because much of it could have been avoided. The Atomic Energy Commission had learned of the risks of fallout and the prevalence of hot spots with the first atomic test, and the AEC was aware of the danger of consuming contaminated milk but did nothing to stop it.

Nor did radioactive pollution terminate with the end of atmospheric testing. When the bombs went underground, the pollution went with it. On December 10, 1967, a 29 kiloton nuclear bomb exploded less than sixty miles from Farmington New Mexico. Today, all that remains at the site is a plaque warning against excavation and perhaps a trace of tritium in your milk. The explosion was part of Operation Plowshare, a program conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission to explore peaceful uses of atomic bombs. AEC scientists proposed using nuclear weapons as high-powered dynamite in a variety of large scale excavation projects. The goal of the Farmington blast, code-named Gasbuggy, was to see if a smaller underground nuclear explosion would stimulate the release of natural gas trapped in dense shale deposits. Gasbuggy called for a 29 kiloton warhead to be set off four thousand feet underground in an existing, low-productivity gas well. Participants in Project Gasbuggy included the AEC, the Bureau of Mines and the El Paso Natural Gas Company. Ground zero was seven and a quarter miles south on Forest Road 537, south off State Highway 64, in the Carson National Forest.

As predicted, the well subsequently produced more gas in a year than it had produced in a 5 year period. There was only one small problem: nobody wanted to buy radioactive natural gas. Eventually, the contaminated gas was vented and flared which, according to a 1973 article in the New York Times Magazine, released radioactive Krypton-85 into the air. In addition, the groundwater was contaminated and dairy cows purportedly tested positive for Strontium-90.

Did bureaucratic bungling and the need for secrecy result in needless harm? The fact is that hydrogen bombs were intentionally designed to kill human beings. That they do so has been amply proven. Their hellfire cannot be harnessed. These doomsday devices have the potential to put an end to civilization. That they have been and continue to be treated carelessly—and occasionally abandoned—is why the author, after having observed and been part of it, feels morally and ethically obligated to write this book.


Chapter 2

Savannah, Georgia

From: Philip Reiss
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2007 11:07 AM
Subject: Nuke off coast of Georgia

Hello Fred Dungan,
      My name is Philip Reiss and I was in the Air Force fifty years ago. My Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) was 46150—that meant “munitions handling and loading specialist.” My last assignment was Westover AFB in Massachusetts. While there, from May of 1958 until my discharge on July 24th, 1959, I was a member of a crew whose function was to load “nukes” on the SAC B-52s assigned to that base.
      As for the plutonium core device, I recall that we always installed them into the cylindrical sleeve chamber. Once in the air, upon receiving orders to do so, the aircraft captain activated a mechanism which moved the plutonium device further into the chamber where it made an armed position contact. Thus when the weapon was dropped it was active as a nuclear weapon.
      For the Air Force and the Department of Defense to now say that the plutonium devices were not on board SAC bombers in the late 1950s is just not true. Who are they kidding? Lies and fabrications are the stock in trade of how the military, politically inspired, operates.
      How about all those RB-47s (the “R” stood for reconnaissance) that flew spy missions into Soviet air space and were shot down a few years before Gary Powers U-2 was downed? The Air Force told the loved ones of those lost crew members their aircraft was lost due to mechanical failure on a routine training mission.
      I hope the people who live along the coast of Georgia, in the vicinity of that beautiful city of Savannah, keep after their politicians to pressure the Department of Defense and the Air Force to recover that weapon which, to my mind, is like a ticking time bomb.
      If this statement of my experience in any way helps to facilitates the removal of that most dangerous weapon so that the people of that region will be safer, please feel free to quote me.
—Philip J. Reiss, Professor Emeritus - S.U.N.Y. (History) - Honorable Discharge (USAF service from July 25, 1955 to July 24, 1959) and now residing in Coopersburg, PA

Lost Savannah/Tybee Mark 15 Mod 0 Thermonuclear Weapon

Founded in the colonial era, Savannah is a stately city with a warm heart—aptly termed the Hostess of the South.  Designated by Conde’ Nast Traveler as one of the top ten U.S. cities to visit,  Savannah is a stroll back in time with hidden charms that could not help but entice the most jaded sophisticate.  Porticoed mansions, moss-draped oaks, and churches nearly as stern as they are inviting, give Savannah a unique flavor found nowhere else in the world. One mile south of the Savannah Hilton Head International Airport on Interstate 95 just west of downtown Savannah, set’s the 8th Air Force Museum. This magnificent tribute to the courageous men of America’s finest unit, has exhibits from the Great War, World War II, and other era’s where the 8th Army Air Force's bombers led the way.

Situated next to Interstate 95 for tourists to see is a beautifully restored B-47 jet bomber, America’s first. If you ask, you can arrange to see the airplane up close, including the bomb bay where the markings for hanging nuclear bombs are still visible. It was a jet like this that had a horrible midnight in Savannah on February 5th 1958.

Twelve miles east of Savannah, beneath shallow layers of sand and water, an abandoned 7,600 pound nuclear bomb is biding its time, waiting to rain death and destruction on the southern Atlantic coastline.  If not disarmed, perhaps some sleepy Sunday morning an atomic fireball will erupt on picturesque Wassaw Sound, shooting along nearby heavily traveled Interstate 95 with the force of a hundred hurricanes, instantly vaporizing tidal wetlands, and brutally destroying a vibrant, thriving metropolis—women, children, more than 200,000 people instantly incinerated—into a crumbling, deserted heap of radioactive rubble.


A cold, calculated act of terrorism?  Not quite.  It's simply that the United States Air Force is not in the habit of picking up after itself. In February 1958, a B-47 Stratojet bomber from Homestead Air Force Base in Florida had a midair collision with an F-86 Saberjet fighter northwest of Savannah and had to jettison an H-bomb in order to land safely.  It was dumped from 7.200 feet in the dead of night in shallow water somewhere along the southern shore of uninhabited Little Tybee Island.  Although the parachute didn't deploy, we are pretty sure that it came down intact. If the bomb had exploded, someone would have heard or seen it. And if the casing had cracked or broken, there would have been tell-tale signs of radiation contamination such as three-eyed gulls and flipper-less dolphins.

Colonel Howard Richardson and the crew of the B-47

Colonel Howard Richardson, the bomber’s pilot, brought his B-47 with the #6 engine dangling at a 45 degree angle from a partially demolished wing in for a safe landing at Hunter Air Field and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his daring feat. It took tremendous effort during the approach to maintain alignment with the runway. If the dangling engine dipped too low and scraped the tarmac, the bomber would go nose over tail and disintegrate. Richardson eased back on the throttle, maintaining just enough airspeed to keep control. The wheels touched the runway and the jet bounced back into the air. When the B-47 came down again, Richardson ordered the Co-pilot, Lieutenant Robert Lagerstrom, to pull the brake chute. Braking with a vengeance, the enormous tires dug into the runway. This time they managed to remain on the pavement and were able to bring the 125,000 pound aircraft to a full and complete stop. After shutting the engines down, all three crew members clambered down the ladder and kissed the tarmac. They had good reason to do so. Their B-47 was beyond repair and would never fly again. There was a wide gash on the right wing, the aileron had been shoved back 20 inches, the main wing spar was broken. Remnants of the F-86 were scattered over the vertical and horizontal stabilizer and the rear fuselage. Holes were torn in the tail turret and the empty fuel tank.

Meanwhile, both wings having been torn from the F-86 jet fighter, Lieutenant Clarence Stewart has ejected from 35,000 feet. The ejection system is designed to open his parachute at about 12,000 feet, but Stewart’s automatically opens right away and suffers a 22 mile long, very cold ride east across the Savannah River where he comes down in a small clearing in the largest swamp in South Carolina. Amazingly, his sole injury was a severe case of frostbitten fingers suffered during the six mile parachute descent to earth under sub-zero atmospheric conditions.

According to the Air Force accident report, the temperature is 35 degrees, just barely above freezing. Stewart wraps himself in the parachute, inflates his life raft, turns it upside down and lays down beneath it. Several hours later, he hears an aircraft and fires the flare gun in his survival kit. His frozen fingers fumble and the flare barely misses his toes before tearing into the parachute. Evidently, the pilot of the plane failed to spot this interesting fiasco, but it does set a dog to barking. In due course forest ranger Andy Walker comes along, convinced he's caught a poacher. By sunrise Stewart is wrapped in a blanket next to a wood stove, drinking some fine, untaxed South Carolina whiskey.

Because long-distance calls are expensive and because he considers the matter official government business, Stewart calls Charleston Air Force Base collect to report his survival. Citing regulations, the base operator refuses to accept the charges. Walker graciously foots the bill for the phone call and drives Stewart to the Walterboro hospital, where his hands are soaked in ice water—standard operating procedure for frostbite. From there an Air Force helicopter fetches him and returns him to his base. Stewart remains in the hospital for a month while doctors work to save his badly swollen and discolored fingers. At one point they recommend amputating all or parts of five of them, a prospect that so horrifies Stewart that he threatens to desert from the hospital.

In addition to saving his fingers, Stewart must face an accident board, a proceeding designed to prevent future accidents rather than affix individual responsibility. Stewart is not convinced of the board's benign purpose. “What they really wanted to do was [to] fry my young [posterior],” he declares. That probably would have been the outcome had not the device that recorded his plane's radar images been found five weeks later and several miles away. It was part of the canopy assembly and had been blown out of the aircraft during ejection. The black box type device showed that the F-86's radar had mistakenly focused on the wrong B-47, having somehow failed to detect Richardson's looming aircraft. Normally, an abandoned fighter without wings goes into a nosedive, crashes, and burns. Amazingly, Stewart's F-86 did not. The tail surfaces apparently provided some gliding capability and, bizarrely, the aircraft descended gradually, coming in for a belly landing four miles from Sylvania, near Whitehill, Georgia [Editor’s Note: Stewart subsequently flew 130½ missions in Southeast Asia, became a Flight Commander, and ejected from a F-105 fighter after being hit by small-arms fire. He was awarded the Silver Star].

Dozens of boats assisted by military divers took part in the search for the missing hydrogen bomb. Exhausted soldiers in full packs slogged through the marshlands in water up to their necks. Grappling hooks were dragged along the bottom of the sound in an attempt to snag the bomb. Navy Lieutenant Commander Art Arseneault who headed the unsuccessful search thinks it failed because it concentrated on the south side of the sound. Newly gathered information indicates that the bomb lies in shallow water on the north side of the sound, approximately three miles from Tybee Island.

After 90 days of fruitless searching, the Air Force, having bigger fish to fry, packed up and left, leaving the locals to their fate. The Air Force brass had a ready-made alibi in that if the massive hydrogen bomb ever did explode, they could blame it on the Communists. It seems that our military weren’t the only ones interested in finding the missing H-bomb. According to C.W. Jenkins, a retired Coast Guard captain who was in charge of the Port of Savannah in 1958, he had received reports from US Naval Intelligence that a Russian submarine had arrived on the scene shortly after we gave up the search. No doubt the Russians could have gained valuable intelligence from a US thermonuclear weapon of the latest design. Did they succeed where we failed? We definitely didn't find it and, if the Russians really did show up, there is no evidence in the archives that they found it either.

According to the Air Force, this submerged, rusting relic of the Cold War, designated No. 47782 Mark 15 Mod 0, contains 3 tons of enriched radioactive uranium and a detonator packing the wallop of 400 pounds of high explosive.  The Deputy Director of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons and Proliferation Center, Major Don Robbins, thinks the Tybee bomb lies at least 5 miles from shore beneath 20 feet of water and 15 feet of sand and silt.  If the bomb exploded, it “would create maybe a 10 foot diameter hole and shock waves through the water of approximately 100 yards . . . boats going over it would not even notice.  They might see some bubbles coming out around them.” According to the Air Force, there is no chance of a nuclear explosion because the Tybee bomb lacks a key plutonium capsule.

From the first time I heard it, I said that the Robbins statement was ridiculous. It's a nuclear's like if I take the battery out of your car, then I try to convince you it's not a car. In fact, the plutonium capsule they are talking about is about the size of a grapefruit, somewhat shaped like it, and weighs about 7 kilograms, that’s about 14 pounds or so for those of us who didn‘t graduate from MIT. That, as they say, is heavy metal.

In an April 1966 letter to the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy General W.J. (Jack) Howard, who was the Assistant Secretary of Defense [Editor’s Note: he served in this capacity while on active duty and in uniform], wrote that four nuclear weapons had been lost and never recovered.  Two of these four were “weapons-less capsules,” assumed to be incapable of a nuclear blast, but the Savannah bomb and a device lost in the western Pacific Ocean in 1965 are listed as “complete” with capsule. And the term “letter” from Howard does not really state the facts correctly. His written letter was a sworn secret statement. It was hand delivered by special courier to the investigating committee apparently to clarify his earlier personal appearance and sworn testimony to them. And guess what, all such testimony always remains secret. In this case, Howard’s letter of testimony became public from the copy he kept in his office files. Those were military files that were declassified “by mistake” in the late 1990’s. What I wanted to know was how a federal witness can change sworn testimony 34 years later with Since I cannot recall, I must have been wrong. [Editor‘s Note: the preceding statement is necessarily paraphrased because the actual quote remains classified.] I was really upset that our government got a ruling from the Department of Justice that allowed such legal contortions. I mean, really...sworn testimony can put people to death.

Let’s not overlook the ominous statement in that letter about the other complete nuclear weapons that were lost. General Howard states simply (as if this is standard operating procedure) that we will not tell the Japanese about the nuclear weapon we lost in the Sea of Japan, 200 miles from Okinawa. Does such a sinister admission mean that our government will do whatever it takes when it comes to “protecting the “nuclear weapons program” diplomacy and ethical considerations be damned?

But the Air Force now says that General Howard got it wrong.  Speaking in an official capacity, Major Cheryl Law reiterated the Air Force's stock statement concerning abandoned nuclear devices, “the bomb off the coast of Savannah is not capable of a nuclear explosion.” What about the 3 tons of enriched uranium encased in the bomb? “To have that hurt you, you would have to ingest it.”

That means that Howard was either a “complete” idiot (no pun intended) or he intentionally lied in writing to Congress and signed his name at the bottom.  I wonder if General Jack Howard, analyzing the incident eight years after it happened, from the offices of the almighty Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara, might have had access to information not available today.  Although he now says that he may have made a mistake, it seems likely that the Department of Defense coerced him into changing his story.

Colonel Richardson has a copy of the receipt he signed for the bomb before embarking on the mission—a receipt that purports that his nuclear bomb had a “simulated” capsule (see Appendix b). Also, the Air Force claims that none of the H-bombs at Homestead Air Force Base had capsules in February 1958.

That’s ridiculous. Howard H. Dixon, a former crew chief who loaded nuclear weapons onto planes at Hunter Field, Georgia, from 1957 to 1959, claims that nuclear bombs like the bomb jettisoned near Savannah were always armed.  “Never in my Air Force career did I install a Mark 15 weapon without installing the plutonium capsule,” he insists.

There is no doubt in my mind that this man knows what he is talking about. After retiring from the Air Force in the 1980’s, Dixon went on to become an acknowledged expert in nuclear armament technology and design. In 2001, when Howard Dixon made that statement at the Tybee City Council Special Meeting investigating the bomb’s risk, Dixon was the Director of the United States Air Force B-1 Bomber Nuclear Armament Program. It stands to reason that Dixon couldn’t go from NCO to Director without knowing what’s really up. Believe me, there is a world of difference between what people are told is happening and what actually happens in real life. Keep in mind that the Air Force operates on a need-to-know basis. Having worked his way up from the bottom, Howard Dixon is one man who has pretty much seen it all.

Why have a bunch of B-47 nuclear bombers with nuclear bombs at a base way down in Florida without the nuclear capsule to make them complete? Remember, this is the Red hot Cold War of 1958. In fact, in November 1957 less than 90 days before this “training mission” launched in February 1958, General Thomas Powers, the Commander of SAC and therefore the War Lord of all B-47 and B-52’s with nukes, while attending a media event, made a public, thinly veiled threat to the Soviets, “Day and night, I have a certain percentage of my command in the air” and the “planes are bombed up and they don’t carry bows and arrows.” SAC wasn’t bluffing. Those “bombed up” planes were America’s ace-in-the-hole. We couldn’t prevent the Russian nuclear missiles from destroying planes on the ground. Russian ICBM’s could deliver hydrogen bombs to America in 30 minutes. And America had NOTHING BUT JET BOMBERS that took many hours to reach Russia…or, in the case of those bombers that were not on alert, many hours to just get off the ground. But the bombers in the air, upon receiving a Presidential Order, would proceed to Moscow, Kiev, Leningrad, and a hundred other Russian cities where they would even the score. You bet there was a plutonium capsule inserted in every nuke that went airborne. The “simulated capsule” subterfuge was meant to ensure plausible deniability.

To fully understand what General Powers is saying you have to consider the time and conditions when he spoke. General Powers while chief of SAC was directly under the thunderous Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Curtis LeMay. These men were charged to save America from International Communism (the so-called Evil Empire). Soviet missiles were very real and America was at risk. And 1958 was full of escalating tensions leading toward the nuclear showdown in 1962 over Cuba that almost ended the world. And let’s face that fact right now—a massive nuclear exchange between the super powers (Armageddon) would have ended the world as we know it, not just for a lifetime, but forever.

As seen from the rear, the Mark 41 is remarkably similar to the Mark 15 -- the primary different being that the Mark 15 has a hard case, i.e. the forged aluminum case is thicker.

Armed or unarmed, six thousand pounds of 90 percent enriched uranium and various other radioactive elements aren’t anything to sneeze at. Despite five decades of immersion in salt water, the forged aluminum case itself may be in relatively good condition. That doesn’t mean the hydrogen bomb won’t eventually leak at the bolts and/or the rear aperture that contains the parachute deployment mechanism (the Russians evidently foresaw this and made the casings for their stolen plans version of the Mark 15 hydrogen bomb from corrosion resistant stainless steel). Because isotopes have an extremely long half life—713,000,000 years for uranium-235 and 4,510,000,000 years for uranium-238—the danger isn’t going away anytime soon. Hazardous radiation is being emitted 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Even a small dose can cause irreparable harm to your health.

A local resident, Donald Ernst, runs a website about the bomb called Ernst says that &Idquo;if all accounts of the bomb are correct, as far as the make and model, it is 20 times the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima . . . . I believe, using common sense, that if the bomb were to detonate, it would crack the Floridian aquifer. This aquifer is the source of drinking water for four-plus states. Why not take something that is inherently dangerous and remove it? Sometimes the government really amazes me.”

sign outside Tybee City Hall

At a special hearing called by Mayor Walter Parker on February 15, 2001, the City Council of Tybee Island approved a resolution which urged the Department of Energy and the Air Force to locate the bomb and give residents a “realistic assessment of potential dangers” to address local concerns “about the safety, health and peace of mind and economic livelihood of residents of the city and its visitors.” Clerk of Council, Jacquelyn R. Brown, recorded the resolution in the minutes:


Whereas, The Mayor and Council of the City of Tybee Island are concerned about the safety, health and peace of mind and economics livelihood of the residents of the City and visitors to the island; and

Whereas, an undetonated bomb was dropped into the ocean waters near Tybee Island in 1958; and

Whereas, the Mayor and Council are uncertain as to whether there is Any danger from the lost bomb and wish to be provided with accurate information relating to the bomb and nay risk associated therewith;

NOW THEREFORE, be it resolved by the Mayor and Council duly assembled, that the United Sates Government and in particular, the United States Air Force and the Department of Energy, are urged to locate the bomb in question and to make a realistic assessment of potential dangers associated therewith, if any, including the risk of radiation leakage, and following such assessments, provide a report to the City of Tybee Island and to Chatham County as to any action needed or appropriate to insure the safety of the citizens, or to confirm that no remedial action is necessary or appropriate.

Resolved this 15th day of February 2001.

Mayor Walter W. Parker

I read a letter from Mr. Howard Dixon, a retired Air Force Command Sergeant Major who was stationed at Hunter Air Force Base at the time the bomb was lost. Mr. Howard Dixon was then introduced to Council and answered questions concerning the Savannah nuke. One long time resident, Aaron Charles Leverett, remarked that he would not have settled in the area had he known there was a loose nuke.

Council member Pam O’Brien urged Washington to devote more resources to digging up the bomb. “I'm pleased to see the attention this is getting. There are too many questions and inconsistencies that still need to be addressed,” O’Brien said. “When others in government say they would prefer to put their heads in the sand and forget about it, they should remember that it is the same sand that the bomb is buried in.”

Close to 200 people were in attendance. My wife, Pat, along with Harris and Pepper Parker were there to support me. CNN broadcast the proceedings live. The Savannah bomb was headline news until the next morning when an American nuclear submarine rammed and sank a Japanese student training vessel near Pearl Harbor. It wasn’t the first time nor would it be the last that a breaking news story shoved our ongoing loose nuke recovery efforts onto a back burner.

Could it be that the Air Force weighed the cost of conducting another search ($22 million or more) against the risk and Tybee Island/Savannah came out the loser?  Even with 20/15 hindsight into the survival-of-the-fittest mindset of the Air Force in that era, it boggles the imagination to envision a nameless, faceless staff functionary cavalierly mumbling “So long, Savannah!,” as he stamps the report “TOP SECRET” and returns to business as usual. The real reason behind the cover-up may not be the cost. If that weapon is out there with a capsule, the implications on domestic and foreign nuclear policy are extreme. Indeed, it could have a substantial effect on the policy of the United States in regards to strategic weapons. We've got a very important ballistic missile defense system in development. In other words, if the public ever found out how much havoc this hydrogen bomb could render and how careless the Air Force was with public safety, they might put an end to this madness once and for all by cutting the budget for developing nuclear-related weaponry.

Chapter 3

Florence, South Carolina

     At precisely 4:19 PM on March 11, 1958, a month after the Savannah incident, a similar bomb, but purportedly without a nuclear payload, was inadvertently dropped from a B-47 when the aircraft experienced electrical problems while flying over Mars Bluff, near Florence, South Carolina.  Exploding over ground zero, it injured six people and left an enormous 70 feet wide, 30 feet deep crater.  The high explosives used to trigger an atomic bomb are by themselves a significant threat. The detonator (all by itself) destroyed local farmer Walter Gregg’s house and wounded five members of his family while damaging cars, houses, and churches as far away as five miles. Obviously, when Air Force spokesmen say that unarmed bombs aren’t dangerous, they are talking through their hats. Hundreds of bomb fragments were recovered and the area was monitored for radiation. Even now, nearly six decades later, traces of radiation can still be detected with a Geiger counter.

The nuclear weapon that injured the Gregg family, rendered their Chevrolet a burnt-out wreck, killed at least six of their chickens, and did damage to pillars and benches at the Mizpah Baptist Church a quarter-mile away, was a Mark 6 30-kiloton fission bomb, that weighed 7,600 pounds, was 10 feet 8 inches long, and had a maximum diameter of 61 inches. “We thought it was a plane breaking the sound barrier,” Clyde Gregg who was 6 years old at the time would later tell reporters. “My daddy said a few choice words. It felt like the house lifted up and came back down.”

Starting at eight o’clock on the morning of March 11, a specialized two-man loading crew took one hour and seven minutes to load the bomb aboard the B-47. When the loading team experienced difficulty engaging the steel locking pin, they called the weapons release systems supervisor for assistance. He took the weight of the weapon off the plane’s bomb-shackle mechanism, put it onto a sling, and then jiggled the pin with a hammer until it seated. The bomb was put back on the shackle, and preflight checks continued. But neither the bomb-loading crew nor the aircrew ran the locking pin through its engage/disengage cycle with the bomb’s weight on the shackle. For the crew to receive maximum points for its unit under the ground rules, all preflight checks had to be finished by 10:30. It is difficult not to suspect that institutional pressure to gain points led to skipping this step.

After the bomb had been loaded and the preflight checks completed, the crew went to briefings on weather and operations, had lunch, and returned to the plane about 2:40. At 3:42 Captain Koehler started his engines. At 3:51, as required by regulations, copilot Woodruff rotated his seat to face aft and pulled the lever to disengage the locking pin from the nuclear weapon. It could now be dropped instantly in case of an emergency. At 3:53 the plane took off to join three other B-47s for a formation flight to Europe. When the B-47 reached an altitude of 5,000 feet, Woodruff again swiveled in his seat, this time to re-engage the locking pin. He worked the locking lever unsuccessfully for five minutes as the B-47 climbed to 15,000 feet to join the three other aircraft. At this point, the crew knew it had a problem. The pilot told the bombardier, Captain Kulka, to go into the bomb bay to try to seat the locking pin by hand. This was not a spur of the moment decision; the bomb bay was not pressurized, so the entire plane had to be depressurized. Because the plane was at 15,000 feet, the crew had to don oxygen masks. Further complicating matters, the entrance to the bomb bay was so narrow that a parachute could not be worn into it. The task was doomed from the start; later testimony indicated Kulka had no idea where to find the locking pin in the large and complicated bomb-release mechanism. After a tense 12 minutes of searching for the pin, the bombardier decided, correctly, that it must be high up in the bomb bay and invisible due to the curvature of the bomb. A short man, he jumped to pull himself up to get a look at where he thought the locking pin should be. Unfortunately, his handhold was the emergency release mechanism. The weapon dropped from its shackle and rested momentarily on the closed bomb-bay doors with Captain Kulka splayed across it in the manner of Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove. Kulka grabbed at a bag that had providentially been stored in the bomb bay, while the more-than-three-ton bomb broke open the bomb-bay doors and fell earthward. The bag Kulka was holding came loose, and he found himself sliding after the bomb without his parachute. He managed to grab something—he wasn’t sure what—and haul himself to safety. Moments later the plane was rocked by the shock wave of the blast when the bomb hit the ground.

In case of an unscheduled bomb drop, Air Force regulations required the crew to immediately notify its base by a special coded message. Because the procedure had never been used before, the operations center at Hunter Air Force Base did not recognize the strange incoming message. As a final indignity, the pilot was reduced to radioing an open, unencryted message to the air traffic controllers in the civilian tower at the Florence airport asking them to advise Hunter by telephone that aircraft 53-1876A had lost a “device.” The plane then turned back to photograph ground zero with its aerial camera. This was not difficult, because the plume of smoke was easily visible from nearly three miles up. Because B-47’s had no way of dumping fuel, they descended to the denser air at 6,000 feet, where they circled for 2 hours and 26 minutes before landing uneventfully.

Emory Prosser, Fire Chief of Hunter AFB Emergency Response in 1958, led a siren screaming procession of nuclear accident capable emergency equipment on the almost 200 mile race to Walter Gregg's farm. What the rescue team found was an unprecedented catastrophe. The Gregg sisters—Helen, six, and Frances, nine—and their cousin Ella Davies, nine, suffered lacerations. One had a ruptured spleen. Ella had to have 31 stitches and stayed overnight at the hospital in Florence. Knocked unconscious by the concussion from the blast while working in the tool shed, Walter Gregg awoke to find his wife, who had been sewing in the front parlor, on the cypress plank floor covered with glass shards and plaster. It wasn’t until later that evening that they were told that they had been hit by a loose nuke. [Editor’s Note: Years later, the Gregg family gave some pieces of the bomb, recovered in the weeks after it fell, to the Florence Museum. Today the pieces sit in a display case that includes a piece of the chandelier from Walter Gregg’s home and a copy of the Florence Morning News telling readers with a banner headline about the bomb.]

Chapter 4

The Nukes Keep Falling

Three years later, on January 24, 1961, two bombs fell from a Strategic Air Command B-52G bomber when a fuel tank in the right wing developed a leak during midair refueling, lost 37,000 pounds of fuel in two minutes, caught fire, and exploded, causing the aircraft to break up over Goldsboro, North Carolina.  Five of the eight crew members survived.  The explosion caused structural failure of the right wing at 8,000 feet after the crew had bailed out. This in turn resulted in two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs separating from the B-52G during airframe breakup. The force of the breakup activated all but one of the arming safety devices on one bomb, including arming wires pulled out, pulse generator actuated, the explosive actuator fired, a timer run down, all contacts of the differential pressure switch closed, and the low and high voltage thermal batteries actuated. The arm-safe, however, remained in a “safe” position which meant that the X-unit did not charge and the warhead did not complete the arming sequence. A parachute provided this bomb with a soft landing in an upright position, but the other buried itself beneath soggy farmland, leaving a crater eight feet in diameter and six feet deep.  Although no explosion occurred, this weapon was also partially armed upon release from the aircraft and further by closure of the arming switch upon impact. Because a high voltage switch didn’t close, this bomb also failed to complete the arming sequence. The nose crystals in both weapons, used for salvage fusing, were crushed.

After excavating to a depth of 50 feet and recovering a parachute pack, some high explosives, a tritium bottle, and a portion of the nose, the Air Force paid $1,000 for an easement on the site (much cheaper than the $500,000 estimated cost of recovery) and left the business end of the hydrogen bomb where it lay 180 feet (plus or minus 10 feet) below ground. Originally the easement was enclosed by a chain link fence which was not maintained and has long since vanished. Nothing around except for a small overgrown cemetary. The legal description for the easement is “All of that area in the form of a circle, having a radius of 200 feet, with the center point of radius located through the following traverse: From a common corner to the lands of heirs of Charles T. Davis, Sr. and land of J. A. Edmundson, located on the centerline of N. C. State Road 1534 and approximately 2,135 feet northeasterly from the centerline of Nahunta Swamp; thence along the centerline of N. C. State Road 1534, N 49 degrees 28' E, 835.56 feet; thence leaving the centerline of N.C. State Road 1534, N 40 degrees 32' W, 420 feet to the center point of radius, and containing 2.88 acres, more or less.”

Before the salvagers pulled up stakes, they filled the hole with dirt. Now, 45 years later, the easement is indistinguishable from the rest of the soybean field where it is situated. I cannot help but wonder why the Air Force did not bother to fill the hole with concrete, like drillers do with abandoned wells. What could the commanding officer have been thinking when he cavalierly dismissed responsibility for a nuclear core fully capable of affecting the health of the inhabitants of the region? “So long Savannah, goodbye Goldsboro?”

Is the h-bomb leaking? Has the water table been contaminated with radiation? Are local fauna, crops, and wildlife endangered? Nobody seems to know. However, if you would like to find out for yourself, this is how former Air Force officer Joel Dobson, author of Goldsboro Broken Arrow says you can locate the exact spot where the radioactive core is buried:

1) Start at the center of the bridge over Nahunta Swamp stream on NC State Route 1534 (Big Daddy’s Road). The bridge is located about 2 miles southwest of Faro, NC. Then go 2,135 feet northeasterly (back toward Faro) on the road. That will bring you to: 2). The common corner of the Davis and Edmundson land. There is nothing to mark that spot, it was just the nearest property line at the time. That’s apparently essential for surveyors. 3). From that point, continue northeast for another 835.6 feet along the centerline of the road, (49 degrees magnetic)...Look to your left, at about 90° relative to the road. You will be looking northwest on a magnetic heading of 320 degrees (or, in the wording of surveyors: N 40 degrees 32’ W)...The GPS coordinates...are N 35° 29.525 W 77° 51.50. In the survey format of Degrees/Minutes/Seconds, the coordinates would be 35° 29’ 31.5” N 77° 51’ 30” W.

Now walk 420 feet in the direction you are facing and you will be standing directly over the highly enriched business end of an abandoned 4 megaton hydrogen bomb. Hire a crew, build a caisson, and help yourself to a prize that rogue nations and terrorist organizations all over the world would gladly pay you a fortune to get. One small detail that I neglected to mention is that the last few feet could be murder because working within the confines of a caisson in a heavy radiation suit for long lengths of time is next to impossible.

Speaking at a press conference in September 1983, Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, had this to say: “The bomb's arming mechanism had six or seven steps to go through to detonate, and it went through all but one, we discovered later.” Given the possible consequences, it is unconscionable for the Air Force to continue to stonewall the media about the danger however remote that this maverick H-bomb poses to the public.

Shouldn't a bomb not just any bomb, but a thermonuclear weapon be as deserving of proper disposal as other forms of biohazardous wastes?  A local reporter, Mike Rouse, who covered the story for a Wayne County newspaper at the time of the incident says it is his understanding that the bomb broke apart when it slammed into the earth and now lies in pieces.  The Air Force claims that no radiation was detected, but that is not surprising since it is insulated by more than 150 feet of soil.

If the casing did in fact shatter, it is all the more reason to clean up the resulting nuclear contamination.  Since fusionable radioactive elements have an extremely long half-life, the problem is not going away anytime soon.  Unlike the Chernobyl disaster, no concrete buffer has been poured.  Because the soil which surrounds the abandoned H-bomb is saturated and unstable, it is imperative that the Air Force admit to its mistake without further delay in order that steps can be taken to protect the public.  Isn't it ironic that billions are being spent to develop an anti-missile missile capable of shooting down a nuclear device before it reaches our borders, but we can't spare a half million to make one that is already here safe?

Sometime in late July, 1957, records aren't quite clear if it was the night of the 28th or 29th, an Air Force C-124 cargo plane experiencing mechanical difficulties was forced to dump two nukes off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey, one 50 miles out, the other 75 miles. The bombs, called Mark 5’s, did not explode when they landed in the Atlantic. Once again, the Air Force says that the bombs lacked crucial plutonium capsules. However, they admit that the detonators—a ton of high explosives each—pack enough punch to level a city block. Needless to say, they are still out there—presumably at the mercy of the tides and currents with 43 years worth of corrosion eating away at them.

“If you thought syringes on the beach were bad...imagine if a nuclear bomb were to wash up. Lots of heavy things wash ashore,” warns Stephen Schwartz, a researcher at the Brookings Institution who recently edited “Atomic Audit:  The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940.”

Arrivederci Atlantic City? Or is it possible that one of the bombs might have made it to Manhattan by now?

This simply isn’t the Air Force’s strongest area of expertise and it wouldn't surprise me if the Air Force knew less about what goes on beneath the waves than huskies know about the Tropics. The Atlantic sea floor is anything but static. Flowing to depths of 3,000 feet or more, the Gulf Stream steadily washes the entire eastern seaboard. Differences in temperature and salinity result in changes in the density of seawater, producing both up and down welling. And large surface storms can scour continental shelves.

Probably the greatest danger stems from the enormous pressure to which a submerged bomb can be subjected. At sea level average pressure is 14.7 pounds per square inch, but it quickly increases with descent, expanding to 1,338 psi at 3,000 feet, sufficient to implode watertight metal casings. Add corrosion from forty years of continual immersion in seawater and you have a time bomb waiting to go off.

How much truth there is in the Air Force's assertion that the bombs pose little or no danger is illustrated by a “Broken Arrow” incident that occurred on January 17, 1966. A B-52 collided with a K-135 refueling plane over Palomares, Spain, with four hydrogen bombs aboard. One bomb floated gently down suspended between two parachutes, another bomb sank to the bottom of the Mediterranean, and it is rumored that the high explosives in the other two bombs detonated upon impact, spewing radioactive material into the sea.

On January 21, 1968, another B-52 crashed approximately seven miles southeast of Thule Air Force Base in Greenland. Four bombs were alleged to have burned with the plane, spreading radioactive contamination over icy seas. However, a group of ex-employees of the Arctic facility have obtained classified documents suggesting that one of the thermonuclear hydrogen weapons sank to the seabed and still lies there today. According to an article published in the daily Jyllands-Posten, a prominent Danish newspaper, the lost bomb, serial number 78252, was never reported to Denmark, despite the fact that Denmark is a NATO ally and Greenland is an integral part of the kingdom of Denmark. Needless to say, this is not the way to treat a friend.

The Danish Ritzau news agency released a story reporting that a U.S. submarine filmed images of something resembling a hydrogen bomb in April 1968 while conducting a search for remains from the B-52 wreckage.

Because Denmark had banned nuclear weapons from its soil, the crash soured relations between the United States and Denmark. With State Department officials scheduled to visit Greenland on August 21 to 24, 2001, for talks with Danish officials on whether or not Thule would play a role in the planned National Missile Defense program, the disclosures could not have come at a more inopportune moment. Home to a ballistic missile early-warning radar station, Thule is ideally situated to detect incoming missiles from what the United States labels “states of concern”—countries such as Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea. Greenland’s native people have repeatedly expressed strong opposition to having anything to do with the NMD proposal.

Consequences still reverberate from what happened on December 5, 1965, when an A-4e Skyhawk rolled off the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga and sank to the bottom, along with a live hydrogen bomb, 80 miles from Okinawa. In 1989, the United States informed Japan that the bomb was leaking radioactive material, no doubt providing ammunition for local protestors who would like nothing better than an excuse to kick United States troops off of their island.

It’s not like we are the only nation that ever lost a nuclear bomb. Cold War nuclear policy expert Stephen Schwartz admonishes that the “Russians had many...accidents, but...they have not been forthcoming about them.” How about the other nuclear powers? “I wouldn’t be surprised if the British, the French, and the Chinese had their share as well.”

Nobody knows for sure exactly how many derelict nuclear bombs are rolling about on ocean floors worldwide. In 1989, Greenpeace estimated the number to be 50. At least 11 of them belong to the United States. Of those, four definitely have live payloads. We know from the Bikini tests that 40 kilotons detonated in a lagoon can render an atoll uninhabitable for decades. When you consider that a single hydrogen bomb packs 10 to 1,000 times as much punch as a fission bomb, it is tantamount to criminal negligence to let such a device endanger an unsuspecting populace. A megaton blast (equivalent to a million tons of TNT) results in severe damage to buildings 10 miles away. The power of the explosion increases in direct proportion to the size of the bomb. Detonate a good sized bomb in shallow water near a major city’s shoreline and it’s sayonara for the inhabitants.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The U.S. Navy has submarines capable of finding and retrieving nuclear weapons regardless of the depth at which they are lost. When President Johnson learned about the lost Palomares hydrogen bomb, he abruptly demanded that the Navy find it before the Soviets did. Two submersibles, Alvin and Aluminaut were loaded on cargo planes and flown to Spain. On its tenth dive, Alvin sighted the tattered remains of a parachute wrapped around the missing H-bomb.  It was 2,500 feet underwater, wedged into a 70-degree slope. Alvin first attempted to hook it, but the bomb fell back into the water and was lost for three more weeks. Then a robot cable-controlled underwater recovery vehicle (CURV) guided by a surface ship got tangled up in the parachute's suspension lines. In desperation, the Navy decided to hoist both the CURV and the bomb together, hoping that the tangle would hold long enough to get them to the surface. Luck was with the rescue team that day (April 7, 1966) and three months’ worth of tenacity finally paid off big time.

Motivated by the less-than-graceful recovery of the Palomares bomb, the Navy went on to develop an array of manned and unmanned advanced technology submersibles capable of accomplishing “Broken Arrow” missions with minimal risk to personnel. NR-1, the Navy’s first submarine designed specifically for deep submergence search and recovery, was the brainchild of Admiral Rickover. Unlike Alvin, the much larger NR-1 was nuclear powered and not dependent upon the support of a surface ship. Its heavy-duty grappling arm gave it deep sea capabilities that outpaced Jules Verne’s visions in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Two nuclear submarines that had been facing retirement, USS Halibut and USS Seawolf, were rebuilt and pressed into service as deep sea search vehicles. USS Parche was also overhauled and refitted with state-of-the-art electronic gadgetry qualifying her as a “special projects” sub.

But perhaps the most grandiose and costly salvage ship of any era, the Glomar Explorer, constructed jointly by the Navy and the CIA (Note: the CIA's cover story had Howard Hughes' Summa Corporation using the Glomar Explorer to mine magnesium nodules from the ocean floor) in the early 1970's as part of Project Jennifer, provided the best proof that any object at any depth can be located and lifted from anywhere beneath the sea. After Halibut discovered a sunken rogue Soviet submarine containing at least one intact ballistic missile complete with nuclear warhead, Melvin Laird, Secretary of Defense under President Nixon, approved Jennifer. Six years later, 350 miles north of the Hawaiian Leeward Islands, a mighty mechanical claw descended 17,000 feet to the bottom of the Pacific and, guided by computers on board the Glomar Explorer, clamped onto 5,000 tons of twisted, rusting steel and began slowly raising it to the surface. Actually, the K-129, a Soviet Golf class diesel submarine, which had been destroyed when a nuclear missile exploded during an attempted launch against Pearl Harbor, was brought up in five or six pieces along with the bodies of an undisclosed number of Russian sailors (the Pentagon says six but the real number is probably closer to 90). A second mission was scuttled by the resignation of President Nixon and the subsequent revelation that the CIA had illegally compiled files on more than 10,000 American citizens. Nonetheless, it can be presumed that few, if any, lost nuclear devices lie at a depth greater than 17,000 feet and that none outweigh the 5,000 tons that the Navy managed to bring up. Now, with the end of the Cold War, instead of mothballing nuclear submarines, we could be using them to locate and dispose of lost and all-but-forgotten thermonuclear Cold War relics instead of leaving them lying around, waiting for God-only-knows-what terrorist group to salvage.

It would only take a fraction of the $1 billion dollars which the Air Force wasted on an atomic aircraft that never got off the ground to do the job. It’s morbidly ironic that at the same time the Air Force was saying it couldn’t afford to continue searching for the missing nuclear bombs, it was throwing money into Project Halitosis for development of CAMAL (continuously airborne missile launcher and low level) technologies in a vain attempt to attach gossamer wings to heavyweight nuclear reactors.

Nations at war have a responsibility to dispose of unexploded ordnance posing a danger to civilians as soon as the war is over. During the 1990-91 Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, occupying military forces scattered landmines over 97.8 percent of Kuwait. As soon as the Gulf War ended, the cleanup effort began. By April 1999, a total of 1,646,916 landmines had been recovered, more than one mine per every man, woman, and child. The costs in terms of humanity have been enormous. Sixty people have been killed and 131 injured, 12 of whom were Americans, while attempting to disarm these devices. Because H-bombs are potentially more hazardous than landmines, it makes no sense that a similar effort to find and defuse hazardous abandoned weapons was not part of the victorious aftermath of the Cold War.

The root of the problem appears to have been that certain Air Force leaders, General Curtis LeMay among them, advocated adopting a first strike policy against the former Soviet Union. Expediency dictated that they downplay the lethality of nuclear weapons or run the risk of being labeled madmen. The impossibly ridiculous notion that honor and duty necessitated that real men, as the Air Force’s official song dictates, “live in fame or go down in flames” was at least in part to blame.

This Dr. Strangelove insanity will not be put to rest until we get a full and complete accounting of all missing nuclear weapons together with assurances of their safe disposal. In the parlance of Cold Warrior LeMay, we need to get rid of them before they get rid of us.

Chapter 5

The Red-Hot Cold War

“No one knows better...the need to protect our military and technological secrets for the security of the nation. But archiving old secrets long after the crisis has passed deprives us of knowledge that free people need to make enlightened choices. Burying our history beneath layers of cover stories, security classifications, and deliberate deceit for the purpose of protecting mistakes or reputations of bygone leaders is a violation of a free people's rights. In the military, the highest restriction placed on a document is called a ‘need to know’ classification. But at some point, after a crisis has passed, there is a higher authorization that we Americans must be granted—and that is the ‘right to know.’” –Kenneth Sewell, Red Star Rogue

Is the Savannah H-bomb a danger to the region? I find it hard to imagine that a thermonuclear weapon could be anything else. Nonetheless, Air Force spokespersons (public relations people whose mission is to inform the public with the Air Force’s best interests in mind, but not necessarily the public’s best interestsostensibly for the sake of national security) have made it sound like the Savannah bomb is a harmless dud. One actually went so far as to state that you would have to swallow a radioactive isotope in order to have it hurt you. Evidently, she never heard of Madame Curie, the French scientist who initially isolated radioactive matter and paid the ultimate price for her discovery.

The Mark 15 Mod 0 nuke was huge and barely fit in the bomb bay of the B-47. This close fit meant the weapon, which took careful, lengthy loading procedures in order to fit in place with all the technical components connected, had to have the plutonium ball INSIDE prior to being loaded into the bomb bay. Otherwise, the B-47 would have had to return to its base where the nuke would have had to be tediously unhooked, lowered, opened, armed, raised, tediously hooked up, and all the safety checks run before the aircraft could be launched on an actual bombing mission. In a time when the Russians had nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles that worked and our ICBM’s fizzled and blew up on the launch pad, such avoidable delays were unthinkable.

The procedure for inserting the nuclear capsule never varied. The mark 15 weapon was delivered to the B-47 and then, when it was under the plane ready to be winched up into the bomb bay (with a curtain around the whole bottom of the plane and bomb), a nuclear technician would come in with a dolly and, once inside the screen of the curtain, he would pull the nuclear capsule out of the dolly and place it inside the AIFI device of the weapon...this AUTOMATIC INFLIGHT INSERTION device was inside the rear lip and cover of the weapon just behind the pit...separated from the pit...and safe until automatically put into the pit by the pilot throwing a number of switches after having received a Presidential order. And there is a “rub” here after almost 50 may have moved into firing position thanks to time and seawater.

It is difficult to set the earth back to Feb 4, 1958 to really taste and touch what the world was like that Tuesday evening near Miami Florida when the Strategic Nuclear Bomb Wing launched this 15 bomber mission. Although the official destination of these formations was Europe, anyone who could read between the lines knew that they got as close as they could to the border of the Soviet Union before turning back. We did everything possible to maintain plausible deniability by our government. It was by definition a training mission as we were not at war. What about the Cold War? We were toe to toe with the Russians on every front, particularly Europe in East and West Germany. Shades of the Berlin blockade and the dangerous airlift to survive in West Berlin. And the border incidents, aircraft shoot downs, and other provocative statements by both sides...all leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 when the world came the closest it has ever came to total destruction.

In fact, the MOST startling leap into the Cold War arms race occurred just a few months before in the Fall of 1957 when Russia launched Sputnik, the world's first satellite. That blinking Red Light passed right over America every evening for all Americans to peer up and have in their face the proof that Russia had missiles that could reach us in 30 minutes hydrogen bombs and we had NONE! So in February 1958. even though the political climate was to downplay the Russian Nuclear ICBM advantage, the US War Chiefs (our military Generals) would DEFINITELY KEEP THE POWDER DRY AND READY—especially the cigar chomping “Nuke 'em” General Curtis Le May, Chief of Strategic Air Command and the Air Force. Who could ever forget the Barry Goldwater Presidential campaign of 1964 when Curtis LeMay, who was Goldwater’s Vice Presidential candidate, responded to a question about how to win in Vietnam with the above quote? LBJ won the election. So, you’re darn right the nukes went armed that night of February 4, 1958. We would have sent LeMay to the gallows if the Russians had attacked and we had 15 nuclear bombers in the air with sterile loads. And that was what W.J. HOWARD swore and testified before the secret session of the Congress of the US in April 1966 when he said the Savannah Mark 15 had a capsule...the whole nuclear package. And his boss, Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara, a notorious micro-manager, would have fired him on the spot had he not said EXACTLY what MacNamara told him to say.

For all those who express doubts that the airborne B-47‘s carried h-bombs with nuclear capsules, please consider the following: sure we had crews on nuclear alert back at the base but 15 bombers in the air was a sizeable deterrent against Russian missiles that could be sneaking in with no launch detection system back in 1958. They would just show up on a radar screen inbound with minutes to spare...or announced their presence with a mushroom cloud. The alert bombers would never get off the ground.

Yes, I know Strategic Air Command published doctrine that is now available on the internet from 1958 which states that such nuclear loads were not authorized until summer of that year...that in itself is a BIG admission and establishes that real fear was growing. COLD WAR tension was yet to peak. HOWEVER, WHAT ABOUT THE 1960 ADMISSION BY PRESIDENT EISENHOWER THAT HE SECRETLY AUTHORIZED THE GARY POWERS SPY MISSION WHEN WE HAD ALREADY TOLD THE MEDIA THAT THERE HAD NOT BEEN ANY OVERFLIGHTS? And had we not found out about it when the Russians flaunted him live at the May 1960 summit, we would never have known. [Editor's Note: The Soviet Union shot down 20 or more aircraft during overflights by various US aircraft—high-flying bombers as well as U-2's—with the loss of approximately 150 US airmen, some of whom no doubt perished in a gulag.]


Chapter 6

Only the Right Stuff

I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to come away with the impression that these pilots in this accident were bunglers. The exact opposite was true. 99.9% of the time they flew straight and true. When something bad happened, it was usually due to equipment failure or unforeseen conditions.

Nor is the job an easy one. Refueling in midair is akin to throwing a dart at a moving dart board and having to hit the bull’s eye. And once it’s there, you’ve got to keep it there. Thousand of gallons of highly flammable aviation fuel are being transferred in midair. And please don’t forget that there is a 7,600 pound thermonuclear weapon hanging from a bracket in the belly of the plane.

Thirty-six hour flights were not uncommon. Given the cramped conditions aboard a B-47 and the need to maintain radio silence, it took a Charles A. Lindbergh someone with the “right stuff” to fly in formation across the Atlantic and back. It’s a miracle that more bombs weren’t lost. Perhaps the greatest tribute to these intrepid fliers is that even under the worst imaginable conditions midair collisions, leaking fuel tanks, loss of power they managed to avoid a nuclear holocaust. Thirty years of constant shuttling between the United States and the Soviet Union, to the brink and back again, one has to wonder how they managed to do it. Mission accomplished. They won the Cold War. They kept us safe.

I’m proud to have been associated with such fine, upstanding individuals. They really were the cream of the crop. For the most part, they were family men who worked hard (and played even harder) to make the American Dream a reality. Making the world safe for democracy got more than lip service; these patriots put their lives on the line for it. Captaining a thermonuclear weapon halfway around the world and back demanded more than most men had to give. Personal problems were never allowed to get in the way of duty. There was no such thing as an excuse. Responsibilities were taken seriously.

After graduation in September, 1967, I was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and assigned to Flight School at Valdosta, Georgia, to Moody Air Force Base.  That was one grueling year.

We had approximately 55 start our class of 69-04  (George W. Bush went through Moody in 70-04)... about 45 graduated... I was #3 behind 2 Captains who had been combat navigators and had gone back to school to gets pilot wings. I may not have been top gun, but at least I was the #1 Lieutenant. Since then, we have lost about half that class to air crashes and life in general.

We trained first in the C-172 military version T-41,  an old fashioned prop job. Then we went to the T-37 twin jet where the pilots sat side by side in the subsonic trainer. We nicknamed it &ldquoThe Tweet” because of the loud whine it made. Then came the glory of the T-38 Northrop white rocket jet...from 0 to 170 in 12 seconds of afterburner, on to 600 mph in 18 more seconds, and then nose up at 45 degrees to climb to 40,000 plus feet in just under a minute...YES.…

The T-38 was an unforgiving trainer that washed out many a cadet or killed them outright (it got 4 Thunderbirds at once in a formation crash in the Nevada desert during a Thunderbird air show practice loop where they “almost made it.”)

Anyway, as good as I was I knew the killer instinct was not something I had or guns, no bombs... I elected transports for post graduation assignment and got my first choice, the C141 at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina.

The hot shots went to fighters and bombers. Being classmates, we got together from time to time, swapping stories and catching up on each other’s lives.

Over the years, I delivered bombs to Israel, flew personnel to Pakistan, and transported a good share of what went to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Africa, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Spain, England, Azores, Iceland, and Greenland. I couldn’t help but admire the nuke jockeys who responded to danger on a daily basis with quiet fortitude and cool determination.

These guys won the war of nerves the Cold War and preserved freedom. I don’t think it’s asking too much of me or anybody else to put on the finishing touches. I want to bring closure to nuclear insanity. That’s why I’m devoting my time, effort, and out-of-pocket expenses to chasing loose nukes.

While the cost has been high to those affected by the development and/or use of nuclear weapons, there is a positive acclamation due the US nuclear forces that, for more than five decades, have served as the ultimate deterrent to would-be aggressors. The continued stability, standard of living, and security of the developed world is dependent on dependent on them. We cannot turn back the clock. Nor can we put the nuclear genie back in the bottle.

Given that nuclear weapons are here to stay, we must be responsible and take care not to abuse them. Abandoning a nuke to the torment of the elements or recovery by terrorists is an obvious no-no. Denying that loose nukes exist or (in the case of the US Air Force) saying that they aren’t harmful only heightens the danger. While we do not want to be alarmists, we cannot afford to downplay the danger (especially when it happens to be our families that are at risk).

Chasing a loose nuke, that is hunting an abandoned nuclear weapon, carries with it an awesome responsibility. God forbid that the ASSURE team would ever initiate an action that could result in triggering what we were trying to prevent.

composite reenactment photograph depicting the team suiting up for an underwater search

Regardless of the circumstances under which it is found, a loose nuke remains the property of the government that lost it and rightly so. Individuals and organizations cannot legally buy or sell nuclear weapons. Although they cost millions to build, they are essentially worthless. This is part of the irony that surrounds nuclear weapons. There is a seemingly endless circle of military and political ambiguity concerning nuclear weapons, not the least of which is what the public can or cannot do to get rid of a loose nuke when the government doesn’t think our lives are worth the time and effort it takes to do so. When, as in the case of the Savannah nuke, they make a mess and won’t acknowledge it, I see no choice other than to rub their noses in it.

Chapter 7

A Loose Nuke in your Neighborhood?

I logged over 5,000 hours flying C-141’s while in the Air Force. Since then, I’ve been employed as an Airline Captain and now pilot instructor for a major US airline. I don’t get upset easily. The one thing that does upset me is when someone or something threatens my family. When I retired from the military and settled in Statesboro, Georgia, I had no idea that I had a loose nuke for a neighbor. For a family man like myself, it’s a bit like finding out that there is a registered sex offender down the street from where you live.

I hope that I haven’t given you the mistaken impression that this is somebody else’s problem. The fact is that when it comes to abandoned nukes, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. There’s a chance that you, too, may have a Doomsday Device in your own backyard. So, before we go any farther, I’m going to give you a chance to see just how closely you are affected. Please keep in mind that just because you can’t find it in the following table, doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. I have only begun to scratch the surface of what was kept from us by our own government. Remember, the Soviet Union had it’s own stockpile. No doubt a few of these Russian nukes were inadvertently dropped near our shores. Britain, France, and China have also lost their fair share of hydrogen bombs. And, just because there isn’t one in your neighborhood doesn’t make you safe. The crew of the Lucky Dragon were 100 miles downwind of ground zero and look what happened to them.




New Jersey

South Carolina

Atlantic Ocean


New York

St. Lawrence R.



North Carolina


British Colombia






Pacific Ocean





NW Territories



Sea of Japan

Barents Sea

I sincerely hope there are no loose nukes lurking in your neighborhood. However, if your luck didn’t hold any better than mine did, please read on and I will tell you all that I know of about it (minus anything that could put me in Leavenworth for life). The loose nukes are given in chronological order, from 1950 to 1989. I know it’s old, but it’s the latest information I can dispense without compromising national security. Keep in mind that I only included loose nukes that could be verified by two or more independent sources. Please take this information with a grain of salt because some of the details are sketchy and, like I said, there are a few that I dare not divulge.

February 17, 1950

Six hours out, a B-36 bomber traveling from Alaska to Texas lost power to three of its engines. The aircraft had been flying at 12,000 feet. Icing conditions complicated the emergency. Since level flight could not be maintained, the pilot flew out to sea with the intention of lessening the load. He dropped the Mk-4 “Fat Man” nuke from 8,000 feet into the waters of Hecate Strait in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia. A bright flash was seen upon impact, followed by the sound of the explosion and a shock wave. Only the high explosives in the hydrogen bomb detonated. Twelve crewmen parachuted to safety on Princess Royal Island and were rescued. In 1954, the wreckage of the plane was found on the slopes of Mount Kolaget, northeast of Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

April 11, 1950

A B-29 bomber carrying a nuclear weapon, four spare detonators, and a crew of thirteen crashed into a mountain near Manzano Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, three minutes after departure from Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. [Author’s Note: The south side of that airport and east of there where this plane crashed is all government property...SANDIA NATIONAL WEAPONS LAB...this is the holy of holies for nuke weapon work. The runway complex is a joint civilian use runway...imagine that...and the huge complex on the south side of the base has a BIG hole in the ground...quite a distance out...with a ramp leading to a pedestal in the center of this BIG HOLE IN THE that you can taxi a B-52 very carefully onto this teepee dirt pedestal that is hundreds of feet above the floor of the pit, similating an aircraft in flight, if you will... and then you can FIRE EMP'S AT IT....and see what melts!!! EMP's are electromagnetic pulses from nuclear explosions and they fry people and/or electronics as in melt your watch casing...right before it melts your arm.…] The crash resulted in a major fire which was reported by the New York Times as being visible from “fifteen miles.” The bomb's casing was completely demolished and its high explosives ignited upon contact with the plane's burning fuel. However, according to the Department of Defense, the four spare detonators and all nuclear components were recovered. A nuclear detonation was not possible because the weapon's core, while being carried on-board, was not placed in the weapon for safety reasons. All thirteen crew members were killed

July 13,1950

A B-50 from Biggs Air Force Base (El Paso, Texas) with a nuke aboard was flying at 7,000 feet on a clear day. Suddenly the aircraft nosed down and flew into the ground near Lebanon, Ohio, killing the crew, which consisted of four officers and 12 airmen. The high explosive part of the nuke detonated on impact leaving a 25 feet deep by 200 feet long crater. The blast could be heard 25 miles away. I could find nothing in the records about the recovery effort. It was not unusual under such circumstances for the entire weapon or parts thereof to be written off as unrecoverable.

August 5, 1950

A B-29 carrying a nuke experienced two runaway propellers and landing gear retraction difficulties on taking off from Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base (Fairfield, California). When the aircraft came in for an emergency landing, it crashed and burned. Air Force firemen fought the blaze for approximately 15 minutes before the nuke’s high explosive materials detonated, leaving a crater 6 feet deep by 60 feet long. Nineteen crew members and rescue personnel were killed as a result of the crash and the subsequent detonation. Among the dead was General Travis, for whom the base was later renamed. The crash took place near a trailer camp occupied by the families of 200 enlisted servicemen. More than half of the 50 automobiles and trailers were shattered by the blast, which was felt 30 miles away. The fire could be seen for 65 miles. Sixty people were injured. How much, if any, of the hydrogen bomb was recovered is not clear. Often these weapons buried themselves two or three times deeper than the crater, rendering them difficult to salvage. Considering the shallow depth of this particular crater and the extent of the tragedy, it would stand to reason that a great amount of time and effort was expended in searching for the weapon.

November 10, 1950

A B-50 en route to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (Tucson, Arizona) experienced an in-flight emergency and was forced to jettison a hydrogen bomb from an altitude of 10,500 feet into the Saint Lawrence River near Saint Alexandre-de-Kamouraska, Canada. A high explosive detonation was observed. There is no record of recovery.

March 10, 1956

A B-47 from MacDill Air Force Base (Tampa, Florida), one of four en route to an overseas staging base, was approaching its second refueling point somewhere over the Mediterranean Sea. In order to prepare for the maneuver, the flight penetrated solid cloud formation to descend to the prearranged refueling level of 14,000 feet. Since the base of the clouds was at 14,000 feet, visibility was poor. The B-47, carrying two nuclear capsules in carrying cases, never made contact with the tanker. An extensive search failed to locate any trace of the aircraft or its crew.

May 22, 1957

A B-36 was ferrying a 10 megaton hydrogen bomb from Biggs Air Force Base, Texas, to Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. At 11:50 AM Mountain Standard Time, while approaching the runway at an altitude of 1700 feet, the weapon dropped from the bomb bay taking the bomb bay doors with it. Parachutes deployed, but, due to the low altitude, did not significantly retard the descent of the weapon. The high explosives detonated upon impact, making a crater 25 feet in diameter and 12 feet deep in an uninhabited area 4.5 miles south of the control tower on property owned by the University of New Mexico. Fragments and debris were scattered as far as a mile from the impact point. The release mechanism locking pin was being removed at the time of the bomb’s release. Removing the pin was standard procedure at takeoff and landing to allow for emergency jettison of the nuke should it prove necessary to do so. Recovery and cleanup operations were conducted by Field Command, Armed Forces Special Weapons Project. Some radiation was detected in the crater, but it did not extend beyond the lip. The New York Times reported a similar incident in which a bomb was dropped near Kirtland as having occurred in 1956.

July 28, 1957

Two hydrogen bombs were jettisoned from a C-124 Globemaster en route from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, with three of these weapons aboard, when a loss of power from number one and two engines was experienced. Maximum power was applied to the remaining two engines, but level flight could not be maintained. At this point, the pilot made the decision to jettison cargo to ensure the safety of aircraft and crew. The first weapon was dropped from 2,500 feet into the Atlantic Ocean. No detonation occurred with either weapon and both weapons were presumed to have submerged almost instantly. The ocean varies in depth in the area where they were jettisoned, approximately 100 miles southeast of the Naval Air Station, Pomona, New Jersey, where the aircraft safely landed with the remaining weapon and a nuclear capsule aboard. A cursory search for the weapons had negative results. It is a fair assumption that they still lie at the bottom of the ocean somewhere east of Rehobeth Beach, Cape May, Delaware, and Wildwood, New Jersey.

January 31, 1958

A B-47 with a fully armed nuclear weapon aboard crashes during takeoff on alert training at an American air base in north Africa. The base is probably Sidi Silmane, 90 miles northeast of Rabat, Morocco or a similar base in Libya. Many aircraft and ground vehicles are contaminated. The Air Force evacuates everyone within 1 mile of the base. However, the host country is kept in the dark about the incident.

February 5, 1958

Two B-47’s on a simulated combat mission [Editor’s Note: the term “simulated” was used due to the fact that we were not officially at war with the Soviet Union keep in mind that they had developed ICBM‘s and Sputnik while our missiles sputtered and/or blew up on the launch pad; the Air Force had little choice other than to keep as many B-47‘s armed with high yield weapons as it could in the air] that originated at Homestead Air Force Base (Tampa, Florida). Both aircraft had earlier refueled from a tanker while flying over the Gulf of Mexico. In the early morning darkness, the B-47 being flown by Colonel Richardson collided in midair northeast of Savannah, Georgia, with an F-86 being flown by Lieutenant Stewart. Following the collision, the B-47 attempted three times to land at Hunter Air Force Base, Georgia, with its Mark 15 Mod 0 hydrogen bomb still aboard. Due to the deteriorating condition of the aircraft, its airspeed could not be reduced enough to ensure a safe landing. Consequently, in an effort to lighten the load, the weapon was dropped from the aircraft several miles from the mouth of the Savannah River (Georgia) in Wassaw Sound off Tybee Island while flying at 220 knots. No detonation occurred. The B-47 was able to land safely after jettisoning the hydrogen bomb. A three square mile area was searched using Galvanic drag and handheld sonar devices. Troops searched the marshes in vain while divers versed in underwater demolition techniques scoured the nearby shallow waters. The search was terminated April 16, 1958. A contemporary Department of Defense narrative stated that “the best estimate” of the Doomsday Device’s location “was determined to be 31 degrees xx yy North, 80 degrees xx yy West” [Editor’s Note: these coordinates were censored at the request of the author]. The weapon which lies closer to a major metropolitan area and in shallower waters than any other loose nuke of which the author is aware was officially declared by the Air Force to be irretrievably lost. Although the Air Force promised to monitor the area for activity that might affect the loose nuke, they neglected to do so. The yachting events of the 1996 Olympics took place in Wassaw Sound with no regard whatsoever having been paid to disturbing the loose nuke.

February 28, 1958

At 4:25 PM at Greenham Common Air Base near Newbury, England, a U.S. Air Force B-47 experienced engine problems on takeoff and jettisoned two full 1,700-gallon wingtip fuel tanks from an altitude of 8,000 feet. One or both of the falling tanks missed a designated safe impact area and exploded 65 feet behind a parked B-47 loaded with nuclear weapons. The resulting fire burned for 16 hours, detonating the high explosives in at least one weapon. The parked bomber was destroyed, two people died, and eight others were injured. The explosion resulted in the release of radioactive material, including finely powdered uranium and plutonium oxides, at least 10 to 20 grams of which were found off base. An adjacent hangar was also severely damaged, and other planes had to be hosed down to prevent their ignition by the intense heat of the nearby fire, which was fed by jet fuel and magnesium. The fire was allowed to burn itself out and was still smoldering several days later. [Editor’s Note: The population of the town of Newbury, the closest downwind village, later suffered a cluster of leukemia cases.]

The Air Force has never officially admitted that nuclear weapons were involved in this accident. The U.S. Air Force and the British Ministry of Defence had agreed in 1956—two years earlier—to deny that nuclear weapons were involved in any accident with an American nuclear bomber stationed in England. In 1985, the British government stated that the accident merely involved a parked B-47 that was struck by a taxiing B-47 on a training exercise, omitting any mention of the ensuing fire.

March 11, 1958

A B-47E on its way from Hunter Air Force Base in Georgia to an overseas base accidentally dropped a hydrogen bomb from 15,000 feet into the vegetable garden of Walter Gregg and his family near Florence, South Carolina. Upon impact, the high explosives detonated destroying Gregg’s house and injuring 6 family members one child suffered a ruptured spleen. Knocked unconscious by the concussion from the blast while working in the tool shed, Walter Gregg awoke to find his wife, who had been sewing in the front parlor, on the cypress plank floor covered with glass shards and plaster. It wasn’t until later that evening that they were told that they had been hit by a loose nuke. The nuclear weapon that injured the Greggs, rendered their Chevrolet a burnt-out wreck, and killed at least six of their chickens was a Mark 6 thirty kiloton fission bomb, that weighed 7,600 pounds, was 10 feet 8 inches long, and had a maximum diameter of 61 inches. A 70 feet wide, 30 feet deep crater was left by the blast. Air Force personnel confiscated hundreds of pieces of bomb fragments that were carried off as souvenirs by local residents. Nothing is mentioned about the radioactive core having been recovered. Most likely much of it remains buried deep beneath the crater.

November 4, 1958

A B-47 with a hydrogen bomb aboard caught fire shortly after taking off from Dyess Air Force Base (Abilene, Texas). Three crew members successfully ejected and one was killed when the aircraft crashed from an altitude of 1,500 feet. Upon impact, the high explosives detonated, creating a crater 35 feet in diameter and six feet deep. Some of the bomb was recovered. How much, if any, radioactive material remains is not clear.

November 26, 1958

A B-47 caught fire on the ground at Chennault Air Force Base in Lake Charles, Louisiana, destroying a nuclear weapon onboard, resulting in nuclear contamination of the immediate vicinity.

September 25, 1959

US Navy P-5M Marlin

A P-5M Marlin patrol aircraft (the last of the jumbo “flying boats”) of the US Navy was conducting a patrol off Whidbey Island, Washington, while carrying a supposedly unarmed nuclear depth charge. For undisclosed reasons, the aircraft was ditched into Puget Sound. The crew was rescued, but the nuclear weapon was never recovered.

June 7, 1960

Boeing BOMARC surface-to-air (SAM) missile

A nuclear tipped BOMARC air defense surface-to-air (SAM) missile burst into flames after its fuel tank was ruptured by the explosion of a high pressure helium tank at McGuire Air Force Base near New Egypt, New Jersey. Although firefighters were able (at great risk) to keep the high explosives from detonating, the 47 foot missile melted, resulting in plutonium contamination at the facility and in the groundwater below when, according to the New York Times, “the…magnesium metal which forms part of the weapon” caught fire.

January 21, 1961

A B-52 bomber carrying one or more nuclear weapons disintegrated in midair following an engine fire and explosion approximately 10 miles north of Monticello, Utah, killing all 5 crew members. Although I could find no record of what became of the nuke(s), full recovery seems unlikely.

January 24, 1961

A B-52 bomber carrying two Mark 39 (the third generation of the Mark 15 Mod 0) hydrogen bombs suffered structural failure of the right wing, and disintegrated over Goldsboro, North Carolina. Five crewmen parachuted to safety, while three others died when the aircraft exploded in midair. Both of the nukes jettisoned as the bomber descended, one parachuting to earth with only minor damage, the other breaking apart upon impact and plunging deep into waterlogged farmland. The radioactive uranium core was not recovered despite excavation to a depth of 50 feet. To this day, parts of this massive nuke remain embedded deep in the muck. Consequently, the Air Force purchased an easement, making the area off-limits. It is tested from time to time for radiation releases. More information can be found at the Broken Arrow: Goldsboro, North Carolina, website at

June 4, 1962

The United States attempted its first high-altitude nuclear test by placing a nuclear device atop a Thor missile. The missile was launched from Johnston Atoll in the Pacific Ocean but failed during flight and had to be destroyed. The missile’s nuclear payload fell into the ocean and was not recovered.

June 20, 1962

A second attempt to detonate a nuclear weapon at high altitude also went amiss and the Thor missile had to be destroyed above Johnston Atoll. The nuclear device being tested fell into the Pacific Ocean and was not recovered.

December 8, 1964

A B-58 Hustler experiencing icy conditions, slid off the runway at Bunker Hill (later renamed Grissom) Air Force Base (Peru, Indiana), resulting in a fire which melted portions of five onboard nuclear weapons. All of the crew made it to safety except for the navigator. Radioactive contamination of the surrounding area occurred (which may or may not have extended down to the groundwater table).

December 5, 1965

B-43 Hydrogen Bomb

An A-4E aircraft accidentally rolled off the USS Ticonderoga with a B-43 nuclear weapon aboard. The pilot, Lieutenant D.M. Webster went down with the plane in the Sea of Japan, 200 miles east of Okinawa. The thermonuclear weapon later leaked and had to be reported to the Japanese government at considerable embarrassment to the US State Department which had agreed not to bring nuclear weapons into the region.

January 17, 1966

A B-52 carrying 4 hydrogen bombs collided with a K-135 jet tanker while refueling at 30,000 feet over the coast of Spain. The tanker’s 40,000 gallons of jet fuel caught fire, killing 8 of the 11 crew members. Upon impact, the high explosives in two of the bombs detonated, scattering radioactive material over tomato fields in Palomares, Spain. The third nuke parachuted to a soft landing near the village of Palomares and was recovered intact, while the fourth nuke fell into the sea approximately 12 miles off the Spanish coast. More than 1,500 tons of radioactive soil and tomato plants were removed and sent to a nuclear waste dump in Aiken, South Carolina, for burial. In protest, the Spanish government closed all U.S. bases in Spain and formally forbid all future penetration of Spanish airspace by the United States Air Force. The fourth nuke was recovered years later as a result of a massive search by a naval task force, composed of a small armada of miniature research submarines, Seabees, Navy Seals, sonar specialists, nuclear weapons experts, photographers, and hundreds of sailors aboard ships of the Sixth Fleet. Alvin, a miniature deepwater research and salvage submarine, spent two weeks chasing the loose nuke before finding it entangled in its parachute on a 70 degree slope at a depth of 2,500 feet. On April 5, 1966, a horrifying situation emerged when Alvin became tangled in the nuke’s fully extended heavy duty nylon parachute while attempting to navigate underwater near the bomb. The parachute covered the portholes of the submarine, forcing the two pilots to sail her blind. Due to the intense sea pressure at that depth, if the Alvin got trapped under the parachute the two crewmen could not be rescued. For fifteen minutes, naval officers on the surface could do nothing but curse until they received word that the pilots had found their way out. An embarrassing series of unsuccessful attempts by Alvin resulted in the bomb falling to an even greater depth. Eventually, however, the loose nuke was recovered dented but intact by an unmanned CURV (Cable Controlled Underwater Research Vehicle), and deposited on the deck of the USS Kiowa [Editor‘s Note: the Kiowa was commanded by Captain Walt Strickland, USN, who went on to serve as the ASSURE team’s chief naval observer during the September 2004 search for the Savannah nuke]. The Palomares affair is an example of the outstanding salvage and clean up work the military can and does do when it has to. Eventually, the United States settled claims by 522 Palomares residents at a cost of $600,000, and gave Palomares the gift of a $200,000 desalinizing plant. That our leaders when pressured would do more for a foreign country than they would do for their own citizens makes me angry. It’s one more slap in the face for the American taxpayer.

January 21, 1968

A B-52 from Plattsburgh Air Force Base, New York, flying the Arctic Circle route as of a continuous airborne alert operation, crashed 7 miles south of Thule Air Force Base in Greenland, scattering the radioactive fragments of 3 nukes over the terrain and dropping one hydrogen bomb into the sea after a fire broke out in the navigator’s department. Both United States and Danish officials at the time insisted that the aircraft had approached the area because of an emergency and was not on a routine flight over Greenland. A recently declassified document reveals that the ill-fated B-52 had been loitering right above Thule Air Base as part of a top-secret mission to monitor the important Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) radar, a vital element in the U.S. defense against a Soviet nuclear strike. Contaminated ice, gravel, nuke fragments, and airplane debris were sent back to the United States. Denmark (which owns Greenland) protested the incident as a violation of an agreement with the United States that prohibits nuclear weapons in Danish airspace. Recent information supplied by personnel who had worked at Thule indicates that one warhead remains at the bottom of the ocean. An internal investigation by the Danish government discovered that nuclear weapons had also been deployed on the ground with the tacit approval of the late Danish Prime Minister H. C. Hansen.

April 11, 1968

The Soviet Golf-class diesel-powered ballistic missile submarine K-129 sank in over 16,000 ft (4,875 m) of water in the Pacific Ocean several hundred miles northwest of Hawaii near the Leeward Islands. The entire crew of 98 was lost and the vessel sank with three ballistic nuclear missiles plus two nuclear torpedoes. Kenneth Sewell in Red Star Rogue claims that the submarine had surfaced and was in the process of launching a one megaton SERB nuclear missile from the #1 missile tube that would have vaporized Honolulu and rendered Oahu uninhabitable when a miscalculation triggered a fail-safe device that destroyed the missile and sank the submarine. The CIA secretly funded the construction of a massive ship called the Glomar Explorer that carried an enormous crane designed to grapple the Soviet submarine and lift it to the surface for study. It is unknown for sure how successful the effort was, but the United States has admitted to recovering at least a portion of K-129, which purportedly included the bodies of numerous Russian sailors.

May 21, 1968

The nuclear submarine USS Scorpion sank in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 400 miles southwest of the Azores (last heard from on the above date). Ninety-nine men and a number of nukes went down with the ship. The vessel broke into two major sections as it sank to the ocean floor 10,000 feet under the sea. It settled on the bottom with the forward hull containing the torpedo room and control spaces located some distance from the aft hull containing the engine room. The furthest aft section of the engine room also telescoped forward into the larger diameter hull. Anti-submarine medium range nuclear tipped missiles and depth charges were most likely aboard. How many, if any, remain at the bottom of the ocean is unknown.

April 12, 1970

The Soviet November class nuclear-powered attack submarine K-8 sank in the Bay of Biscay about 300 miles northwest of Spain purportedly due to a fire which broke out in two aft compartments. The captain's order to abandon ship was subsequently countermanded and the submarine sank in heavy seas, taking the lives of 52 Soviet sailors. K-8 was powered by two nuclear reactors and also carried multiple nuclear torpedoes. Prior to the sinking, K-8 had been on a mission to lay tactical nuclear torpedoes in the Bay of Naples for use as mines against the US fleet in the event of war. The vessel was carrying 24 of these torpedoes with nuclear warheads and only four were found inside the sunken wreck. It is unknown whether the remainder still lie on the continental shelf near Italy or if the Soviets recovered them at a later date. K-8 had also suffered an earlier reactor accident in 1960 that contaminated the vessel and injured several crewmen.

January 24, 1978

Cosmos 954, a secret Soviet-navy satellite was launched on September 18, 1977. A compact nuclear reactor was employed to supply electricity for the spacecraft‘s “spy-in-the-sky” antennae. The orbit gradually decayed until on January 24, 1978, Cosmos 954 reentered over Canada, with debris hitting the ground in frozen and scarcely populated areas in the Canadian Arctic. A U.S. team, which many now believe was associated with the CIA, arrived in Canada to assist in the search. The day after the crash, they started overflights of the area trying to detect the radiation from the spacecraft's remnants. In the following days many pieces were found, scattered along frozen desert; one emitted 200 roentgens of radiation per hour—a level which is enough kill a human after a two-hour exposure. A special container was hastily prepared to remove the object. For several months afterwards cleanup teams continued their efforts. Operation Morning Light (the code name for the search) officially ended on April 18th. At the peak of its operation—the first two weeks—120 U.S. personnel worked alongside the Canadians. Of that number, 39 were Laboratory people, with an additional 80 people back at Livermore supporting the team. In the aftermath of the accident, Canada sent the U.S.S.R. a bill for $6,041,174.70 (US Dollars), half of which the Soviet government paid after three years of negotiations. [Author’s Note: It had been estimated that the first 1,000 kilometers of space is already filled with so much “space junk” that adding to it will make future space trips more difficult. There are reportedly some 110,000 pieces of such junk already swimming in space—enough to make 34 plutonium reactor cores]

October 6, 1986

The Soviet Yankee class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine K-219 was on patrol off the Atlantic coast of the United States when a leak erupted in one of its missile tubes. Incoming water mixed with liquid rocket propellants that had dripped from a missile to create toxic gases. The buildup of gases resulted in an explosion and fires. Four of its crew perished while fighting the fires and the rest were forced to evacuate because of toxic fumes. While being towed to port, the submarine sank 680 miles north of Bermuda taking two nuclear reactors and 16 nuclear missiles to the bottom. The missiles carried two warheads each and the submarine might have also been carrying two nuclear torpedoes for a total of 34 nuclear warheads.

April 7, 1989

A fire aboard the Soviet Mike class nuclear-powered submarine Komsomolets set off a chain reaction of malfunctions, including a leak in the compressed air system. The sub lost buoyancy, and the crew began to abandon ship. The Komsomolets and its two nuclear-tipped torpedoes sank in mile-deep water in the Barents Sea. The vessel had been supplied with an insufficient number of life rafts and 42 members of its 69-man crew perished.

Chapter 8

Good Old Boys

The Air Force 1998 reunion at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina where I flew in the 1960's with Navigator Bruce Kulka was what triggered my involvement with loose nukes. Although I had grown up in Georgia, and can recall the newspaper headlines saying something about an abandoned thermonuclear weapon, the incident had long been forgotten by everyone, including me. I had been 13 and totally a teenage redneck in February 1958. My reaction had been ‘A lost nuke in Savannah. Wow. Now what's for lunch?&rsquo: The other historical bookmark in my teenage memory happened the next week. SNOW. My first snow...and the coastal empire’s first snow at Savannah Beach or Tybee Island. Wassaw Sound had 1 inch. Now that's a wow to a 13 year old who had never seen snow.

Kulka turned out to be a no show at the 1998 reunion because he had retired to Thailand. OK. Well, Bruce, you were a damn good navigator and you had a real war story about the Florence incident. I wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth and were disappointed when you didn’t come. So, I looked it up on an internet search engine; I typed ‘nuclear accident Savannah Georgia 1958’ and hit enter! That keystroke produced a major life direction...the lost nuke of Savannah at Wassaw Sound and Tybee Island, aka the Tybee Bomb.

It was in the summer of 1998 when I asked my wife's cousin who had grown up in Savannah if she remembered the incident. She looked odd and said of course as a good friend of hers had been interested in it because he had found the deformed crab and fish. That led me to Harris and Pepper Parker of Whitemarsh Island just east of Savannah out off the Savannah Beach highway. Shades of a good old boy, not doing no harm, Harris Parker was a godsend. A true Savannah native who grew up on the water in Savannah and whose Dad worked as supervisor for Henry Ford himself on his Ford Agricultural Experimental Plantation in nearby Richmond Hill, Georgia (it’s still there). The research team I lead, American Sea Shore Underwater Recovery Expedition, Incorporated, a registered Georgia Corporation, also known by its acronym, ASSURE, came about as a result of the discussions I had with Harris and Pepper Parker at their home in the summer of 1998.

Inevitably, the question kept coming up as to how to go about chasing down a loose nuke. Early on, we decided that this was definitely not going to be a high-risk, quick-fix, cut rate cowboy mission. A Mark 15, three megaton Cold War Doomsday Device demands respect. Anyone foolhardy enough to miscalculate and/or ignore the potential danger had to be screened out. I needed experts, men with plenty of savvy and lots of experience in their specialty. Fortunately, picking the right man for the job was how I had accomplished seemingly impossible missions while serving as a Senior Command Pilot in the Air Force. I began by realistically examining my own qualifications: United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, retired; Senior Command Pilot; Combat Veteran, Vietnam, Desert Storm; Distinguished Flying Cross; four Air Medals; Chief Pilot for National Security Agency Air Mission over Southeast Asia; 200 Combat missions; Commercial Airline Captain and Flight Instructor; Director Private Flight Training Academy; married 32 years, 2 sons; lifelong resident of greater Savannah area. Since I was to lead the team, it was up to me to interview potential ASSURE team members individually. This is part of the behind-the-scenes preparation that is critical to the success of any mission. And, as has always been the case in emergency situations, God sent the right men my way. I am extremely proud to be associated with men of this stature. Their credentials speak for the deep regard we all hold for this effort. Now, for the introductions:

Arthur Arseneault US Navy Commander, retired, was the 1958 Search Commander of all search forces for the lost nuclear weapon at Savannah. He used hundreds of men on shore, at sea, in boats, ships, airplanes, helicopters, blimps, etc. After military service, he was Chief Deputy for Director of Public Safety for Georgia. Commander Arseneault joined the ASSURE team in order to complete the job he started 50 years ago. Nobody knows more about what was done and what wasn‘t done due to lack of funds.

Walt Strickland US Navy Captain, retired, Captain Strickland was the Navigation Officer in 1966 aboard salvage ship USS Kiowa off the coast of Spain for successful H bomb search and recovery from 2200 feet deep ocean. From there, he went to Saigon to be on the Staff of General Westmoreland, Commander of all United States Forces in Vietnam. Personally briefed Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara etc. Went on to command Port of Savannah for US Navy transport of Fort Stewart US Army 24th Infantry Division enroute to Desert Storm. Nobody knows more about the maritime conditions of the coastal waters off Savannah than Captain Strickland. And Walt lives down the street from me a real plus when you take into account that we are chasing nukes in our spare time using our own money.

Bert Soleau former Naval Officer and 28 year veteran Central Intelligence Agency Officer who worked as a nuclear scientist/counter terrorism expert specializing in maritime operations; invaluable technical asset and a strong advocate for bomb recovery as a counter terrorist measure. Bert relocated here from Washington due to a daughter attending Georgia Southern University.

Deep Scan Research Vessel, converted NATO Landing Craft built in 1983

Dr. Stephen Schock Oceonographer at Florida Atlantic University and former US Naval Officer who was personally recruited to nuclear submarines by the founding advocate of nuclear submarines, Admiral Rickover. He served as Nuclear Weapons Officer and Reactor Officer. He is a valuable consultant to ASSURE. He developed world leading underwater detection systems for the US Navy including most recently a passive 3D imaging capability for buried objects such as h-bombs or mines. With the vessel Deep Scan he helped perfect the Passive Sensing Array for Shallow Water work. The Deep Scan is a converted 1983 NATO Landing Craft over 60 feet long while drafting less than a meter. Its 360 degree station keeping system allows passive detection of buried objects such as the lost Savannah nuke through the latest technological advances. Dr. Schock makes sure our electronic gadgetry is up to date.

Colonel Joe Eddlemon US Marine Corps, Retired, expert in nuclear radiation and Owner of Pulcir, Incorporated, a nuclear radiation instrumentation company in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Joe was a top notch attack bomber gunner in the Pacific in a two man Navy aircraft in World War II. He went up through the ranks very successfully. In like fashion the corporation he founded in 1967 has flourished, earning him the highest respect in the field of nuclear radiation detection and analysis. Joe became our hands on expert at the scene. The instruments he and his company provided were critical in making our case in the summer of 2004 for an official government search. Joe was on scene as an observer in September 2004 with the DTRA team.

(Myself) Derek Duke USAF Lt. Colonel, retired: varied military service involving air transport of nuclear weapons, Air-Sea Rescue and Recovery Helo experience in this region, ELINT experience for National Security Agency in Vietnam, and over 200 combat missions across span of 25 years. Subsequent civilian experience includes Captain for Korean Airlines; also Flight Instructor and Captain for a major American airline; and owner/administrator of a flight academy in Georgia that went broke along with a lot of other businesses in the airline industry in the lean years following 9/11.

Bill Curry USAF Non-Commissioned Officer, retired, was an Explosive Ordinance Instructor in 1958 on nuclear bombs and, in particular, this lost Mark 15 Hydrogen Bomb with a 4 megaton yield.

Dr. Leon Curry USAF Colonel, retired, Flight Surgeon for Nuclear Medicine and noted life long resident of Savannah area with extensive experience in aviation activities.

Dennis Duke my brother, Senior Executive of the US Corps of Engineers, Masters Degree from Georgia Tech in Maritime Engineering. He is a past winner of the Society of American Engineers award for best yearly achievement and is currently the Project Manager for restoration of the Florida Everglades. Dennis is also an expert in hurricane preparation and response (due to his senior government position, my brother can only serve in an advisory capacity for this effort).

J. Paulsen Helmken, also known as “Jay Bird” Helmken Vessel Captain Helmken began his sea career in Savannah and the south when he first accompanied his Grandfather to work at the 1st Savannah tugboat company, which his Grandfather founded and operated. Captain Helmken acquired a natural ability to operate substantial vessels in tight, near shore conditions. Of comment is his excellence with extensive projects. He worked as a consultant with the US Coast Guard in the 1996 Olympic Sailing Event in Savannah for safe mooring in Wassaw Sound of the more than 1200 sailboats. (This is the very site of the weapon's loss in 1958) He invented numerous commercial safety devices for safe mooring of smaller vessels displaying his mastery of ocean and storm pulses.

R. Harris ParkerVessel Captain Parker's professional Sea Captain experience is enhanced by his diving expertise. Both the Department of Justice and the FBI cited him with highly laudatory letters in the 1980's for his work in a Lear jet crash involving a known mob figure. The jet mysteriously disappeared into the depths of the ocean 60 miles east of Savannah. It was Mr. Parker alone who located the small jet's wreckage, planned, and executed the highly successful retrieval dives. Mr. Parker maintains a production facility in Savannah to create maritime assets for Hollywood studios to use in their feature films. He is unequalled in his ability to adapt mechanical devices to the needs of a seaman in any maritime environment.

Mr. Harris Parker
Mr. Harris Parker

Harris Parker and I started chasing nukes in that early fall of 1998. In Savannah it is still very warm then. And, as we came to fully appreciate later, “search” weather ends in December and as Commander Arseneault and his troops way back in 1958 learned first hand, it is advisable to wait until late April to begin again. (and that’s when the first official Government search was conducted…February and March…bitter cold despite the Deep South location).

Harris Parker is a sailing man‘s sailor. A Master Diver and man of huge talent, he grew up on the coast of Savannah. As a teenager back in the 1950’s, he had a hot car and an even hotter boat. And in typical teenage “watch this” fashion, he ran his speedboat crammed with cute southern belles out through the shallow back creeks to the “forbidden military zone” in February 1958 almost as soon as he heard the news that the Air Force had lost an h-bomb in coastal waters. He and the girls were chased and probably would have been caught had they not ducked into a boat house on Turner's Creek.

Four decades later, I accompanied Harris Parker on an outing to a spot where Harris and Pepper had caught a deformed fish and a mutant crab with a small net on the same cast. It was a shallow indentation in a narrow tidal cut made by Coastal Mosquito control for keeping the backwater flowing. It worked. Tucked away amidst the marshy side of Tybee Island in a run from Lazarreta Creek, this channel can be navigated south to Wassaw. Such are the meanderings of the marsh just inland from the barrier islands. Like the rest of the region, the nearby islets are filled with trees, brush, and wildlife truly a nature preserve.

Harris and I had tinkered with some surplus Cold War equipment and came up with radiation detection gear suitable for maritime use. That may sound easy but it took quite a lot of trial and error to calibrate the instruments. And we were constantly having to call on friends to help us get ready.

Although we did not detect radiation at this particular location. it was a beginning. This excursion was the lens that brought our initial research into focus without which later expeditions would not have been possible. I began to investigate the details of the mishap as they became available. We had been led to believe that we were going after an incomplete weapon and weren't really sure of what that meant at this stage of the game.

Summer of 1999 brought opportunity. We had the radiation gear now and it was calibrated and we had underwater housing for seabed analysis. The GPS devices and fish finders were ready to go. We had already done some satellite photo analysis and without having talked to the pilots or the 1958 search team we launched for Wassaw Sound where the Air Force had looked for the missing weapon.

Having over flown the area myself, I was able to see firsthand the route the B-47 took. I made many a pass over Wassaw Sound. Looking at the water below, while tantalizing, only convinced me we were going to have to work very hard to find a 10 foot long object in this vast expanse of water. I began putting together a computer simulation in an attempt to recreate the collision phase that led to the bomb being jettisoned. And early markers all pointed to Wassaw as being the right spot.

In the original search, two areas, four miles apart one area identified by the pilot and the other by the navigator had been thoroughly searched. The first area near a pier on Tybee Island was the last place the pilot, Colonel Richardson, saw through the canopy prior to ordering the navigator to drop the bomb. Having just been rammed by an F-86 fighter, Colonel Richardson had his attention drawn to multiple urgent matters at this point, any one of which could prove fatal. Fire alarms were wailing, the plane bucked and shuddered, the right outboard engine was on fire, and, if they were going to stay aloft, there was no choice other than to bank continuously to the left. This was old fashioned seat-of-the-pants flying, the kind that separates the men from the boys. That the pilot (Howard Richardson) and the navigator (Leland Woolard) differed in their assessment of where the bomb had been jettisoned by four miles can easily be attributed to the need to concentrate on the emergency at hand plus the fact that at 500 miles per hour it took them less than 30 seconds to travel four miles. Let's also remember that they were flying at night in an age before GPS. I defy anyone to do a better job than they did. That they were able to bring the battered B-47 in for a landing was a remarkable feat. There is no doubt in my mind that Colonel Richardson earned his Distinguished Flying Cross the hard way.

When Richardson gave the order for the nuke to be jettisoned, Woolard pulled the lever that opened the B-47’s massive bomb bay doors. Then he opened a small red hatch on his control panel and loosed the nuke. All three crewmembers held their breath … they knew that their fate would be determined in the next 30 seconds. If the nuke fully detonated, they would be killed in the fireball before they even knew it. The co-pilot, Bob Lagerstrom, remarked to me in an interview that after the bomb was jettisoned he had peered into the blackness of the dark ocean looking for a flash. There was none.

All three marked the position. Both the copilot and bombardier marked Wassaw. Very precise markings were done with the bombardier’s chart being the most precise. The pilot and copilot were frankly giving their best estimates as they had their hands full of flight controls and throttles for this very badly damaged aircraft.

So, the most busy man at that moment, the pilot, Colonel Howard Richardson, who was totally involved with flying the jet, estimated that the bomb had been dropped off Tybee Island. The other two crewmen put it at Wassaw. That’s why both areas were part of the original search in 1958. [Editor’s Note: The original search was not entirely unsuccessful in that a number of Civil War cannonballs were discovered under the front porch of a two story house on Wassaw Island. The 90 year old black powder explosives were removed and subsequently detonated at a firing range. U.S. weaponry is designed and rigorously tested to work under adverse conditions. There is every reason to believe that the lost hydrogen bomb is fully operational.] What that search failed to take into account, however, was that the jettisoned nuke could have easily fell someplace in between the two locations. Five decades later, during the 2004 DTRA search, the Air Force would repeat this mistake, once again failing to take into account that these coordinates were never meant to be precise. What they ended up searching was a small portion of what should have been searched.

In December 1999, I telephoned both pilots. Finding them was no easy matter. After obtaining their phone numbers, I had Howard Richardson and Bob Lagerstrom on the phone for long, long talks. We became long distance friends…granted neither of them understand nor condone my continual push for the nuke being found. Their stance is that it contains no plutonium capsule and is therefore not a problem. Richardson lives in Mississippi and Lagerstrom lives in Arizona…so in a sense they are right, for them the Savannah lost nuke is not a problem.

Nevertheless. they cooperated with me and everyone else. And it was Richardson who finally forwarded me the W.J. Howard letter he received in the late fall of 1999. He had obtained it from the military historian. Richardson immediately wrote a letter to the commander of SAC. His letter apparently got mishandled and was never answered.

When I received Richardson’s letter with the de-classified Assistant Secretary of Defense Howard’s sworn secret testimony to Congress that the Savannah nuke was “secretly armed,” I went ballistic. At the time, I did not know enough technical information about the Mark 15 in question to warrant being so upset, but as I later discovered it would take a lot more than getting upset to get a loose nuke removed. I immediately contacted Arseneault, who had led the original search. He informed me he had always treated the Savannah nuke as being armed. And he said he always did that no matter what anyone said it was his way of staying alive. I asked and he answered, yes, he had the technical data on the Mark 15 when he led the search. But the technical data and his search report were still classified and he no longer had access to the files.

Lieutentant Commander Arthur Arseneault, U.S. Navy, the man who led the original 1958 search for the lost Savannah hydrogen bomb

Howard’s admission that the nukes had been “secretly armed” led ASSURE to believe that time was of the essence. We concluded that a realistic, detailed proposal to chase down Savannah‘s loose nuke while almost certainly doomed to rejection by the government had to be prepared. My brother, Dennis, became our advisor on what needed to be done. Being a senior executive with the US Corps of Engineers, he knows contracts like I know airplanes. Together we devised an innovative plan to chase and locate Savannah’s loose nuke via a high tech expeditionary voyage aboard Deep Scan, a Research Vessel that Harris Parker and Jay Helmken recommended for the task.

In 2000, after the news broke on the renewed missing bomb investigation, a film crew was setting up to take a shot of the New Tybrisa (Tybee Island) Pier from the beach alongside it. That shot looked out to the shipping channel beyond when, as luck would have it, a Canadian lady tourist came down the beach with, of all things, a metal detector. Somewhat amused at the implications of the scene of a metal detector on the beach not far from where a nuclear bomb had been lost, the journalist stopped the lady and laughingly asked her if she had found anything. A sack with coins and small metal objects was produced by the middle-aged, attractive lady who beamed proudly at the cameras. In the lark of the moment, the journalist asked her in a mock serious tone if she knew about the nuclear weapon lost right out there, pointing beyond the end of the pier where a tanker moved down the channel. Draining of facial color, the lady looked shocked and quite seriously enquired, “Is this too close?”

This is indeed a story of close calls of just how close we have come to being annihilated by nuclear weapons. Many people who have access to such information, such as former Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara the man who marshaled the nukes during the Armageddon of the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962 say we came WAY TOO CLOSE. I’m inclined to agree.

The discovery process crept along. I had not been a true nuclear warrior. Transporting the things in the back of a C141 is a far cry from carrying it as a weapon of war. That awesome mission was not for me. So I did not know the systems professionally, at least not yet. That all changed in December 1999 when Lieutenant Commander Arthur Arseneault gave a talk at the Navy League Club of Savannah. His subject: his command of the US 1958 search for the lost nuke in Wassaw Sound near Savannah. I saw the news and found him later. He became a true friend and pointed the way for me. Art was a nuclear weapons EOD commander in Charleston, South Carolina at the Navy Station in 1958. His team was one of two in the United States, the other being in San Diego. Art's team got the call. From the early morning shake out, he reported with his team mid day to the General in Command at Hunter Air Force Base in Savannah. The General pointed to the East Coast near Savannah on a big map and told Art to get busy. That launched sea, ground, and air searches with dozens of ships, planes, blimps, and hundreds of sailors, soldiers, and airmen. Hearing this from Art, I finally did what I had always wanted to do. I talked to the pilots: Howard Richardson, Bob Lagerstrom, and Clarence Stewart. That led to Howard Richardson sending me the March 2000 copy of the infamous W.J. Howard secret testimony to Congress in 1966 where under oath, the Assistant Secretary of Defense swore that the missing nuclear bomb in Savannah was a complete nuclear weapon ready for war. That letter hit me like a Hydrogen Bomb shock wave. Until that point, I had bought the Air Force’s story that the weapon was a War Reserve item with no capsule.

In November 2000, due to repeated requests by Congressman Joe Kingston, an inspection team was scheduled to come to Savannah. The Savannah Inspection Team was comprised of Washington based Air Force officers in various departments and officials from the Department of Energy and Sandia National Labs. Several NEST members were there. It was a conference only. The US Corps of Engineers hosted the secure site then, the same as they would do later in 2004 and 2005. Savannah's Skidaway Institute of Oceanography (SKIO) experts who I had already interviewed were called in for witness to the Wassaw Sound environs. SKIO is situated just inland of Wassaw Sound adjacent to a saltwater river. I was not invited to the conference. A report was subsequently issued which rubber-stamped the official version of what happened. They had been stonewalling and were determined to continue to do so.

Post 9-11:  Fall 2001 was for me, as it was for most Americans, a vast sad emptiness driven by the realization that yes, it could happen here. The morning of 9/11/2001, I was at my new flight school, Georgia Flight Academy in Statesboro, Georgia, when I caught reports of the first jet crashing into the tower...saw the weather report for JFK International and La Guardia airports and said “what the hell.” I was on the phone with an off duty Air Force General friend of mine who was one of General Tommy Franks’ chief assistants at that time...and we watched the second plane hit the second tower on a live broadcast...the word “terrorists” spoken by both of us to disconnected phone lines as we both hung up immediately…he rushed to his duty station at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida then home of Central Command where they locked down for over 30 days.…

I rushed to gather our students and flight instructors, immediately recalling all planes and securing our flight line with armed instructors. Then I phoned the Sheriff’s Department and requested for them to supplement the security at our little municipal airport because word of other hijackings was filtering in and there was no way to know that the multi-pronged attack was limited to commercial aircraft. We thought we were at the mercy of an assailant who could strike anywhere with little or no warning.

The death of a thinly financed flight school was the least casualty of 9-11. Being grounded for weeks put an end to my dream of developing an air academy. It was with great regret that I watched my former pupils depart. It would take a long time for the airlines to recover enough to absorb newly graduated pilots.

Two days after 9/11 the ASSURE team Walt Strickland, Bert Soleau, and myself met at Snooky’s for breakfast. Everything was at a paralyzed standstill. Why not just drink coffee and cuss?

Sucker punched. We all felt like fools. Perhaps everyone in America felt like they had been mugged. But here I sat with some pretty smart people and no one had a clue that it was coming.

Bert was CIA…you never retire from that group of good old boys. He was as down as I was. And I was just finding out that the first Airline Captain, John Ogonowski, had been a squadron mate of mine at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina, in the mid 1970’s right after we had both come back from Vietnam. He had transferred to MacGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey, closer to Boston where he was based with American Airlines…until that morning of 9-11.

I felt doubly foolish. We had been soft pedaling the terror threat with the missing Savannah nuke, trying not to alarm the public. I had also been lulled as an Airline Flight Instructor at a major airline where we teach security that a hijacker was to be appeased and stalled. The 9/11 terrorists evidently knew that and exploited it.

We would learn much later that the hijackers came on John’s 767 at Boston that morning in attack formation…two sat in first class on the left side at the back of first class and right behind a former Israeli Security Agent with the MOSSAD. How the hell did they know that?

Mohammed Atta, the leader for the group, came on board last talking on his cell phone and took his seat in first class next to his partner and right across the aisle from the Israeli agent. That gave them four in first class. And there was a “sleeper” terrorist in coach, ready to guard the rear and surprise anyone who mounted a reaction from the back.

Getting into the cockpit was easy. They threatened the flight attendant and forced their way in. Being strapped into their seats, the pilots were unable to defend themselves from a rear attack. The takedown was quick and ruthless.

That the hijackers were able to fly the jet at speeds approaching 500 miles per hour in a hairpin turn into the World Trade Center is somewhat amazing. But the two hijacked airliners did that and accomplished their grisly mission. Our trusting nature had been rewarded with a sneak attack. It was a costly lesson. Evil cannot be appeased.

The ASSURE team was pissed. Like all Americans, we wanted to kick some serious ass. But the missing weapon had no place at all in our considerations. We simply replayed what had gone on and where we now were.

My mind drifted back to July, 2001. That had been when the report from the Air Force (see Appendix c ) had come out. I had been away, across the country, training a set of students for the airline. The identity of one particular individual had come as quite a shock. Like me, he had flown C-141’s and was retired from the military, but he had also been the senior military aide for the President of the United States talk about double takes!

Z was a great student. And in the bull sessions after work when we sat around the pool relaxing at the motel with nothing else to do since our families were all back east, Z told me about his ex-job.

I guess what really got my attention was when he had mentioned the strike aircraft on the runway ready to hit Osama’s best guessed position…they were always termed “best guess” even though they were thought highly reliable. Z said he was in the Oval Office alone with the President. On the phone was the Pentagon’s Command Center waiting on the President’s authorization to launch the strike plane. The attack window was closing and the President sat on a sofa watching television. Tiger Woods was live in a golf match.

Z stood holding the phone for the President who had already told him to wait. The President was focused on the television set, watching Tiger Woods. Z urged him to respond, “Mr. President, the fighter is waiting. We need the GO or we will have to abort the mission.”

Without looking up, the President muttered, “Z, I told you I was going to watch Tiger putt!” He said nothing else…Z turned and told the Pentagon who scrubbed the mission as the time to launch simply ran out.

Z had asked me about the nuke hunt I was on…he somehow knew. We talked candidly about the device and the politics at play over it. Z offered that he had seen many a terrorist threat assessment cross the President’s desk, EYES ONLY stuff, that not even Z was authorized to see. But, inevitably, he did see some. He mentioned the one where an attack would be made using planes as bombs.

I did not connect the dots until after 9-11. Had we known? Just like all the old rumors about Pearl Harbor did we know beforehand? We knew. But life is a guessing game. We did nothing about it because there are so many threats and warnings that we couldn’t possibly give credence to them all. As fate would have it, this was one that we had let ride.

For the time being, ASSURE waited. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had sidelined us. Bigger enemies were running amuck.

The publicity blackout we had imposed following September 11, 2001, necessarily ended in early 2002 when the Atlanta Journal Constitution headlined its front page with an article about the original search commander, Arthur Arseneault, and his participation with ASSURE. As fate would have it, the Atlanta Journal Constitution article and an accompanying photo generated an enormous amount of publicity. The Easter Sunday expedition, coming as it did on the heels of an unprecedented level of public interest (and government intransigence), forced us to conclude that if the nuke was going to be located, we would have to do it ourselves.

I was made aware very quickly that our interest in the loose nuke and the resulting publicity were NOT welcome by BIG BROTHER. The Atlanta news editor and the reporter were paid visits by government officials who let their displeasure with the article be known. And perhaps more importantly although the powers that be were most assuredly watching, they pointedly refrained from doing anything that could be remotely construed as assistance.

An unexpected phone call in January 2002 got my attention and was to set a series of events in motion. The caller wanted to meet me in Atlanta. He represented a gentleman that had a device to locate high energy elements like uranium. Locate? What did he mean by that? He didn’t want to talk about it over the phone. If I wanted to know more, I would have to meet with him in person.

Although the representative was a quirky guy, he had about him a genteel gentleman-from-the-South quality that lent him credibility. We talked. He told me about Earl all about Earl. Earl, you see, had a “magic box” that could locate choice elements like gold and high energy elements like uranium.

My skepticism was obvious. A test was offered. I accepted. A discussion of where and when produced Savannah. We might as well be prepared to look for the bomb if we were going to meet there…that was what he said. My due diligence kicked in and I set about finding out more about this ingratiating representative and his mysterious client. To my surprise, they both turned out to be legit.

The meeting was set for February in Savannah. It was very cold normally in February so we made it near month’s end. I informed Harris Parker that we might need to motor out to Wassaw. Harris thought I was nuts. Then, in late February when Earl got to town, Harris unexpectedly took an immediate shine to him. After that, Harris was continually reminding me that Earl was indeed legit. In fact, Earl is a living legend among treasure hunters.

I found it hard to take this gentleman seriously. Although Earl was not his name, it is what he asked us to call him. Given his interest in finding gold and other treasures, his predilection for privacy seemed pretentious. Being a fellow Georgian, however, he took a notion to the idea that this loose nuke ought to be found rather than lay around the Georgia coast waiting on only-God-knows-what to happen. It doesn‘t take much brains to reach the conclusion that you don‘t want to live anywhere near a loose nuke. The Air Force's position of “it‘s no big deal” is just so much BS. It fits right into that “Duck and cover” propaganda campaign they ran back in the Cold War in an attempt to convince Americans that a nuclear attack wouldn’t hurt them if they just followed instructions. Sort of like in the airline business: right before the crash, they tell the passengers to bend over in their seats, grab their ankles, and kiss their behind goodbye. Yes, I know it’s a sick joke, but it fits with some of the BS our very human and therefore fallible officials have fed the public as evidence that “your leaders are in charge...everything is under control...our control...just trust us and everything will be fine.”

Earl passed the trial with flying colors. He’s got a talent for finding things. So we took Earl and his magic box to the beach at Wassaw. Wiring sensors into his computer mapping device and properly arraying grounds, Earl made many stops along the beach, took numerous readings, and kept us there several hours. We finally finished and headed indoors for warmth.

At the end of March, I got a call from Earl‘s representative. Earl had just given him his analysis of the readings he took at Wassaw. He had a fix on the bomb. I raced to north Atlanta in the middle of the night to get the map and plots. At the Waffle House in Roswell the Rep handed me the findings. I studied the chart carefully. There was no way that Earl could have known that the Savannah nuke’s position, marked by an x on the chart, exactly matched the navigator’s position coordinates classified for years and only available to me because of what I had already done. Colonel Howard Richardson, the ill-fated B-47’s pilot, had entrusted me with them.

That was Friday night, Good Friday. I was on the cell phone to Harris on the way back to south Atlanta. Harris was just as excited as I was. He agreed we needed to launch on this information as soon as possible. A quick check of the weather forecast and tides made the decision easy. Easter Sunday would be the day.

That Easter morning sunrise was quite thrilling to us as we drove out to Wassaw. The meaning of the resurrection was not lost on me in that we were trying to bring back the bomb. We headed exactly to the spot marked by an x on the chart. Our arrival was met with slight gains in the radiation count from our free air sensors on the boat. We immersed the seabed sensors in the water. The depth of the ocean floor at this point was only 14 feet and visibility, as expected, was zero.

Nothing, nada. No radiation readings at this particular spot. But we weren’t about to let that deter us all spring and summer we went back, each new search overlapping the last. We took precise readings and entered them on a chart of Wassaw Sound. Chasing a loose nuke involves a lot more work than one might think.

Art Arseneault brought us a new ASSURE team member, Colonel Joe Eddlemon from Knoxville, Tennessee. Joe's hearing is pretty much shot today from having been a machine gunner in the back of an open cockpit in World War II. Having gotten his start at Oak Ridge in the early days of atomic energy, Joe is one heck of a radiation man. His sage advice has proven to be an enormous asset.

Colonel Joe Eddlemon, US Marine Corps - 'one heck of a radiation man.'

With Joe supplying the very latest radiation detection and analysis devices, Harris Parker was able to put together an underwater housing to investigate radiation on the ocean floor. And with this device supported by a secure cable, we proceeded the tedious process of surveying the entire area, expanding outward from the x on Earl‘s chart.

A Canadian production company, making a documentary for National Geographic International, tagged along during that outing. When we went to gas up the boat, the attendant got the tanks mixed up and inadvertently pumped fuel into the bilge rather than the fuel tank where it belonged. Fortunately, our noses detected the mistake and we narrowly averted what could have easily have been an explosive end to the ASSURE team and the National Geographic film crew. Pumping out the bilges may have cost us a day, but better that than the alternative. The segment, which was broadcast on television in 2004, shows me watching my Geiger counter spike over an area off Little Tybee Island.

“We‘ve got it,” I said. And at the time, I really did believe that we had located the lost nuke.

Ultimately, we would obtain the results in the summer of 2004 that led the Air Force to grudgingly provide us with a search team in order to thoroughly investigate an area the size of a football field.

Why did it take us so long? Well, we were getting spurious radiation readings. Sometimes they were intense, but they seemed to be fleeting and quite often dependant on the tide. Analyzing seabed samples and doing intricate work under very demanding sea conditions just took a long time. Wassaw may be very close to Savannah but it is an unprotected harbor prone to hurricanes, a wild natural area where the elements can come into play in a heartbeat. Both sea and seashore can be extremely unforgiving places.

This prolonged investigation resulted in ongoing debate as to how much radiation we could expect to come from the abandoned weapon. In other words, we had to determine what the radiation intensity footprint looked like. And in 2004 we came upon the spot seen in the National Geographic documentary where the footprint fit what we were receiving; almost as if you put a light inside of an old gym bag in a dark room. The light is hidden except for the pinpoint beams that seep out of any slight hole or defect in the bag. And our lost bomb, we all felt, might be like that, “beaming” out radiation from “holes” in the rear of the bomb assembly that we suspected had resulted from nearly five decades of corrosion in saltwater.

When it finally did come, the DTRA search was an enormous letdown. At the initial briefing the Intelligence Officer for the Air Force team nearly came to blows with Bert Soleau over the government’s intentional “disinformation” releases to the media (the Air Force paid for the media‘s boat and thus were able to feed the journalists their sanitized version of what was occurring). Bert was firmly convinced that ASSURE wouldn’t get a fair shake. He said we needed to get the Air Force to agree to further stipulations before embarking on the joint ASSURE/DTRA expedition. As group leader, I chose to overrule Bert. Although this probably sounds naïve, I expected a modicum of good faith from both parties. Having the benefit of 20/20 hindsight as I write this book, I now realize just how wrong I was. But it’s too late for that. In October 2006, Bert was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of stomach cancer. We can only hope and pray that he recovers.

The radiation levels recorded on the joint expedition (see Appendix d ) turned out to be a disappointment. They weren’t significantly more than one might expect from background radiation and didn’t come close to the readings that I had taken in the same location when National Geographic was filming us. Nothing could have proved more embarrassing.

How could the radiation be there one day and not be there a month or two later? I had been out there enough to know that things had changed. While sailing towards the search area, I had noticed sand bars in areas where none had existed weeks before. In the intervening period, Hurricane Jeanne had hit the Georgia coast and Wassaw Sound is a woefully unprotected harbor a devastating blow. No doubt the gale force winds scoured the shallow ocean bottom. The sands in the football field-sized search area had evidently shifted, perhaps further covering or maybe even moving the 7,600-pound weapon.

When the Air Force Report was released more than a year later, it said pretty much what we thought it would say: we had failed to locate the nuke and even if we had, they wouldn’t bother digging it up because it couldn’t possibly hurt anybody or anything.

We were back to square one. But at least we had gotten the government’s attention. For better or for worse, we were now on their radar. And this could not have been proven any more effectively than by a cell phone call in the weeks that followed. The voice on the line identified himself. How could this be?…another government agency asking me to work with someone with a device that could help find the bomb…and I was asked because I had made things happen; I had dared go where “sensible” people chose not to go. And this new task was not going to be a piece of cake and as is customary in matters regarding national security was completely deniable. We were to evaluate a revolutionary new device to find explosives, in particular the military explosives that plague us everyday in Afghanistan and Iraq. Not only that, but this revolutionary device could also help to find Weapons of Mass Destruction (such as nuclear bombs).

This would not be easy. The device is complex, cutting edge, and, if proven successful, would change the world as we know it, perhaps even to the degree that controlling FIRE changed man. Imagine being a part of that! While exciting, it is also scary.

Why me and what is next? One thing that this “Chase” has done is to convince me that my beautiful wife is right about life: no door ever closes without another opening up.

Chapter 9

Those Incredible Machines

Who was to blame for the midair collision between Richardson’s B-47 bomber and Stewart’s F-86 fighter high in the moonlit sky over Savannah in February 1958? At first glance, it would have appeared to have been pilot error on the part of Lieutenant Stewart. However, when a recording device in the canopy assembly was found some 5 weeks later, it proved conclusively that the F-86’s radar had malfunctioned, focusing on the farthest bomber rather than the nearest.

The incident would have been little more than a footnote in the history of the Cold War had not Colonel Richardson ordered the bombardier/navigator to jettison the hydrogen bomb. Richardson had few options. Due to a design oversight, there was no way to dump the thousands of pounds of fuel the B-47 carried. In other words, the only way to lighten the load was to drop the bomb.

Please don’t get me wrong. The F-86 and the B-47 were excellent jet aircraft, but the fact is that they were designed by man and, therefore, did not always function according to plan. On the other hand, pilots, being human beings crafted by God, are meant to function under the worst imaginable conditions. It’s all too easy to blame accidents on pilot error. Pilot error implies misjudgment on the part of the pilot. In truth, the source of most aerial disasters can be traced to flawed design and/or mechanical breakdowns. The planes being flown were the best that money could buy. Being state-of-the-art, however, meant that they were extremely complicated, having been assembled from parts and systems made by numerous manufacturers and subcontractors. That you, the reader, may fully appreciate how complex these aircraft were and just how much could—and did—go wrong, I am devoting the remainder of this chapter to U.S. Cold War era jet aircraft, their development, and the difficulty experienced in upgrading their systems.

Therein lies the problem. A thermonuclear weapon is unforgiving. There is no margin of error for man or machine. In fact, there is no such thing as a safe nuke. Let one get loose and there will be hell to pay.

B-47 Stratojet

B-47 Stratojet

The B-47's production was spurred in 1944 by the War Department's demand for jet bombers. In contrast to the B-45, and other concurrent proposals, the B-47 design, as finally approved, included radically new features. Foremost were the aircraft's thin swept wings which, coupled with 6 externally mounted jet engines, promised a startling, high speed bomber, capable of carrying out effective operations for the foreseeable future despite an enemy's fighter air defense. Undoubtedly, the B-47 lived up to expectations. More than 2,000 production models were bought, and some B-47 versions, true production models or post production reconfigurations, remained in the operational inventory for nearly 2 decades. Yet few aircraft programs witnessed as much development, production, and postproduction turbulence as the B-47 did. To begin with, there were arguments about cost and plant location and after 1947, complaints by Boeing that the newly independent Air Force had laid additional requirements that changed the concept of the overall program. Also, the secrecy which shrouded the development of atomic weapons, long after the atomic attacks on Japan, increased the difficulty of preparing the B-47 to handle every new type of special weapon—a problem shared by the B-36 and B-45. Ensuing events only compounded the initial disarray.

B-47 research and development began in 1945 with the first prototype flight occurring in December 1947. The Air Force wanted a high-altitude, medium-range, subsonic bomber. At that time, four contractors were developing bombers. Two designs were conventional bombers in the mold of the B-29, while the more radical designs were the Northrop flying wing [Editor’s Note: The flying wing proved hard to fly and was truly before its time. Subsequent technological innovations made it possible to bring back the flying wing in the form of Stealth aircraft] and the Boeing swept wing jet (which was literally stolen from its World War II German designers). In this era before the SAM, fighter aircraft were considered the main threat to bombers. World War II had shown that stripped down B-29's with near-fighter speed and a higher altitude ceiling could only be successfully intercepted from the rear.

YB-49 Northrop Flying Wing's Bomb Bay Was Too Small to Accomodate Nuclear Bombs

As it had for the B-36, the Truman Administration's stringent financial restrictions worked in favor of the B-47. Pressed for money, the Air Force decided to buy more B-47s instead of purchasing additional B-50s or future B-54s, since neither one of those rather expensive bombers had any growth potential. Hence, even though the B-47 was yet to fly, the initial production order of 1948 was increased in mid 1949. The subsequent Korean War, rising world tensions, and mounting urgency to build an atomic deterrent force raised the tempo of the B-47 program. In December 1950, the Air Force foresaw a monthly production of 150 B-47s, but still recommended changes, making it almost impossible to settle on an acceptable type. Other factors made matters worse.

With the speed and maneuverability of the fighters of the late forties, Boeing's swept-wing XB-47 won the bomber competition and swiftly transformed the XB-46 and the XB-48 into aviation footnotes. Six Allison J35-2 turbojet engines slung in pods beneath the swept-back wings gave the prototype B-47 nimble performance, and helped to validate a design concept still widely used today. Although uprated J47-GE-3s were soon substituted, the B-47 also carried mountings for 18 solid-fuel booster rockets in the aft fuselage to shorten the takeoff. Flight testing continued through 1951, and B-47's began entering the inventory in 1952. Intercontinental ballistic missiles were not in existence, and the penetrating bomber was the only nuclear strike vehicle available. A total of 2,039 B-47's were funded and built in a serial production that lasted until 1956.

The B-47 was the first United States Air Force bomber to receive a weapon system designation, a move prompted by the Air Force’s recognition that the rising complexity of weapons no longer permitted the isolated and compartmented development of equipment and components which, when put together in a structural shell, formed an aircraft or missile. However, this was as far as the B-47 benefited from the new developmental philosophy. The Boeing airframe was built without adequate consideration for its many crucial components. In turn, the components, subcontracted or furnished by the government, were behind schedule and when provided, did not match the sophistication of the high performance B-47.

In 1951 alone, the Air Force took delivery of 204 B-47Bs, none of which were suitable for combat. The aircraft's canopy was unsafe; the B-47B had no ejection seats (a deficiency shared by 200 successive B-47s); the bombing and navigation system was unreliable; a new tail defense system was needed; and the jet engines were creating unique development problems such as fuel boil off at high altitudes, which reduced the aircraft's range which was already shorter than anticipated. In sum, the hasty production of an aircraft as revolutionary as the B-47 proved to be costly, generating extensive, unavoidable modification projects like Baby Grand, Turn Around, High Noon, and Ebb Tide. Yet once accomplished, the B-47 modifications worked.

Although heavier than the heaviest World War II bomber, the B-47 was designed to be a medium-range penetrator with approximately a 3,500 nautical mile range. This was not a problem in the early 1950's since forward basing was available in the United Kingdom, Spain, Morocco, Guam, and Alaska. In addition, the B-47 was equipped with an air refueling capability and, on several occasions, 36-hour missions were flown. Thus, when it initially entered the inventory, its range was sufficient. Finally deployed overseas in mid 1953, the B-47s totally replaced the obsolete B-50s by the end of 1955, when new B-47 production models were delivered that could carry larger fuel loads and thus had greater range. After the B-47 demonstrated that it was rugged enough for low altitude bombing, some of the aircraft were again modified to satisfy a new set of requirements levied in 1955. These modifications also worked, and in 1957, the Air Force publicly demonstrated its new low-altitude, strategic bombing tactics, an achievement marking the beginning of an era in aeronautics.

The aircraft's payload capacity was limited to 20,000 pounds internally. Since nuclear weapons were large in the early 1950's, the bomb bay was limited to one or two of high yield. But this lack of payload capacity was compensated for by the large numbers of B-47's that were purchased (at a cost of less than $2 million per airplane) which resulted in an acceptable overall weapon delivery capacity. The B-47 was also capable of carrying thirteen 500-pound or eight 1,000-pound conventional bombs. Although no B-47 squadron was ever equipped with any type of missile, the B-47 was used on several occasions as a test aircraft for missile launches. The biggest aid to the B-47 payload was nuclear weapon technology which eventually developed smaller weapons.

Serial production made incorporating changes easier; the most numerous models were the B and E series. There were many production improvements made which included more powerful engines with water injection, the addition of tail guns, ejection seats, increased maximum gross weight, and bomb bay modifications for new weapons technology. Once deployed, modifications were numerous. The most significant was the structural revision to convert the B-47 from a high to a low altitude penetrator due to the development of Soviet surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) in the mid 1950's. In May 1960, Gary Powers' U-2 was shot down by a Soviet SAM, vividly demonstrating Soviet high altitude defense capabilities.

Besides structural modifications, ECM and other avionics were updated. Some B-47's were modified into reconnaissance and other specialized aircraft. Since space was a limitation, most aircraft modified for reconnaissance and special missions were not capable of carrying bombs. However, the RB-47B could be converted back to a bomber. The B-47 had the capability to be modified but was restricted by space limitations.

The Air Force accepted a grand total of 2,041 B-47s (including the first 2 experimental planes and the prototype of a never produced configuration). Specifically, the B-47 program comprised 2 XB-47s, 10 B-47As (mostly used for testing), 397 B-47Bs, 1 YB-47C, 1,341 B-47Es, 255 RB-47Es, and 35 RB-47Hs. All other B-47s in the Air Force's operational inventory, be they weather reconnaissance aircraft (WB-47Es), ETB-47E combat crew trainer, QB-47 drones, or others, were acquired through post production reconfigurations.

In December 1953 Strategic Air Command had eight B-47 Medium Bomber Wings, and a year later the Strategic Air Command inventory counted 17 fully-equipped B-47 wings. By early 1956 a total of 22 medium bombing wings had received the B-47 while another 5 wings were undergoing conversion to the B-47. Thus, by the end of 1956, Strategic Air Command had 27 combat-ready B-47 wings, with 1204 combat-ready B-47 crews assigned. By 1956, B-47 deployment had reached its peak with 1,306 aircraft assigned to Strategic Air Command. In addition about 250 RB-47s were in Strategic Air Command at that time. In all, Strategic Air Command had 30 Bomb Wings (Medium), each with four squadrons of 15 aircraft per squadron, along with four Strategic Reconnaissance Wings (Medium), one Combat Crew Training Wing and four Support Squadrons/Post-Attack Command and Control Squadrons which also flew different types of B-47s.

The final B-47E was delivered on 18 February 1957 to the 100th Bomb Wing at Pease Air Force Base, New Hampshire. This was the 29th and last Strategic Air Command bomb wing to be equipped with B-47s. The beginning of the phase-out of the B-47E coincided with the delivery of the last example in 1957. In 1960 there were still almost 1,100 B-47s. This dropped to about 400 in 1964. Strategic Air Command's last two B-47s went to storage on February 11, 1966. A few RB-47s were retained until 1967. In March 1961 President Kennedy had requested funding to support an increase in the number of Strategic Air Command aircraft on 15-minute ground alert from one-third to one-half the total force. At this time the B-47 phase-out was accelerated to provide the aircrews needed to support the higher alert rate of B-47 and B-52 bomber forces [which was attained by July 1961].

In the strategic bombing role for which the B-47 was designed, weapons delivery at the target was originally intended to take place from high altitudes. By the mid-1950's, however, the increasing effectiveness of methods for detecting aircraft at high attitudes, as well as the growing capability of surface-to-air missiles and fighter aircraft, required the development of new methods of weapons delivery. As a means of avoiding detection by radar, penetration of enemy airspace was to take place at high speed and at an altitude of only a few hundred feet. At the target, the aircraft was to execute an Immelmann turn with weapons delivery taking place in near vertical flight. (An Immelmann turn consists of a half loop followed by a half roll from inverted to normal flight attitude at the top of the loop. A change of 180° in direction coupled with a gain in altitude are accomplished during the maneuver.) This method of weapons delivery was known as LABS (low altitude bombing system) and was intended to provide the aircraft a means for escaping destruction from the blast effects of its own weapon.

Constant practice of the LABS technique subjected the B-47 fleet to the severe gust-load environment of high-speed low-altitude flight, as well as the maneuver loads associated with weapons delivery. The aircraft was not designed for this type of service. As a consequence structural fatigue problems were encountered, and several aircraft were lost as a result of structural failure. At one point, the entire B-47 fleet was grounded for inspection and incorporation of necessary design modifications. Both the structural fatigue problem and the much greater capability of the Boeing B-52, which began entering the inventory in 1955, played a part in the retirement of the B-47 from first-line service. Its life with the Strategic Air Command began in 1951 and ended 15 years later in 1966.

The phase out of the B-47 medium bomber coincided with the rapid build up of ICBM and SLBM deployment by the United States. The B-47 had shown flexibility in adapting to a low level mission profile that was required by the introduction of SAMs. But modifications to a large fleet (especially structural modifications) cost vast sums of money. Moreover, forward basing of strategic nuclear forces was becoming unpopular with US allies, and there was not enough tanker support to make up the range difference for continental United States basing of all the B-47's. The B-58, planned as a replacement for the B-47, started entering the inventory in 1960. Also, the B-52, designed as an outgrowth of the B-47, was proving to be a very capable strategic bomber. Thus, the combination of mission profile changes, which limited B-47's usefulness and the emergence of a replacement medium-range bomber and a truly long-range strategic bomber, led to the retirement of the B-47's after 14 years of service.

Despite its convoluted start, the B-47 program proved successful. The aircraft served in various roles and was involved in many experimental projects, some connected to the development of more sophisticated atomic weapons, like Brass Ring, or with the development of air refueling or other endeavors of great significance to the Air Force. Strategic Air Command's last B-47s went into storage in early 1966, while a few converted B-47 bombers and reconnaissance models kept on paying their way for several more years, remaining on the Air Force rolls until the end of the 1960s.

In concept, the Boeing B-47 was as revolutionary as the North American B-45 was conventional. The Stratojet was far ahead of any contemporary bomber in its performance and operational capability. A total of 2041 of these aircraft were manufactured, more than any other United States bomber built under peacetime conditions. As a key element in the Strategic Air Command, the B-47 served in operational squadrons until withdrawn from service in 1966. The aircraft was used for various types of special operations, however, for at least another 10 years.

The B-47 was the first pure jet strategic bomber. Its many unique features included six jet engines; a two-engine, pylon-mounted pod under each wing near the fuselage; and a single-engine pod further outboard. The wings were attached high on the fuselage and swept 35 degrees. The design incorporated a revolutionary bicycle-type, retractable main landing gear with single, two-wheel struts on the forward and aft fuselage. Outrigger wheels added lateral stability and retracted into the two-engine pod cowling. The B-47 was 107 feet long, 28 feet high at the tail, and had a wing span of 116 feet. The crew consisted of a pilot, copilot, and bombardier. With a maximum gross weight of about 204,000 pounds, it used solid fuel rocket assist on takeoff. A tail brake parachute was used to slow down the aircraft during landings.

The design of the wing featured an average thickness ratio of about 12 percent, an aspect ratio of 9.42, and a sweepback angle of 35 degrees. Single-slotted flaps located at the trailing edge provided high lift for landing, and conventional ailerons were used for lateral control. All control surfaces were hydraulically boosted. Location of the wing near the top of the fuselage allowed the bomb load to be carried in the fuselage, beneath the wing and near the center of gravity, and to be released through doors in the bottom of the fuselage without interference from the structure of' the wing center section. Further, the shoulder position of the wing allowed adequate ground clearance for the engine nacelles.

Design of the landing gear posed a problem that led to a novel solution not seen before on a production airplane. Wing thickness was not large enough to house the gear and, in addition, the high position of the wing would have resulted in long, heavy landing-gear struts. The solution of the problem was found in an unusual bicycle arrangement in which a two-wheel bogie was located along the fuselage centerline in front of and behind the bomb bay. Small, retractable outrigger wheels extended from the inboard nacelles to assist in providing lateral balance while the aircraft was on the ground. The front bogie could be steered to give the plane the ability to maneuver on the runway.

One of the most innovative features of the B-47 configuration, and one that was to have a marked influence on future civil and military aircraft of large size, was the engine mounting. The nacelles containing the engines were attached to pylons mounted to and extending below the wings. Two engines were mounted in each of two nacelles, one of which was attached through a pylon to each wing well outboard of the fuselage. The other two engines were mounted singly in nacelles nearly flush with the wing and located near the wingtips. A number of advantages may be cited for the engine arrangement pioneered by the B-47; namely:

The engine nacelles are widely separated from each other and the fuselage. Thus, the danger to the aircraft and other engines that results from the disintegration of one engine is reduced. This advantage is somewhat nullified in the B-47 because two of the nacelles contain two engines.

The aircraft is easy to balance because the engines can be located near the aircraft center of gravity.

The weight of the engines mounted outboard on the wing reduces the wing bending moments in flight.

The engines are easy to maintain and can be readily removed because of their proximity to the ground. Since the engine inlets are usually outboard of the spray pattern from the nose and main landing gear, the outboard wing mounting offers good protection from FOD (foreign object damage) to the engines when the aircraft is operated on the ground.

A number of disadvantages may also be cited for the type of engine arrangement employed on the Boeing B-47:

Failure of an engine, particularly during takeoff or climb, may produce large yawing moments that require immediate correction by the pilot. The magnitude of the corrective yawing moments required to counteract the unsymmetrical [365] thrust in the engine-out condition may determine the necessary size of the rudder.

A small reduction in maximum lift coefficient may result from unfavorable interference effects in the nacelle-wing juncture and from the impingement of the nacelle wake on the wing at high lift coefficients. The wing-nacelle-pylon relationships must also be carefully tailored, usually in wind-tunnel studies, to eliminate or minimize any interference drag. A positive aerodynamic benefit, however, results from the pylons, which act somewhat like wing fences in alleviating the pitch-up problem so often found in aircraft with sweptback wings.

The addition of concentrated weights, such as engines or stores, is usually thought to reduce the wing flutter speed. The relationship of the engine center of gravity to the wing elastic axis as well as the dynamic coupling between the engines and the wing strongly influence the effect of the engines on the wing flutter speed. These, as well as other relationships, must be carefully tailored by a detailed process involving mathematical analysis and wind-tunnel tests. By this means, a reduction in flutter speed can usually be avoided.

The dynamic loads imposed on the wing structure during operations on the ground are usually intensified by the concentrated engine masses mounted on the wings.

The thin, high-aspect-ratio swept wing of the B-47 coupled with its long high-fineness-ratio fuselage contributed to the high aerodynamic efficiency of the aircraft. The maximum lift-drag ratio of about 20 was among the highest of any aircraft of its era, and the zero-lift drag coefficient was a low 0.0148. Maximum speed is 607 miles per hour at 16 300 feet; the corresponding Mach number is 0.85, which is nearly 0.1 higher than that of the B-45.

The very features that contributed to the high performance of the B-47, however, also introduced some new problems that have been present in the development of all subsequent large jet-powered multiengine aircraft.

Aeroelasticity, the interaction of aerodynamic, elastic, and inertial forces, has formed a branch of aeronautical engineering for many years. Because of the flexibility of the long, thin elements of the B-47, however, the need to consider aeroelastic effects in the basic aircraft design process assumed critical importance. For example, in static tests the total deflection of the B-47 wingtip was 17 feet from maximum positive to negative deflection. Areas in which aeroelasticity are important are stability, control, loads, and, of course, flutter.

Flutter is a phenomenon in which an aircraft or one of its components, such as a wing or control surface, extracts energy from the moving airstream and converts it to a harmonic oscillation of the structure that may grow in amplitude until total destruction occurs. Flutter analysis and prediction is an arcane science in which flutter prediction and design for its avoidance have historically been the subject of detailed mathematical analysis. Uncertainties as to the nature of oscillating air forces, however, as well as the complex participation of the entire aircraft in the various structural vibration modes made mandatory the development of new experimental wind-tunnel techniques for studying these phenomena during development of the B-47.

Flutter tests and analyses had usually been limited to individual components of the aircraft such as the wing plus aileron or horizontal and vertical tail surfaces. The aircraft as an entity was usually not considered in the determination of the critical flutter speed, nor was such consideration necessary. However, the concentration of large masses beneath the wings, together with the high degree of flexibility of the wings and other components of the aircraft, required that motions of the complete airplane be considered in determining the critical flutter speeds of the B-47. Both symmetrical and antisymmetrical flutter modes needed to be studied. In a symmetrical mode, each wing deforms in exactly the same way, and the motion of the wings is accompanied by a vertical, up-and-down, and pitching motion of the fuselage. In antisymmetrical flutter, the wings on either side of the fuselage deform in exactly opposite directions, and the wing motion is accompanied by a rolling and yawing of the fuselage.

Wind-tunnel techniques were devised by the Boeing Company to deal with this complex problem. A 3/8-inch rod extended from the floor to the ceiling of the tunnel test section. The model was attached to a gimbal joint located at the center of gravity. The gimbal allowed freedom in pitch and yaw, and was itself attached to the vertical rod by an arrangement of rollers that allowed the model freedom in vertical translation. Snubber lines were used to arrest the vertical motion of the model if it became too large or uncontrollable. At each tunnel speed, the aircraft model was trimmed so that the lift force balanced the weight of the model. Pitch trim was maintained as the tunnel speed varied by remote adjustment of a tab on the horizontal tall. Limited rolling freedom was provided by looseness in the gimbal joint and flexibility in the mounting rod. The model was constructed in such a way as to simulate the stiffness and mass properties of the aircraft and, accordingly, was quite complex and expensive to design and build.

The technique was successfully employed in the development of the B-47 as a means for identifying flutter-critical combinations of speed and altitude and development of design fixes for flutter avoidance. The mounting rod limits the usefulness of the technique to fairly low subsonic speeds because of aerodynamic interference effects associated with the formation of shock waves on the rod at high subsonic Mach numbers. The complete model flutter tests made on the B-47 were carried out in a low-speed wind tunnel, and the results were then adjusted for estimated Mach number effects. Later techniques developed by NACA and NASA allow flutter tests of complete airplane models to be made at high subsonic and transonic Mach numbers in a wind tunnel especially designed for high-speed flutter investigations.

The aluminum skin of the B-47 varied in thickness on different parts of the aircraft and had to be machined carefully to produce the proper taper. The structural members, made of strong, light, heat-resisting metals such as titanium, required extensive machining on high-powered, high-torque, low-speed machines, because such metals were much harder to cut than aluminum. While the techniques of assembling the aircraft had not changed much, the process had returned to the handcrafting methods of the 1930s because the airplanes were so complex and packed with electronic equipment. This process was a major factor in the skyrocketing costs of the new aircraft.

The B-47 was manned by a crew of three. Two pilots sat in a tandem arrangement under a bubble-type canopy in a manner similar to that of a fighter; a bombardier-navigator sat in an enclosed compartment located in the nose of the aircraft. Upward-firing ejection seats were provided for the pilots, and the bombardier was equipped with a downward-firing ejection seat. Crew compartments were heated, ventilated, and pressurized. As fast or faster than most fighters, the Stratojet was equipped with only two 20-mm cannons situated in a remotely controlled turret located in the tail of the aircraft. Aiming and firing of these guns was the duty of the copilot whose seat could be rotated 180° to face rearward.

For assistance in the landing maneuver, the B-47 was equipped with a drag chute that was deployed during the approach. The added drag of the parachute aided in controlling the speed and the flight-path angle during this phase of the landing maneuver. Once on the runway, a large braking chute was deployed to assist in stopping the aircraft. An interesting insight into the airport performance of the B-47 is provided by a comparison of its stalling speed of 175 miles per hour with the cruising speed of 182 miles per hour for the World War II B-17G. Not surprisingly, the length of hard-surface runways at military air fields increased dramatically in the years following World War II.

Although the B-47 was equipped with six 7200-pound-thrust (with water injection) turbojet engines, the thrust-to-weight ratio at maximum gross weight was only 0.22, which, coupled with its high stalling speed, resulted in a long takeoff. To reduce the takeoff field length, the aircraft was initially equipped with 18 short-duration booster rockets. These units were an integral part of the aircraft and were known by the acronym JATO (jet-assisted takeoff). Nine JATO nozzles were located on each side of the fuselage. On some later versions of the aircraft, weight was saved by replacing the integral JATO units with an external rack containing the rockets which could be jettisoned. In this installation, 33 rockets of 1000 pounds thrust each were provided.

By post-World War II standards, the B-47 was classified as a medium bomber; but with a gross weight of 198,180 pounds, the B-47E was far heavier than any bomber flown in World War II (the gross weight of the B-29 was 120 000 pounds), and it ranked second only to the 357,500-pound B-36D as the heaviest aircraft operated by the United States Air Force in the early 1950's. Designed as a strategic bomber, the B-47 also filled various other roles such as photoreconnaissance. In its design role as a strategic bomber, the B-47 could deliver a 10,845-pound weapons load at a mission radius of 2013 miles. Ferry range was 4,035 miles. With air-to-air refueling, which became standard operating procedure following the close of World War II, both the mission radius and the ferry range were greatly increased, and targets in Eastern Europe could be reached from bases in the United States with sufficient range potential to allow safe return to friendly territory.

Development of the B-47 can be traced back to June 1943, when an informal Army Air Forces (AAF) request led several aircraft manufacturers to begin design studies of multi jet aircraft that could be used for fast photographic reconnaissance or medium bomber missions. Requirements had to be readied and money had to be found before a formal announcement could be made. Yet the procedure followed in June 1943 was not unusual and could only benefit the AAF. In this case, it might also have had the distinct advantage of keeping Boeing engineers busy and preventing them from drifting to Navy projects upon completion of their work on the development of a long range bomber. The AAF already knew that Convair had pretty well clinched the long range bomber program (a B-36 production order had just been issued) and that the concurrent procurement of a similar bomber was out of the question. (Boeing did not receive a study contract for its “long range” XB-52 until mid 1946.)

General Electric's successful development of an axial flow jet engine, easier to install in wing nacelles than previous jet types, came at the same time as the manufacturers began design studies. This undoubtedly was important. Boeing and several other companies quickly included the new engine in their planning. But more crucial to the aircraft's development was Boeing's use at war's end of captured German research data on the design of swept back wings. This led in 1947 to the sensational XB-47.

The informal requirements of 1943 became official on November 17, 1944. The AAF issued military characteristics for a jet propelled medium bomber with a range of 3,500 miles, a service ceiling of 45,000 feet, an average speed of 450 miles per hour, and a top speed of 550. Besides the Boeing Airplane Company of Seattle, Washington, the other firms North American Aviation, Convair, and the Glenn L. Martin Company entered the design competition prompted by these requirements. The Boeing entry (Model-432), designated the XB-47 by the AAF, was a straight wing design resembling a B-29 with much thinner wings and carrying 4 of the new General Electric axial flow jet engines. To overcome problems experienced with the engine pod nacelles of a previous design, Boeing had buried the new engines inside the fuselage of Model 432. All designs submitted by the other companies featured wing nacelles for housing the jet engines. Letter contracts for development and mockups of the 3 designs were awarded in the fall of 1944, resulting in the North American XB-45, Convair XB-46, and Martin XB-48. Of these, only the North American XB-45 ever went into production.

The letter contract came on 1 February 1945. This letter contract authorized Boeing to spend up to $150,000 (against an estimated $1.5 million set aside for development) in a Phase I (wind tunnel) study of Model 432, Boeing's first entry in the recently opened medium bomber competition. The model nevertheless was rejected on the grounds that the location of the engines could be unsafe. The AAF actually thought that Boeing engineers should do more research in the basic jet problems associated with high speed bombers. To achieve superiority in the air would require a new concept superior to any of the current bomber designs. Early in September, Boeing revised the original configuration of Model 432 and proposed its first swept wing bomber design. Labeled Model 448 (the AAF designation remained XB-47), the new aircraft featured a thin wing swept back and 2 more engines--a total of 6 engines. The AAF liked the wing configuration of Model 448, but still insisted that housing engines inside a fuselage created a fire hazard. Besides, externally mounted engines were easier to maintain and replace, which could add years to the service life of an aircraft. Boeing's hasty return to the drawing board resulted in Model 450, which carried 6 jet engines hung under the wings in pods--2 pairs in strut mounted inboard nacelles and single units attached directly under the wing, at a distance of 8 feet from the wing tip. The AAF promptly approved Model 450 in October 1945.

In December, a technical instruction authorized contractual negotiations for the development of two experimental aircraft. The AAF endorsed Boeing's proposal to build and test two fully operational XB-47's for $9,357,800, counting the $1.5 million that had been set aside for development of the straight wing design (Model 432) initially submitted by Boeing. The proposed planes would be bare of any tactical equipment, but necessary space would be provided. The subsequent discovery that more equipment space was needed and that some structural changes had to be made raised Boeing's original quotation to $9,441,407. This figure also was approved, after the Wright Field price control experts concluded that the XB-47's cost of $95 per airframe pound was reasonable and considerably lower than the corresponding costs of the XB-45 and XB-48 bombers. Nonetheless, the letter contract of February 1945 was not officially amended until 17 April 1946 (after completion of the XB-47 mockup).

The XB-47 mockup was completed, inspected, and approved in the spring of 1946. Army Air Forces personnel attending the XB-47 mockup seemed impressed. Just the same, the Mockup Committee suggested major changes in the nose compartment, pilot and co pilot seating, and landing gear arrangement. The Chief of the AAF Requirements Division cautioned that any additional weight would cut down the speed of the XB-47, thus defeating the purpose for which the plane was designed.

Even though the XB-47 mockup had been well received, development of the experimental plane took longer than expected. Actual work began in June 1946, but progress was hampered by problems with the aircraft landing gear (The XB-47's thin swept wing eliminated any possibility of suspending a landing gear or retracting one into it. The problem was solved, however, with the installation of a tandem gear, fairly similar to the type previously tested on a Martin B-26. The new arrangement had an additional advantage: reducing the XB-47's weight by 1,500 pounds), control surfaces, as well as bottlenecks in power plant installations. The initial lack of overtime pay for the Boeing personnel did not help. All told, a 6 month slippage occurred.

It took a year and a half to complete the contractual negotiations initiated by the technical instruction of December 1945. The definitive fixed price contract (W33-038-ac-8429) of July 1947 called for two stripped XB-47s, spare parts, mockups of the completed airplane and fuselage, wing tunnel tests, and research data at a total cost of almost $9.7 million--about $25,000 more than the cost of the amended letter contract of April 1946, which the fixed price contract superseded. Moreover, the AAF estimated that post test flight changes most likely would raise the aggregate cost of the contract to more than $10.5 million—a prediction that did materialize. By February 1950, numerous change orders had brought total costs near the $12 million mark.

The first XB-47 rolled out of the Seattle factory in the same month that the United States Air Force was established. The plane was even more startling than the spectacular B-17 Flying Fortress had been 12 years before. The swept wing had already been used experimentally by the Bell Aircraft Corporation on two modified P-63 King Cobras and by North American on the XP-86, first flown in October 1947, but this was the first time the design appeared on a large American jet.

The experimental B-47 was flown from Seattle to nearby Moses Lake Air Force Base, Washington, to begin a series of extensive flight tests. Bad weather delayed the flight until 17 December 1947. 44 years to the day after the Wright brothers' first manned flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

The Air Force flew the first XB-47 (Serial No. 46-065) for about 83 hours, including nearly 38 hours of Phase II flight tests that were accomplished between 8 July and 15 August 1948. The contractor tested the XB-47 during most of the aircraft's 6 years of life, accumulating more than 330 hours of test flights in the process. In 1954, having been stripped of wings and engines, the experimental B-47 was cut in two and exhibited at Palm Beach Air Force Base, Florida.

The Boeing pilots that first flew the XB-47 liked it. After completion of the first phase of testing, a Boeing pilot remarked, “The plane still is doing much better than anyone had a right to expect. We‘re still exploring one thing at a time, but every door we've kicked open so far has had good things inside.” Just the same, the XB-47's overall performance proved disappointing. Its maximum altitude was 2,500 feet below the 40,000 foot ceiling proposed by Boeing and 7,500 feet lower than originally required by the AAF. Its speed was also slower than expected. In fact, in mid 1949 the XB-47 exchanged its six J35-GE-7/9 engines for the larger 5,200 pound thrust J47-GE-3s that equipped the second XB-47 from the start.

The Air Force accepted the first XB-47 conditionally (minus certain equipment to be installed later by Boeing) on 29 November 1948. The second XB-47, first flown in mid 1948, was accepted the following month, under the same conditions. The Air Force took delivery of the experimental planes in December 1948, but lent them to the contractor in subsequent years. Like its predecessor, the second XB-47 was extensively tested. Boeing logged almost 100 hours of test flights; the Air Force logged more than 237.

This haste in the long run hampered both development and production. By August 1950, the Air Force had recommended some 2,000 changes, making it almost impossible to settle on an acceptable production type. Meanwhile, Boeing had begun to step up production. By mid 1951, B-47Bs were flowing in ever increasing numbers from the Wichita line but had to await the modifications and equipment that would make them suitable for combat. Despite an overall production slippage of nearly a full year, components subcontracted by Boeing as well as government furnished equipment and parts were still behind schedule. General LeMay was adamant in pointing out that failure to develop component systems in phase with production of the new bomber was an indication of bankruptcy in United States Air Force procurement policy. The Strategic Air Command Commander also thought that the United States Air Force Armament Laboratory was not capable of satisfying the Air Force's needs.

By mid 1952, the B-47’s development was still under way. Requirements kept expanding, special mission modifications were requested, and the Air Force again considered various redesigns of the aircraft's propulsion system.

In view of the B-47's sweeping new features, it was envisioned from the start that development and testing would be involved as well as lengthy. (The development and test phase, mostly completed in mid 1953 (after some 50,000 flight test hours), exceeded the original time estimate by almost 4 years) The XB-47's early flight tests quickly confirmed this expectation. Hence, the Air Force on 7 April 1950 endorsed an unusual operational suitability test, known as Project WIBAC (Wichita Boeing Aircraft Company). This meant that before the B-47 could be delivered to Strategic Air Command's operational units, the aircraft and its equipment would be thoroughly tested at Wichita by Air Proving Ground Command and Strategic Air Command personnel. Early WIBAC appraisals of the B-47 gave the Air Force something to think about. In mid 1951, Strategic Air Command observers liked the airplane, but noted that the airframe and engines were much more advanced than the component systems. Moreover, designers and manufacturers of component parts, as well as the numerous subcontractors producing such items as relays, fuel selector valves, booster pumps, and the like, were not in tune with the sophisticated designs necessary for such a high performance aircraft. As a result, Boeing was forced to fit the B-47 with the same type of equipment that had caused so much difficulty in the B-29s and B-50s.

Besides, WIBAC promised to provide statistics on parts consumption, parts failures, and engine life. Guiding data on service testing, maintenance procedures, base facilities, and training needs were also part of the deal. The ambitious WIBAC task soon proved overwhelming. While no B-47Bs had reached WIBAC by mid 1951, the project was already in trouble. In August, WIBAC requested review of the whole B-47 program production, allocation, requirements, and operational deficiencies. In September 1951, United States Air Force test pilots pointed out that many of the modifications made to the B-47Bs had negatively impacted flying qualities, making the plane unstable at high altitudes and hard to maneuver.

The impasse reported by WIBAC led to a conference in October 1951, attended by many top Air Force generals. Most conferees seemed to believe that WIBAC, and more specifically the office of the B-47 project officer, had been given an impossible job. Opinions differed, however, on how some of the difficulties encountered could have been avoided or at least reduced. Maj. Gen. Bryan L. Boatner, Commanding General of the Air Proving Ground, thought better results could have been secured had Air Research and Development Command and Air Materiel Command (AMC) contributed technical personnel and stationed them permanently at WIBAC as Strategic Air Command (Strategic Air Command) and Air Proving Ground did. Lieuktenant General Earle E. Partridge, who headed the research and development command, commented that the concentration of all B-47 tests at Wichita had been a mistake. Generals Partridge and Boatner agreed that the B-47 was a very complicated piece of equipment and that the production problems were the greatest ever experienced. Then, General Twining (Vice Chief of Staff since October 1950) said that the B-47 problem fell to the Air Staff and that it would be solved. To this end, a so called refinement program was set to begin in early 1952 at the United States Air Force Grand Central Plant in Tucson, Arizona. The minimum modifications to make the B-47 combat ready were lined up, Strategic Air Command alone suggesting close to 50. Maj. Gen. Thomas S. Power, Strategic Air Command's Vice Commander, pointed out that his command was more familiar than most with the bomber's deficiencies. He announced that an engineering operational program in the 306th Wing would get under way in early 1952. This program, General Power stated, should help significantly in speeding up progress.

Advanced procurement plans were finalized in November 1951 on the heels of the October conference by a definitive contract for 445 additional aircraft. This number was reduced to 395 in March 1952, after more realistic production schedules were endorsed.

As the B-47 bomb bay was designed to carry atomic bombs, no additional framework installation was required. Bomb racks, sway braces, hoists, and other equipment items were attached from the start to the airframe, specifically to the bomb bay fuel tank floor. Just the same, production and operational difficulties with the aircraft itself prompted a further cutback in the B-47B's atomic capability in April 1952. The Air Force decided at the time that the first 89 B-47Bs would not be required to carry any atomic bombs, and that the next 80 aircraft would only be expected to handle two specific types of bombs. While some of this early planning changed, a directive that all subsequent B-47Bs would be able to carry low density atomic bombs could not be satisfied. Despite all efforts, the high speed B-47s proved unable to release subject bombs at altitudes below 30,000 feet.

Explosive decompression tests in 1951 proved the B-47's original canopy unsafe for high altitude combat operations. A sectionalized canopy was the answer, but would not be available for some time. Another major problem was the lack of ejection seats in the B-47B. Strategic Air Command had long believed that ejection type seats were the safest method of egress from high speed aircraft. Boeing studies on the subject had shown it would be impossible to get out of an uncontrolled B-47 without ejection seats. Escaping under controlled flight conditions would even be hazardous without them. Although the 10 B-47As had ejection seats, these were operationally marginal. Therefore, in the interest of saving weight at least until the B-47 reached a 4,000 nautical mile range a group of senior officers (including some from Strategic Air Command) had decided to dispense with the seats. Strategic Air Command's ensuing objections were to no avail, but its request in mid 1950 for reinstatement of the seats was finally approved. Still it became obvious in December 1951 that ejection seats would not be incorporated in production for quite a while.

Providing satisfactory ejection seats for the B-47's three man crew entailed the relocation of important pieces of equipment. Air Material Command estimated this might require as many as 26,000 engineering man hours. In addition, much more was involved to ensure crew safety. In fact, high speed testing of the approved seats (upward for pilot and co pilot; downward for the navigator) was still going on in December 1952.

As many as 400 B-47s would not have any ejection seats, and this was far more than Strategic Air Command had been prepared to accept. Since retrofit of the aircraft then seemed economically impossible, the only alternative was to settle for the next best means of egress. To begin with, this called for development of a redesigned dinghy. It was difficult to maneuver from the crew positions to the escape hatch with the present dinghy attached to the parachute harness. Yet, in an emergency, there seldom was time to attach the raft after leaving one's seat.

The K-2 bombing and navigation system, like the early K-1 of many B-36s, was unreliable and hard to maintain. The 1,600 pound K-2 contained 41 major components, totaling some 370 vacuum tubes and close to 20,000 separate parts. Since the B-47 was compact, the K-2 equipment had been scattered throughout the aircraft. Many of the system's parts were outside of the plane's pressurized area. Hence, no in-flight maintenance was possible and high abort rates were to be expected. Maintenance on the ground was nearly as difficult. Preflight checking took too long, 8 hours, compared to 1 hour for checking almost the same system on the B-36.

By mid 1952 the K-2 had been made to work somehow, but still needed improvement even after additional modifications had brought about its redesignation as the K-4. The Emerson A-2 tail defense system, earmarked for the B-47, was canceled before the end of the year in favor of the General Electric A-5. Development of the system could be traced back to 1946, when the XB-47 was first reviewed by the AMC's armament laboratory the same laboratory General LeMay still took to task in 1951. Engineers believed that the Emerson built tail turret, referred to as the A-1 fire control system and intended for the North American B-45, could be fitted into the B-47 without altering the turret's basic mechanism. With Boeing's concurrence, the Air Force in June 1948 asked Emerson to design for the B-47 a turret gunner cab similar to that of the B-45, but providing sufficient comfort for missions of long duration. The project quickly became so complicated that it was given up. A remote controlled system that would be operated by one of the flight crew members appeared more feasible. This gave way to the A-2 fire control system, a system eliminating the need for a tail gunner. This A-2 was due to provide accurate defensive fire for protection of the B-47 and to perform, although not simultaneously, both search and track. The A-2, after being fitted into the tail of a B-29, was successfully tested under Project Hornet. Moreover, in theory, the A-2 was superior to the APG-32 built by the General Electric Company for the B-36. In practice, however, while major APG-32 problems could be solved, the A-2's basic suitability for the B-47 remained too questionable to warrant its retention.

The decision, based on Project WIBAC's recommendation, proved sound but posed an immediate problem. No A-5 fire control systems were available and none were to be expected prior to 1953. In the meantime, it was mandatory for Strategic Air Command that a makeshift system be devised. Retrofit of early B-47s with a 2 gun turret and an N-6 optical sight was the chosen solution. This would at least give the aircraft some kind of defense. Although contrary to plans, the extra modification was included in the refinement program that had been endorsed during the conference of October 1951. Not surprisingly, further pioneer difficulties were encountered. One was fuel boil off and fuel purging, found more critical in jet bombers. The B-47 was designed for maximum speed and range at a high altitude, and the sooner it reached that altitude, the better. Yet, at high altitudes fuel boil and loss of fuel occurred, reducing the aircraft's range which, in any case, remained far shorter than required in early 1944. Development of JP-4 fuel, after numerous experiments, appeared to solve much of the problem, but production quantities would not be available until January 1952. Again, purging fuel tanks required the use of dry ice, which would be difficult to purchase in areas where the B-47s were expected to operate, especially when the aircraft would be operating overseas. Development of portable dry ice manufacturing equipment was a partial answer. A new exhaust gas purging system, being devised by AMC, would be more dependable and less hazardous. It would require no additional maintenance and provide greater and longer protection for more fuel volume than the dry ice system. This was all for the best but, as with every new system, the AMC development would take time.

There were extenuating circumstances for the ailing B-47 program. As Maj. Gen. Albert Boyd, the Wright Air Development Center's Commander, explained in 1952:

“There is a limit to what we can do, or for that matter, what anyone can do, toward developing a radically new airplane in record time, and we, no more than anyone else, are capable of pulling a rabbit out of our hats or cranking out a new aircraft that meets all the desires of the operating activities.”

Yet, the impact of the B-47 slippage was serious from the start. To prepare for, operate, and maintain a weapon system as revolutionary as the B-47 presented a tremendous challenge.

Strategic Air Command confronted numerous problems, some of them crucial. Bases had to be prepared for the B-47, particularly by lengthening runways. Since the aircraft's range did not meet requirements, air refueling was a necessity. This complicated matters. Extra troop housing, maintenance facilities, equipment and supply were needed to support B-47 squadrons and their accompanying KC-97 tankers. Training problems came to the fore. Briefly stated, the all jet B-47, with its crew of 3, played havoc with Strategic Air Command personnel policies. Large numbers of people became excess, whereas hundreds of others were needed to fill specialties peculiar to jet aircraft. All kinds of mechanics and supervisors had to be retrained for the B-47. Moreover, Strategic Air Command and other United States Air Force commands never had used pilot observers. Since the B-47 demanded quadruple rated air crewmen, ATC had to turn pilots into proficient navigators, bombardiers, and radar operators.

The production delay meant that conversion plans had to be shuffled many times over. Strategic Air Command was told in 1949 to get ready for the early conversion of certain units to B-47 aircraft. It learned in September that 108 B-47s would be forthcoming during the years 1950 and 1951. In the spring of 1950, if the Air Force was in a jam, it was because of the B-47, Strategic Air Command refused to get into further trouble programming for conversions too far in advance of aircraft delivery dates. The command chose to go ahead with the 306th and 305th conversions, but to postpone deciding which other wings would convert to B-47s and in what order. Meanwhile. Strategic Air Command had inherited a new problem. After both air and ground crew training had been rushed, Strategic Air Command wondered how to keep crew proficiency when it had no planes to fly or to look after. Of small consolation, no such coverages existed in the K system and armament category where, besides technical factors, personnel training lagged behind due to lack of tools, test equipment, and parts.

Then, slippage of the refinement program, which now appeared unavoidable, would further dilute the command's readiness. Each month lost forced Strategic Air Command to be ready to fight with even more outmoded B-29s and B-50s. To make it worse, everyone knew that when at long last available, the modified B-47Bs would give Strategic Air Command only a basic combat aircraft and that considerable modifications were still to come.

The program, due to begin in January 1952, involved the modification of 310 B-47Bs. Instead of 400, the first 90 aircraft went to Air Training Command as they were. The command later received 90 other B-47s. These planes had been through the refinement program, but their modification did not include the addition of the interim B-4 fire control system that was fitted in every B-47 modified for Strategic Air Command. Strategic Air Command expected its first modified planes in July and a monthly input of 75 by year's end. This was optimistic. As predicted by AMC, the Grand Central Depot of Tucson could not possibly handle such a workload without greatly expanding facilities and manpower. This would take time and money, and neither could really be spared. The Air Force found a way out of its new dilemma. Boeing agreed to modify 90 of the aircraft (for about $10 million) and Douglas was also asked to help. Douglas agreed to modify 8 aircraft per month in Tulsa. Boeing promised to fix the planes in Tucson, but saturation of the existing facilities changed this planning. To keep its commitment, Boeing shifted the work to Wichita. The contractor was actually able to modify 40 of the planes directly on the assembly line.

The original modification schedule nevertheless slipped. First, it proved difficult to assemble the necessary modification kits. Then, there were not enough kits. In September 1952, Strategic Air Command's few B-47s were grounded because of serious fuel cell leakages. This again slowed the refinement program, since it obviously required an extra inspection of the aircraft being modified.

Yet, despite its shaky start, the program fulfilled its requirements. Strategic Air Command received its first batch of modified B-47s in October, a 3 month slippage that was to prove of slight importance. The last modified B-47s flowed from the Douglas modification center in October 1953.

Back in late 1951, mechanical failures and a myriad of minor obstacles had caused the B-47 production to slip again. Yet, in the face of persistent shortages of contractor furnished equipment and government furnished parts, production took a turn for the better in the spring of 1952. The improvement soon gained momentum. By mid 1953, production was running smoothly and Boeing was rolling out new configurations (B/RB-47Es). Just getting started, Douglas, Tulsa, had already built 10 B-47Bs; Lockheed, Marietta, 7. In addition, two projects were in progress since January 1953. The first and most important one was Baby Grand. It was conducted by Boeing and would add the A-5 fire control system in 54 new B-47s (units 400-454). The other, Field Goal, was in the hands of Douglas. It would improve 86 (units 1-86) of the 90 unmodified B-77s, first allocated to Air Training Command.

Even though all modifications covered by the refinement program were incorporated into the production line of the 410th and subsequent B-47's, much remained to be done. Despite the Baby Grand modification, these aircraft, as well as the modified B-47Bs, did not meet the Air Force's expectations. There were other problems. In the hope of improving performance quickly, complex engineering changes had been introduced into the production line at approximately every fifth aircraft. This had essentially resulted in making the aircraft's maintenance far more difficult and its logistical support almost nightmarish. A standardization conference was held at Wichita in April 1953. There, Boeing's 731st B-47 production, a B-47E referred to as WIBAC Unit 731, was established as the Strategic Air Command standardization bomber.

In June the Air Council reaffirmed the April decision and officially endorsed Boeing's WIBAC Unit 731 as the “improved combat configuration.” It took the other two contractors little more than a year to follow suit. Douglas Unit 125, delivered in September 1954, and Lockheed Unit 128, delivered 1 month before, were the same as WIBAC Unit 731.

In the same month, Headquarters United States Air Force approved Turn Around, an AMC modification plan that would bring 114 new B-47s (units 617-730) to the 731st configuration. The Turn Around plan was clever. The Air Force would conditionally accept the 114 aircraft, but leave them at the Boeing plant for modification. The same procedure could be followed on other occasions. In this first case, it would save more than $7 million by eliminating the costly process of bringing back 114 aircraft for modernization after delivery. Turn Around, however, did not address the problem presented by in service B-47s. This was to be covered by High Noon, a major modification and IRAN (inspect and repair as necessary) maintenance program, approved before the end of May.

Strategic Air Command was always the first to seek further B-47 improvement. In the meantime, however, the command intended to make ample use of its newly assigned planes. After testing exhaustively in early 1953 the modified B-47B under simulated combat conditions, Strategic Air Command decided the 306th (its first fully equipped wing) was ready for a 90 day rotational training mission to England. The 306th's deployment originated at MacDill Air Force Base and involved equal flights of 15 B-47s on 3, 4, and 5 June. Establishing a precedent that would be followed many times in the future, the B-47s staged through Limestone Air Force Base, Maine, where they remained overnight before going on the next day. They landed at Fairford Royal Air Force Station on the 4th, 5th, and 6th of June. The 306th Air Refueling Squadron's KC-97s, crammed with support personnel and equipment, deployed on the same dates as the B-47s.

A jet B-47 being refueled by a propeller-driven KC-97 tanker

MacDill Air Force Base’s 306th Air Refueling Squadron was the first unit to begin equipping with the KC-97 tanker. Its first aircraft, a KC-97E, was delivered on 14 July 1951. Outfitted with a flying boom and loaded with fuel tanks, the 4 engine, propeller driven KC-97 could fly fast enough to match the minimum speed of the B-47. It transformed the B-47 into an intercontinental bomber. Each KC-97 squadron was authorized 20 aircraft.

As far as Strategic Air Command was concerned, proper support of the B-47s was of prime importance. In this regard, past production slippage had alleviated anticipated problems. Lagging supply programs had been able to pull abreast, and in some cases exceed wing requirements. For instance, the 306th had on hand nearly 90 percent of its equipment items by the end of 1951. Later, Snowtime, a project conceived by Strategic Air Command, minimized supply difficulties. Snowtime required storage in only 1 depot (Rome, Griffiss Air Force Base, N.Y.) of parts and equipment that would be needed at B-47 bases at the time of conversion. Sea Weed, a similar project for the overseas B-47 bases, after a tough debut, also helped.

The 306th stopped overnight at Ernest Harmon Air Force Base, Newfoundland, and then flew on to Mildenhall Royal Air Force Station. Maintaining one or more bomb wings in the United Kingdom was nothing new. B-29 and B-50 wings had been rotating there since 1948. Just the same, the 306th rotational deployment was a milestone. Although a handful of specially modified B-45s had arrived in England in 1952, the move of the 306th there was the first routine deployment of a fully operational jet bomber wing. Moreover, the policy of maintaining at least 1 B-47 wing in England at all times would continue until early 1958. Once started, the deployments were uninterrupted. When the 306th's 90 day rotation was over, the 305th was ready. By the time the 305th's tour was nearing its end, the 22nd Bomb Wing had completed the transition to B-47s and was poised for departure.

Although modified B-47Bs were indispensable either at home or overseas, the Air Force did not lose sight of its April 1953 standardization decision. Yet, Strategic Air Command operational priorities made it necessary to adjust the High Noon program that was due to modernize the bulk of the early airplanes. As finally approved in June 1953, 165 (units 235-399) of Strategic Air Command's 289 modified B-47s would first go to High Noon. High Noon was the code name assigned to the major modification and maintenance program, approved in May 1953. To the maximum extent possible, the rest of the early planes, including those remaining in Strategic Air Command's inventory, would also be brought to the 731st configuration. This would be done under Ebb Tide, now organized as High Noon's second phase, but would not affect the AMC's 2 year IRAN maintenance program that had been attached to High Noon from the start. Ebb Tide was another code name, the use of which, like that of High Noon, simplified matters when dealing with a complicated standardization project of exceptional scope.

The High Noon contract was assigned to Boeing. The choice was logical since the first 399 B-47s had all been assembled by Boeing from Boeing parts. Moreover, AMC was confident Boeing could do the work better, faster and cheaper than anyone else. High Noon was essentially a retrofit kit installation. Nevertheless, it was a complicated task, calling for removal, rebuilding, and reinstallation of many component systems, as well as major revisions of the aircraft nose and cockpit. B-47s earmarked for High Noon began arriving at WIBAC in June 1954, and 36 of them had entered the modification line by February 1955. The first renovated B-47 emerged from its “face lifting” operation on 2 March. It featured ejection seats for all crew members [Editor’s Note: this was long past due], a bombing navigation system with improved reliability (still the K system, but more dependable as a result of Reliable, a separate modification project that had simplified installation and maintenance), water-alcohol injection for thrust augmentation, an expanded rack for rocket bottle take off assist units, a modified bomb bay that could house the single sling, high density, thermonuclear bomb as well as more general purpose bombs, a reinforced landing gear for increased take off weight (202,000 pounds), the A-5 fire control system (in place of the B-4), and the AN/ARC-21 long range liaison radio.

There were no major problems during the High Noon modification of Strategic Air Command's 165 B-4711s. The Boeing contract met its early 1956 completion date and was immediately replaced by Ebb Tide, which also took place in Wichita. Ebb Tide addressed itself to the first 324 B-47s built by Boeing. The program did not cover all the aircraft. Only specific lots, or about two thirds of the 324 planes, went to Ebb Tide. 3 Of these, selected from units 135-234, would undergo the same transformation as the High Noon planes and return to Strategic Air Command in the configuration of WIBAC Unit 731. Another 108 of the early productions, out of units 1-134, would be modernized for Air Training Command. [The Air Training Command planes, subsequently known as TB-47s, closely resembled Strategic Air Command's B-47s, but they carried no defensive armament or electronic countermeasures equipment. They could not be air refueled and could not drop bombs. Also, take off and range had not been improved by modifications.] In the process, they would exchange their J47-23 engines for the more powerful J47-25s of the other B-47Bs. Finally, 30 planes would be brought to the High Noon standard and be converted to director aircraft (DB-47Bs) for the forthcoming Rascal missiles. The DB-47Bs would carry the missiles to within 90 nautical miles of the target before launching and guiding them.

Early in 1953, just as the B-47 program was being revitalized, it seemed new and much bigger problems were on the way. President Eisenhower's defense and fiscal policies did affect the Air Force's development and procurement plans. In September, the 143 wing program was reduced to an interim 120 wings. As anticipated, the B-47 did not emerge from the crisis unscathed. Yet, all things considered, it fared well. Peak procurement, once expected to reach almost 2,200, was cut by 140 (Ten contracts, 7 negotiated and 3 pending, had projected total B-47 procurement to be 2,190. Naturally, as design prime contractor, Boeing had the major portion of the business—four contracts versus Douglas‘s one and Lockheed‘s two. The three companies similarly farmed out 50 percent of the B-47 parts to various subcontractors scattered throughout the country). But a further reduction of 200 aircraft, considered in October, was avoided. Instead the Air Force instituted a 20 month stretch out of production, pending full scale rolling of the B-52 lines. In contrast to the B-36 program so often on the verge of collapse, no significant attempt was ever made to cancel production of the B-47.

The production improvement, achieved with the B-47B in 1953, did not falter. Once underway, B-47E deliveries stayed on schedule. By December, Strategic Air Command had 8 B-47 Medium Bomb Wings; 1 other wing was partially equipped; 5 more had no B-47s assigned, but were scheduled to receive the new aircraft. In December 1954 (The 3 contractors achieved monthly peak production in 1954 Boeing rolled out 29 planes in September; Douglas, 11 in March, and Lockheed, 13 in May), three months after total retirement of the B-29 bombers, the inventory counted 17 fully equipped B-47 wings. Marking the beginning of an all jet medium bomb force in Strategic Air Command, the last propeller driven bombers (B-50s of the 97th Wing) were phased out in July 1955. Six months later, 22 medium bomb wings had received their B-47 contingents, and another 5 wings were getting ready for the new bombers. Conversion of the Strategic Air Command forces did not necessarily mean that the B-47s were totally free of problems. Nevertheless, it only took until December 1956 for Strategic Air Command to accumulate 27 combat ready B-47 wings, a phenomenal increase from 12 wings in July of the same year (In December Strategic Air Command had 1,204 combat ready B-47 crews and 1,306 B-47 aircraft assigned).

In addition to materiel failures and component shortages, training problems limited the combat readiness of Strategic Air Command's B-47 wings. Some argued that the B-47—be it the earliest B-47A or the latest B-47E was not inherently hard to fly. Others more realistically emphasized that the flying techniques for the new jet aircraft differed vastly from those for conventional bombers. By 1954, the B-47 had the lowest major accident rate per 100,000 flying hours of any jet aircraft. Still, 55 percent of the B-47 accidents were traced to human error, 43 percent to pilots, and 12 percent to maintenance crews. First, the size of the crew was unusually small for this type of aircraft with 3 men performing the functions of pilot, copilot/gunner, and bombardier/navigator. And, although the 10 or 12 crewmembers of a B-29 worked with 130 instruments, the B-47's 3 man crew confronted more than 300 gauges, dials, switches, levers, and the like. Moreover, as a true expert noted, the B-47 was relatively difficult to land and terribly unforgiving of mistakes or inattention. Although often admired, respected, cursed, or even feared, the B-47 was almost never loved (These observations were made in 1975 by Brig. Gen. Earl C. Peck, Chief of the Office of Air Force History. He knew the B-47 well, having achieved the unusual tour de force of saving his B-47 on take off despite the crucial loss of one of the plane's 6 engines. Promoted to 2 star rank in 1976, General Peck became Strategic Air Command's Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations in April 1977). Even so, training progressed. In June 1954, Boeing indoctrination teams began keeping crews up to date on the B-47's limitations and stresses, and teaching techniques that would assure maximum performance under safe conditions. This new program was received with such enthusiasm that it was promptly expanded.

About the time the much improved heavyweight B-47E IV entered the inventory, more requirements were levied on the aircraft. Early in 1955 (The year started auspiciously. The B-47E IV was available, and the first B-47 for thermonuclear weapons had been delivered in January. Although the production line modification of the aircraft had been made without awaiting the results of a concurrent flight test, the Air Force was not overly concerned. Most of the essential equipment had been installed on the aircraft, and only minor changes would be needed to ready it for combat. Justifying the Air Force's confidence, more than 1,100 B-47s could handle the new thermonuclear bombs by the end of April 1956), after initial escape maneuver tests had convinced Strategic Air Command that the B-47 might be rugged enough for low level bombing, the command requested a further immediate check. There were many potential benefits. High speed B-47s, flying at low level, would be less vulnerable, more difficult for enemy radars to track and less likely to be intercepted by fighter aircraft, ground fire, or surface to air missiles. Increasingly sophisticated enemy defenses would be double tasked, facing both high and low level attacks. The Air Staff swiftly endorsed Strategic Air Command's request, but testing came to an abrupt halt after the loss of a low flying B-47 over Bermuda. Low level flight tests were not resumed until Boeing and the Air Research and Development Command assured Air Proving Ground Command that the B-47's structural integrity was not in doubt. In June a 6,000 pound dummy bomb was successfully released during a 2.6G pullup from level flight, and an 8,850 pound practice bomb was properly dropped from a 2.5G pullup in another flight. In both instances, release took place during the early portion of an Immelmann turn and the low altitude bombing system functioned respectably (Development of the low altitude bombing system dated back to 1952, and the low level bombing tactic was not new. Strategic Air Command's fighter bomber pilots had been trained to fly at low level and the command's F-84s had been modified for this purpose. But this did not really create a precedent. One could hardly compare the 200,000 pound (design loaded weight) B-47 with aircraft of the F-84 type. The B-47's thin wings covered a span of more than 116 feet. Empty, the B-47E weighed almost 80,000 pounds. In contrast, the F-84 had a wing span of about 36 feet and its empty weight was under 12,000 pounds). In December 1955, Strategic Air Command asked that 150 B-47s be modified by Boeing for low level flight. This was authorized in May 1956. At the time, however, the Air Staff reserved approval of the same modification for other B-47s, even though Strategic Air Command pointed out that AMC might do the work as part of the aircraft's IRAN program.

One year later, the Air Force made public its revolutionary strategic bombing tactic. Use of the B-47 for “toss bombing” was revealed at Eglin Air Force Base in May 1957, during aerial firepower demonstrations before a joint civilian orientation getup. [In a toss bombing attack, the plane entered the run at low altitude, pulled up sharply into a half loop with a half roll on top, and released the weapon at a predetermined point in the climb. The bomb continued upward in a high arc, falling on the target at a considerable distance from its point of release. Meanwhile, the maneuver allowed the airplane to reverse its direction and gave it more time to speed away from the target.]

The B-47's low level flying task entailed special training requirements. These had been anticipated by Strategic Air Command in Hairclipper, a training program begun in December 1955. Adverse weather, excessive maintenance requirements due to low level flying, and personnel losses to other training programs combined to hamper progress. Unexpected and serious LABS deficiencies in the low altitude bombing systems, as well as several accidents in December 1957, were the final blows. General Power, Strategic Air Command's Commander in Chief since 1 July 1957, officially discontinued Hairclipper on 5 March 1958. Yet, demise of the training program did not signify the end of low level flying. Pop-Up, a related training program that took advantage of concurrent advances in weapons developments, fared better (The Pop Up tactic also put much less stress on the B-47's flexible wings than low altitude toss bombing. In the Pop Up maneuver, the aircraft swept in at low level, pulled up to high altitude, released its weapon, then dove steeply to escape enemy radars). Interrupted in April 1958, when fatigue cracks in the wing structure of some B-47s led to severe flying restrictions, Pop-up resumed in September after the aircraft had been thoroughly checked. Going strong in 1959, this program had practically reached its training goal by year's end.

The discovery of fatigue cracks in the B-47's wings and a rash of new flying accidents in early 1958 triggered an immense inspection and repair program. Nicknamed Milk Bottle and started in May 1958, the program involved all 3 manufacturers, although AMC manpower and facilities carried the largest load. More likely to suffer fatigue because of extensive low level flying training, B-47s of the 306th and 22d Bomb Wings were the first to enter the Milk Bottle program receiving an interim fix in advance of the permanent repair being devised by Boeing. The interim fix called for a major inspection of suspect areas. After disassembly to reveal the affected structures, each bolt hole was reamed oversized. A boroscope and dye penetrant were used to locate possible cracks. If any were found, the holes were reamed again. The same kind of procedure was used on the milk bottle fittings. B-47s with no further problems were returned to service after receiving the interim fix, which generally required about 1,700 man hours per aircraft. Optimistically, as it turned out, Boeing estimated these planes would last about 400 hours before requiring further modifications. The so called “ultimate” or permanent Milk Bottle repairs were far more involved, leading to no less than 9 technical orders. Briefly stated, the repairs covered primarily the splice that joined outer and inner wing panels; the area where the lower wing skin met the fuselage and, finally, the milk bottle pin (for which the program was named) and surrounding forging located on the forward part of the fuselage, near the navigator's escape hatch. The entire endeavor proved time consuming as well as expensive—fund obligations reaching $15 million by mid year. But there were results. By the end of July, 1,230 B-47s had been through Milk Bottle, and 895 of them had already been returned to operational units. Considering its magnitude, Milk Bottle proceeded remarkably well, with most of the fleet modified by October. When the program ended in June 1959, only a few of the interim repaired aircraft still needed work, which could be done during the regular inspect and repair as necessary cycle. While Milk Bottle did not solve all problems, it put safety back into the workhorse B-47, an aircraft badly needed at the time.

The engineering fixes devised by Boeing for Milk Bottle showed that it was possible to identify the parts in an aircraft that were most likely to fail, but left many questions unanswered. No one could explain why primary structures in the B-47 were affected by maneuvers that the aircraft was designed to perform. General Power saw no use in turning to other aircraft unless Strategic Air Command was assured they would survive low level flying. General Power insisted that despite Boeing's evaluation of the B-47's structural life since 1956, not enough was known about aircraft service span. General LeMay agreed that weapon system producers had to give the Air Force more information on operation and its effect on metal fatigue. In addition, the Air Force and aircraft industry needed to combine their efforts. They had to expand existing programs to collect statistical maneuver loads data, to conduct cyclic testing, and to develop better instrumentation and analytical techniques (Wright Air Development Center was already considering the B-47's fatigue problem in May 1958 and was flight testing a Douglas B-66 light bomber to learn more about low altitude turbulence. Moreover, closely related projects were either in being or soon to start). The knowledge to be gained, General LeMay thought, together with judicious application of engineering skills and maintenance funds would prevent the early retirement of aircraft, an extremely expensive alternative (Some 15 years later, low flying B-52s continued to attest to the concept's value.). Yet, in any aircraft's life cycle, there was a point beyond which further repair became uneconomical. Perhaps, General LeMay noted, all that could be done to keep the aged B-47 combat ready was to correct anticipated problems.

Devising the Milk Bottle repairs was just a beginning. While the repairs were underway, Boeing had to develop a broad structural integrity program to determine the modification's impact on the B-47's service life. Moreover, any other potential problem areas had to be uncovered. The collapse of Boeing's cyclic test aircraft in August 1958 revealed for instance that the B-47's upper longerons, the beams running lengthwise along the fuselage, were susceptible to fatigue when the aircraft approached 2,000 hours of flying time (This led to further inspections, the identification of 11 B-47s with defective longerons, and the Air Material Command's eventual modification of all the aircrafts' support beams). Similar cyclic tests by Douglas and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) did not disclose any serious deficiency until December, when NASA ceased testing after a fracture appeared near one of the B-47's wing stations. Boeing tests continued until January 1959, without duplicating NASA's discovery. But when Douglas stopped in February, after almost 10,000 test hours, its B-47 had also developed a 20 inch crack. If the cyclic testing of the late fifties truly simulated flight conditions, NASA and Douglas's findings were relatively important, since Strategic Air Command's B-47s had never been individually tagged for 10,000 flying hours. In any event, there were gaps in other crucial research. The low altitude flying program, using oscillograph recorders to track the stresses and strains of lower levels on the B-47, was far from complete. Still a decision had to be made without delay, if only to justify the purchase of other aircraft. In mid 1959, the Air Force cautiously assigned the B-47 a life expectancy of 3,300 hours. Implied was the requirement for regular rigid inspections. In addition, the Wright Air Development Center admitted that this figure was based on technical consideration only. It could change, because service life did not reflect economic or operational factors.

Strategic Air Command initially wanted 1,000 B-47s modified for low-level flying. This meant fitting the aircraft with absolute altimeters, terrain clearance devices (The kind Strategic Air Command needed to fly low at night or during periods of reduced visibility did not even exist in 1956), and doppler radars, the type of new equipment that would require extensive testing and lots of money. In 1959, it became evident that the B-47 would survive the Milk Bottle crisis only to face other severe problems. Because of development testing slippages and the money saving phaseout of some B-47 wings, Strategic Air Command scaled down its low altitude requirements by half. The command did stress, however, the urgency of modifying the 500 B-47s now earmarked for low level flying. Strategic Air Command again pointed out that the aircraft lacked missile penetration aids and was marginally suited for high altitude strikes. Against improved enemy defenses, the B-47 would be obsolete in 1963 if not properly equipped for low level flight. The Air Staff did not question Strategic Air Command's justifications, but fund shortages dictated harsh decisions. Hence, in lieu of 500, only 350 B-47s would be modified for low level flying, and the aircraft would receive simpler and much less costly equipment than asked for by Strategic Air Command (The Air Force had canceled in late 1958 the B-47's use of the GAM 72 Quay, a short range decoy missile, mainly because of dollar limitations. Procurement of the GAM 67 Crossbow had already been dropped, and modification of the B-47 to protect it from infrared missiles was abandoned in mid 1959). Obviously, the end of the B-47 was in sight.

The B-58 Hustler

B-58 Hustler Supersonic (Mach 2) Bomber

The Convair B-58 Hustler was the first bomber to be both designed and produced on the West Coast. The aircraft was developed for the Strategic Air Command of the United States Air Force during the late 1950s as a high-speed, low altitude jet bomber capable of Mach 2 supersonic flight and was in service from 1960 to January 16, 1970. Only two wings had the B-58: the 43rd and the 305th. The 43rd was originally at Carswell Air Force Base and later expanded to Little Rock, whereas the 305th was only at Bunker Hill Air Force Base (which subsequently was renamed Grissom Air Force Base).

It received a great deal of negative publicity due to its sonic boom, which was often heard by the public when it passed overhead in supersonic flight, rattling windows and generating irate phone calls from hordes of inconvenienced housewives who presumably cared more about their favorite soap operas than they did about national security.

The B-58 had a delta wing with a leading-edge sweep of 60°. Although its large wing made for relatively low wing loading, it proved to be surprisingly well suited for low-altitude, high-speed flight. It seated three (pilot, bombardier/navigator, and defensive systems operator) in separated tandem cockpits, equipped with a novel ejection capsule that made it possible to eject at an altitude of 70,000 feet at speeds up to Mach 2 (1,320 mph), something impossible with standard ejection seats of the period.

The B-58 typically carried a single nuclear weapon in a streamlined MB-1C pod under the fuselage. From 1961 to 1963 it was retrofitted with two tandem stub pylons under each wing, inboard of the engine pod, for B43 or B61 nuclear weapons for a total of 5 nuclear weapons per airplane. A single M61 Vulcan cannon was mounted in a radar-directed tail turret for defense. Although the USAF explored the possibility of using the B-58 for the conventional strike role, it was never equipped for carrying or dropping conventional bombs in service. A photo-reconnaissance pod, the LA-331, was also fielded. Several other specialized pods for ECM or an early cruise missile were considered, but not adopted.

The B-58 crews were elite airmen who were carefully selected from other strategic bomber squadrons. Due to some unique aspects of flying a delta-winged aircraft, the pilots used F-102 Delta Daggers to transition to the Hustler. The aircraft was difficult to fly and its three-man crew was kept busy but the exceptional performance was well worth the extra effort. A lightly loaded Hustler could climb at nearly 46,000 ft/min—comparable to the best contemporary fighters—and it could cruise with a nuclear payload at 85,000 feet. Nevertheless, it had marginal weapons load and limited range compared to the B-52 Stratofortress. It had been extremely expensive to acquire (in 1959 it was reported that each of the production B-58As was worth more than its weight in gold). It was a complex aircraft that required considerable maintenance, much of which required specialized equipment, which made it three times as expensive to operate as the B-52. Also against it was an unfavorably high accident rate: 26 aircraft were lost in accidents, 22.4 percent of total production. SAC had been dubious about the type from the beginning, although its crews eventually became enthusiastic about the aircraft because its performance and design were appreciated, despite not being very easy to fly.

By the time the early problems had largely been resolved and Strategic Air Command interest in the bomber had solidified, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara decided that the B-58 was never going to be a viable weapon system. Its early retirement, slated for 1970, was ordered in 1965, and despite efforts of the US Air Force to earn a reprieve, proceeded on schedule. A total of 116 B-58s were produced: 30 trial aircraft and 86 production B-58A models. Most of the trial aircraft were later brought up to operational standard. Eight were equipped as TB-58A training aircraft.

A number of B-58s were used for special trials of various kinds, including one used for testing the radar system intended for the Lockheed YF-12 interceptor. Several improved (and usually enlarged) variants, dubbed B-58B and B-58C by the manufacturer, were proposed, but never built.

Crew: 3: pilot; observer (navigator, radar operator, bombardier); defense system operator (DSO; electronic countermeasures operator and pilot assistant).

Length: 96 ft 9 in (29.5 m)

Wingspan: 56 ft 9 in (17.3 m)

Height: 29 ft 11 in (8.9 m)

Wing area: 1,542 ft² (143.3 m²)

Airfoil: NACA 0003.46-64.069 root, NACA 0004.08-63 tip

Empty weight: 55,560 lb (25,200 kg)

Loaded weight: 67,871 lb (30,786 kg)

Max takeoff weight: 176,890 lb (80,240 kg)

Powerplant: 4× General Electric J79-GE-5A turbojets, 15,600 lbf (69.3 kN) each

Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0068

Drag area: 10.49 ft² (0.97 m²)

Aspect ratio: 2.09

Maximum speed: Mach 2.1 (1,600 mph, 2,600 km/h) at 40,000 ft (12,000 m)

Cruise speed: 610 mph (530 knots, 985 km/h)

Combat radius: 1,740 mi (1,510 nm, 3,220 km)

Ferry range: 4,720 mi (4,100 nm, 7,590 km)

Service ceiling: 63,400 ft (19,300 m)

Rate of climb: 2,700 ft/min (13.7 m/s)

Wing loading: 44.01 lb/ft² (214.9 kg/m²)

Thrust/weight: 0.919

Lift-to-drag ratio: 11.3 (without weapons/fuel pod)

Guns: 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) T171 cannon

Bombs: 4× B-43 or B61 nuclear bombs; maximum weapons load was 19,450 lb (8,823 kg)

The F-86 Sabrejet

The F-86, the US Air Force's first swept-wing jet fighter, made its initial flight on October 1, 1947. Originally designed as a high-altitude day fighter, it was subsequently redesigned into an all-weather interceptor (F-86D) and a fighter bomber (F-86H). Armed with six 50 caliber machine guns, the Sabre jet pilot had to be in visual contact with the enemy in order to attempt a shoot-down, thereby making it the last true 'dogfighter' in the Air Force inventory. Before production ended, nearly 10 000 Sabres had been produced in 20 different variants (including the Navy FJ series known as the Fury), with five different engines. Some of these variants had major design differences; consequently, the F-86 must be considered as a whole family of related aircraft.

During its long service life, the F-86 formed a part of the air forces of 24 different countries. As late as 1980, eight Developing nations still included a number of F-86 fighters in their inventories. Production lines were established in four foreign countries, with the last aircraft coming from the Japanese line in 1961. The Sabre saw extensive service with the USAF during the Korean war, in which it achieved an outstanding exchange ratio of nearly 14 to I in combat with the Soviet-built MiG-15. Surely the F-86 must be ranked, along with its illustrious World War 11 ancestor the P-51 Mustang, as one of the great fighter aircraft of all time.

The F-86 Sabre was originally designed for the US Navy in 1945 as a straight-winged jet fighter, and was derived from the XJ Fury. North American Aviation, already famous for its P-51 Mustang and B-25 Billy Mitchell bomber, was put under contract by the US Army Air Force to produce a new jet fighter. Utilizing information captured from the Germans, innovative technologies were employed in transforming the straight-winged XFJ-1 into the swept-wing F-86 Sabrejet that would dominate the skies over Korea in the 1950s.

The Sabrejet represented many innovations in technology and design. Swept-wing configuration has become a standard for jet-powered aircraft. The then revolutionary but now commonplace 'flying tail' allowed the aircraft excellent maneuverability at high altitudes. In addition, the Sabrejet employs a hydraulic system for the movement of the flight controls, eliminating the excessive control stick forces necessary to maneuver other types of airplanes at high speeds.

Identifying features of the F-86 are the graceful sweptback wing and the nose inlet located in the fuselage. The 4.78-aspect-ratio wing of 35 degree sweepback was derived from captured German data for the advanced Messerschmitt fighter under design study at the time hostilities ended. Streamwise airfoil-section thickness ratios varied from 9.5 percent at the root to 8.5 percent at the tip.

Pitch-up was prevented on many versions of the aircraft by full-span leading-edge slats. As on the Messerschmitt Me 262, deployment of the slats was automatically initiated at the correct angle of attack by aerodynamic loads acting at the leading edge of the wings. On some versions of the aircraft, the slats were replaced by a sharp, extended-chord, cambered leading edge. Single-slotted high-lift flaps and outboard ailerons were incorporated in the trailing-edge portions of the wing. The ailerons were hydraulically actuated, as were the horizontal-tail surfaces, which, on the F-86E, consisted of a movable stabilizer with linked elevator. Some versions of the F-86 had an all-moving, slab-type horizontal tail with no elevator. Greater control effectiveness is possible at high-subsonic and supersonic Mach numbers with the all-moving horizontal tail, and this arrangement was to become standard on future transonic/supersonic fighters. The hydraulically actuated controls of the F-86E were of the fully powered, irreversible type with artificial control feel provided for the pilot. Fully powered, irreversible controls aid in eliminating such instabilities as aileron and rudder buzz, in addition to permitting maximum deflection of the control surfaces without requiring excess physical effort on the part of the pilot. These controls differ from the hydraulically boosted [294] controls used on some early versions of the F-86, as well as on other aircraft. In a boosted control system, the pilot is still directly linked to the aerodynamic control surfaces, but his strength is augmented by a hydraulic booster. Dive brakes were mounted on either side of the fuselage behind the wing.

Another identifying feature of many versions of the F-86 was the fuselage nose-inlet installation. Inlet air was ducted under the cockpit and delivered to the turbojet engine located behind the pilot; the exhaust nozzle was at the rear end of the fuselage. To minimize the depth of the fuselage in the cockpit area, the shape of the duct leading from the inlet to the engine was changed from a circular to an elliptical shape with the long axis being in the horizontal plane. In the all-weather interceptor versions of the aircraft, notably the F-86D, K, and L models, the distinctive nose inlet was replaced by a chin installation to provide space in the nose for the necessary radar gear. In contrast to other F-86 variants, the all-weather interceptor models were equipped with afterburning engines to provide the high rates of climb and high-altitude capability necessary to execute interception missions.

Armament of the fighter versions of the aircraft consisted of 3 .50caliber machine guns buried in each side of the fuselage near the nose and provisions for carrying 2 1000-pound bombs or 16 5-inch rockets on the wings. Interceptor versions of the aircraft carried 24 2.75-inch rockets mounted on a retractable tray contained in the bottom of the fuselage. The tray extended only long enough to launch the rockets. Environmental control in the cockpit consisted of air-conditioning, heating, and pressurization; in addition, the pilot was equipped with an ejection seat. The thrust-to-weight ratio of the F-86E was about the same as that of the P-59A. Yet, as compared with the earlier aircraft, the Sabre showed a speed advantage of nearly 300 miles per hour at sea level. A smaller wing area, wing sweepback, and thinner airfoil sections, together with careful attention to aerodynamic design, were responsible for the large increment in maximum speed between the two types. Also, improved engine performance, not reflected in the values of static thrust given in the table, no doubt played a role in the superior performance of the F-86. Drag area was a little greater for the F-86 than for the P-80 by an amount that corresponds closely to the difference in wing area of the two aircraft. As would be expected, the zero-lift drag coefficients were about the same for both aircraft. Comparison of values of the maximum lift-drag ratio shows the P-80 to have had the advantage by about 17 percent; this difference is primarily due to the lower wing aspect ratio of the F-86. Although the Sabrejet was strictly a subsonic aircraft, low-supersonic speeds could be achieved in a shallow dive. Flight through Mach 1.0 first took place on April 26, 1948. The Sabrejet was delivered to the Air Force in 1948. The first production model flew on May 20, 1948, and on September 15, 1948, an F-86A set a new world speed record of 670.9 mph. Originally designated as the F-86A, the Sabre would undergo a number of changes resulting in a variety of model designations.

Known for its combat role in the Korean conflict, this aircraft was single-handedly responsible for turning the tide of the air war in favor of the United States. As a day fighter, the airplane saw service in Korea in three successive series (F-86A, E, and F) where it engaged the Russian built MiG-15. The F-86 Sabre was introduced in November 1950 and rushed to Korea to challenge the tactical edge of the MiG-15. The MiG's pilots were very good, being (for the most part) veteran Russian fliers. But the USF soon had a counter to the MiG-15—the superb F-86A (and later, F-86E/F) Sabre. Many of the Sabre pilots were veterans of World War II and their expertise showed. Soon the Sabres and MiGs were mixing it up over northwest Korea, an area that became known as “MiG Alley.” On December 17, 1950, Lt. Col. Bruce Hinton was the first Sabre pilot to score the first of an estimated 818 MiG-15 kills.

A General Electric J47-27 engine powered the F-86F; producing 6,000 pounds of thrust the aircraft can achieve a speed of 695 mph and can exceed the speed of sound in a shallow dive. It is capable of climb rates up to 10,000 feet per minute and can fly as high as 50,000 feet. The -F was used both as an air superiority fighter and fighter-bomber during the latter stages of the war; replacing the F-80 and F-51 aircraft still being used in the Korean combat in 1952.

While the war turned into a stalemate on the ground, MiG Alley remained a hot spot throughout the war. For a time the B-29s continued bombing targets in northwest Korea by day, but when MiG-15s shot down five Superfortresses in a week in October 1951, the big bombers began attacking only at night. Day after day, though, the Sabres (joined by F-84 Thunderjets or F-80s) swept into MiG Alley to meet the MiG-15s rising from their fields in Manchuria. Although the U.S. government directed that these fields were “off limits” to the FEAF aircraft, some of these planes occasionally strayed across the border in “hot pursuit” of enemy aircraft.

By the end of hostilities, the F-86 had shot down 792 MiGs at a loss of only 76 Sabres, a victory ratio of 10 to 1. In the hands of skillful pilots, the Sabre‘s 10-1 Kill ratio over the MiG-15 was the best achieved in any sustained fighter campaign. Of the 40 pilots to earn the designation of ‘ace’ (five or more kills) during the Korean war, all but one flew the F-86 Sabrejet. By July of 1953, no fighter aircraft in the world could take on the Sabrejet without being at a disadvantage. It is no wonder the F-86 Sabrejet is widely acknowledged along with the P-51 Mustang and the F-4 Phantom- as one of the three great fighter aircraft in US history.

Over 9,800 F-86s were manufactured during the years of 1947 through 1957, making it the most prolific jet fighter ever produced. More than 5,500 Sabre day fighters were built in the U. S. and Canada. The airplane was also used in the air forces of twenty other nations, including West Germany, Japan, Spain, Britain, and Australia.

Warner Robins Air Logistics Center (WR-ALC) had logistics management responsibility for the guns, communications, fire control and bombing-navigational equipment installed on F-86 aircraft. From 1953 to 1958, under Project High Flight, more than 500 F-86s were processed through the WR-ALC maintenance shops to prepare them for ferrying across the Atlantic to U. S. Air Forces in Europe and our NATO allies.

The Sabrejet was continuously improved throughout its 10-year production run. Each model performed better than the last. There were two major variations of the craft. The F-86C was renamed “YF-93” and was intended to be a “penetration fighter”. However, it eventually came to a dead end. The second variation was known as the F-95 until July 1950, when it was renamed the F-86D. It was labeled an “all weather interceptor.” Some experts are of the opinion the “D” was so different from the basic model it should have retained its F-95 designation. For one thing the J47-GE-17 engine was equipped with an afterburner which delivered a total of 7,500 pounds thrust for take-off, giving the “D” an initial climb rate of 12,150 feet per minute. The nose was shaped like a shark snout with an open mouth for an air intake. Above the mouth and projecting forward was the shark’s nose, which housed a radar antenna for the Hughes E-4 automatic fire control system. More than anything, the F-86D resembled a shark right down to the fins, and should have been named so. But the Air Force Brass was reluctant to pick a name with such a nautical connotation. The F-86D was the first USAF night fighter to carry only one airman and have only one engine. The fire control system was so automatic, a second airman was considered unnecessary. A pod containing twenty-four 2.75 “Mighty Mouse” air-to-air rockets was located in the belly. The pod was lowered into the airstream in order to fire the rockets, then quickly retracted so as not to affect the speed or handling characteristics any more than necessary. The pilot had to take great care to insure each rocket had cleared its tube when fired. If a rocket was hanging halfway out the tube and the pod were retracted, the rocket would explode. If the pilot wasn’t absolutely sure of the position of the rocket, he landed the Sabrejet with the pod extended.

The F-95A was an early designation for the F-86D. The prototype aircraft (S/N 50-577 & 50-578) were originally designated YF-86D, changed to YF-95A and finally redesignated YF-86D. Similarly, the production aircraft were designated F-95A, but changed to F-86D before production began.

F-86A, the F-86B and C were cancelled. In terms of time, a few F-86Ds came out of production between the F-86Es and F-86Fs. In actuality, the F-86D was virtually a new machine, retaining only the wing common to other F-86s. Its concept was unprecedented-an all-weather interceptor in which the second crew member (standard in all aircraft of this category) was supplanted by highly sophisticated electronic systems. The F-86D was also the first single-seat fighter in which the classic gun armament gave way to missiles.

Air intake repositioned under nose, which enclosed radar scanner; stronger wing (the wing slats of earlier F-86s were retained) and enlarged vertical tail surfaces to compensate for the additional fuselage area. Vortex generators (small tabs) fitted around the fuselage and tail-plane to ruffle the air flow around these areas and prevent air on the airframe surface from separating and causing drag. Hughes Aircraft Company's interception radar and associated fire-control system. These electronic devices could compute an air target‘s position, guide the fighter on to a beam attack converting to a collision course, lower a retractable tray of 24 rockets (2.75-inch Mighty Mouse, each with the power of a 75mm shell) and within 500 yards of the targets fire these automatically in salvos. More than half of the F-86Ds were powered by either the J47-GE-17 turbojet or by the -17B. Later productions received the higher-thrust J47-GE-33. All had afterburners. Engine control was an added feature of every F-86D. An electronic device to control fuel flow, it relieved the lone pilot of another responsibility.

Slippage of the F-89 program which prompted the decision to procure the F-94 also led to conversion of the F86 to interceptor configuration. Other proposals were considered, but selection of the F-86 as the basic airframe for elaboration was almost automatic. It was the best of the current jet fighters. Moreover, it would require little structural modification to accommodate the necessary nose radar and afterburner. Doubts of a single-seat interceptor's feasibility caused a slight delay, but production availability and tooling clinched the January selection. The F-95, as the one-man interceptor was then designated, went on the drawing boards in March 1949 at about the same time the F-86A entered operational service. In May North American began to modify two F-86A aircraft in line with the tentative interceptor specifications drawn during the intervening months.

The Secretary of the Air Force formally endorsed the Board of Senior Officers' recommendations 3 weeks after the Hughes Aircraft Company had been issued a contract for developing the new interceptor's fire-control system. The Secretary's approval was accompanied by the authorization to spend $7million for conversion of the F-86 to the interceptor configuration.

An engineering inspection of the experimental aircraft in August 1949 and the ensuing flight of September favorably impressed the Air Force. In the latter month, $79 million were made available for the purchase of 124 aircraft. The new interceptor, designated as the F-95 during the early stage of development, reverted to the F86D designation soon afterwards.

This order covered two prototypes and 122 production articles. Two months later, concurrent with the December decision that Soviet possession of the atomic bomb dictated prompt creation of a modern interceptor force, the F-86D was chosen to be the backbone of that force until the advanced “1954 Interceptor” became available. Another procurement order for 31 F-86Ds was issued in June 1950.

The YF-86D was powered by a J47-GE-17 turbojet. Its afterburner boosted its 5,000-1b static thrust to 6,650 pounds. The second prototype, fitted with a similar engine, was completed in March 1950.

North American used the second YF-86D to test a prototype of the Hughes 50-kw E-3 fire-control system (developed in advance of the more sophisticated 250-kw E-4). In October 1950, after numerous engineering changes, the E-3-equipped YF-86D moved to Hughes for further testing. The number and extent of the changes that ensued delayed until July 1951 delivery of the E-3 productions that eventually equipped some 35 F-86Ds. Meanwhile, fabrication of the E-4 prototype proceeded. When completed in November 1950, however, no F-86Ds were available to flight test it and a B25 had to be used. E-4 production systems reached North American in December 1951, after a 3-month delay. Still, the new E-4s did not properly perform. In addition, deficiencies in components shared by both the E-3 and E-4 fire-control systems continued uncorrected. The Air Force earmarked for testing the first F86D deliveries because the F-86D had been committed to production before receipt (or even development) of its fire-control system and of the first electronic engine fuel control. Too, the Air Force could expect a number of problems simply due to the aircraft's overall complexity. Nonetheless, there was still hope in mid-1951 that the F-86D would reach the operational units by the spring of 1952.

In March 1951, 341 F-86Ds were on order. Two months later this total jumped to 979 aircraft. The growth to 2,500 planes by January 1953 underlined the F-86D program's urgency and scope. Yet, by that time, the Air Force had accepted less than 90 F-86Ds.

Delay of the F-86D program stemmed from two principal problems. First, the E4 fire-control system had deficiencies not detected until service tests were run, and the development period was unusually long (in 1952 alone, Hughes had to make 150 changes to the system). Second, the General Electric J47-GE-17 turbojet engine-chiefly its electronic fuel control system was far from ready. By early 1952, GE had fallen 18 months behind in engine deliveries and the J47-GE-17 did not pass its 150-hour qualification test until the latter part of 1952. Meanwhile, after an initial production slippage, airframes had begun piling up around the North American plant for lack of engines.

The Air Force received more F-86Ds in March 1952. Although no longer considered test aircraft, they (and a few more—delivered during the summer) did not fully satisfy the Air Force requirements. They lacked the Lear F-5 autopilot and the E-4 fire-control system. The former had failed its qualifying environment tests and the latter was not reliable enough for inclusion in production aircraft until August 1952. The Air Force allocated these early F86Ds to the Air Training Command.

The F-86 was nearly two years behind schedule and six months past the revised date of November 1952. However, several ADC squadrons were quickly equipped and later buildup was rapid. The Air Defense Command had 600 F-86Ds by the end of 1953. In June 1955, 1,026 (or 73 percent) of the command's 1,405 tactical aircraft were F86Ds-the remainder were F-94Cs and F-89Ds.

These F-86’s had more than their share of operational problems. In 1953-1954, engine malfunctions dogged the F-86Ds almost as soon as they became operational. When engine fires and explosions destroyed 1.3 aircraft, the entire F-86D fleet was grounded in December 1953. Most of the aircraft were back flying by the end of February 1954, after hastily formed teams of North American and General Electric technicians corrected the faulty fuel system. This was merely a stop-gap measure, however. Soon afterward, 19 more accidents occurred in 1 month, this time because of poor maintenance of the complex weapon system (a situation which had been predicted in early service tests of the F-86Dsingle-man concept). Meanwhile, despite other deficiencies, production rates increased significantly.

The Air Force knew the F-86D needed improvement. Back in January 1953, 40 mandatory engineering fixes had been identified along with required changes to bring the aircraft to peak capability. Nevertheless, the F-86D was still a better interceptor than the other two in service and its immediate availability was crucial. The Air Force deemed the F-86D “almost as important as the B47” and the rash of operational troubles in 1953 only hastened the aircraft improvement. Project Pullout would embody in all F-86Ds the fixes accumulated piecemeal thus far, as well as the more important modifications previously intended for the future.

Cold War pressure forced the Air Force to ship 52 F-86Ds to the Far East Air Force in the fall of 1953. These aircraft were known to be deficient. Of those sent to Korea (where only short landing strips were available), few ever flew. The contingent soon returned to the United States and went through the pullout modifications as part of FEAF's retrofit program. FEAF received in exchange modified or new P-86D productions. In 1959, 6 years after the first F-86D oversea deployment, two squadrons of F-86D interceptors (the 431st and 437th FIS), recently placed under the Strategic Air Command's control, stood on alert at Torrejon and Zaragoza Air Bases in Spain.

The pullout modifications, started in March 1954, were completed at a cost of some $100 million after a purposeful year-and-a-half schedule. It was important that the 1,128 aircraft involved (plus 53 spare aft fuselages) be modified as rapidly as possible. Still the Air Force could not chance endangering the nation's air defenses by pulling too many F-86Ds out of service at once. Each aircraft underwent close to 300 modifications, some involving major changes. These included: correction of the autopilot and fire control systems (accomplished by Lear and Hughes, respectively); installation of a radar tape system to record radar-scope data during flight; modification of the stabilizer control system; installation of a 16 foot, ring-slot type drag chute in the aircraft tail (expected to reduce landing roll as much as 40 percent); and replacement of the J47-GE-17 engine by the much improved -17B (predecessor of the J47-GE-33 which powered the last 987 F-86D productions). The Sacramento Air Materiel Area (SMAMA) at McClellan AFB, Calif., was charged with the entire pullout program. A large part of the work, however, was done under contract by the North American plants at Inglewood and at Fresno, Calif. Upon completion, the Air Force had a modern, all-weather interceptor, but problems still loomed ahead.

An F-86D squadron operational suitability test (OST), Project Lock-On, was conducted at George AFB, Calif., during February 1954-1 month before the beginning of Pullout. As anticipated Lock-On concluded that an ADC F-86D squadron could not perform its assigned mission until elimination of the aircraft malfunctions by the .forthcoming Pullout modifications. The Lock-On findings also confirmed ineffectiveness of the F-86D squadron's air-ground control team and known requirements for additional ground-support equipment, better maintenance personnel, and increased pilot training. Other tests disclosed that the F-86D‘s 2.75-inch folding-fin serial rockets were marginal in accuracy and effectiveness. Use of the Falcon missile (given up in 1952) was reconsidered, but again discarded because it would require refit ting the aircraft with the E--9 fire-control system. In early 1955 the Air Force also decided not to arm the F-436D with Ding Dong rockets, since the Air Defense Command's two-missile load requirement would drastically reduce the aircraft's radius of action.

The new J47-GE-33 fitted in the last 987 F-86Ds was much more powerful than the -17 engine of the earlier productions. The -33's static thrust with afterburner reached 7,650 pounds, a 1,000-1b increase over the -17, under similar conditions. The -33 had better cooling and afterburner ignition. It also featured several detail changes which eliminated the flaws that had led to replacement of the original -17 by the improved -17B. Yet, 65 of 209 accidents in the 15 months preceding mid-1956 were attributed to the aircraft‘s -17B or -33 engine. Of these 65 accidents, 22 were caused by engine fuel control malfunctions; 17 by defective engine parts, and the remaining. 26 (most occurring in early 1955) by turbine wheel failures in-the -17B power plants. The Air Force thought of retrofitting all -17B engines (as well as the -17 which still powered several F-86Ds) with a redesigned “locking strip” model. This project's $20 million price tag shaped the ultimate decision of installing the redesigned turbine wheels only upon attrition. Insistence on accurate records of turbine wheel use would assure adequate protection.

In addition to engine problems and despite the remarkable overall achievement of Pullout, the F-86D needed further improvement. Its E-4 fire-control system remained unreliable and difficult to maintain. Various engineering changes could still be made to increase reliability, ease maintenance and, perhaps, raise the F86D's kill capability. However, the gain would not justify the cost. The Air Force, therefore, reconsidered providing the aircraft with additional armament. Two F-86Ds were prototyped, one with GAR,-1B Falcons, the other with infrared homing Sidewinder missiles. Budgetary limitations, nevertheless, ended the two projects in September 1957. The Air Force concurrently altered several plans. It decided to phase out the F-86D as soon as possible and its converted version, the F-86L, tentatively by mid-1960.

The F-86D was phased out of the Air Defense Command in April 1958. By mid-1959 two ANG squadrons (the 122 and 182 FIS) were fully equipped. However, the Guard's F-S6Ds were also quickly supplanted by F-86Ls (converted F-86Ds). By June 1961 the F86D no longer appeared on either the USAF or ANG rolls. Yet, the interceptor's operational life was not over. Of 300 F-86Ds reaching MAP countries, Japan received 106.

F-86L Instrument Panel and Cockpit

The F-86L, converted from the F-86D had many new features including, electronic equipment (AN/ARR-39 Data Link receiver, AN/ARG 34 command radio, AN/APX 2b identification radar, and new glide slope receiver) that permitted the aircraft to operate in conjunction with the SAGE ground environment and with the GPA-37, electronic heart of an advanced system of ground control interception which immediately preceded SAGE. Also, slat-equipped, extended-wing leading edges (similar to those of the F-,86F and F86H), which brought the aircraft's empty weight to 13,822 pounds (a 1,352-1b increase), but improved maneuverability at high altitudes.

Conversion of the F-86D to the F-86L was more a matter of modification than development, but delays arose. In January 1955 deficiencies were noted in the control surface tie-in (CSTI) equipment, the signal data recorder (NADAR) slipped, a coupler for the data link (AN/ARRr39) was needed, and modification of the E-4 fire-control system to accept inputs from the coupler remained to be done. Despite such uncertainties, the Air Force hoped to have a completed electronic prototype by December 1955.

The Air Force conducted a development engineering inspection of the F-86D cockpit mockup readied for the new electronic configuration. The inspection, held at the North American Fresno plant on 1 May 1955, was a success. The Air Force found the new cockpit satisfactory and only minor changes were forecast. The ensuing lack of installation data, lack of flight test data, and nonavailability of the equipment to be installed, torpedoed North American's optimism that the electronic modification - program might well start earlier than planned.

In the fall of 1955 when the modification program was officially announced, the Air Force intended to modify 1,240 ADC F-86D aircraft, but the number actually converted amounted to about half that number. Conversion of the F86D to the L configuration was accomplished by the Sacramento Air Materiel Area and North American's Inglewood and Fresno plants. Known as Project Follow-On, the modification program did not begin until May 1956. Once started, however, the Follow-On outputs accelerated rapidly.

The first to receive the new aircraft was the 49th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Hanscom Field, Mass. By the end of 1957, only 18 months after the beginning of Follow-On, ADC had received 576 F-86L aircraft. The F-86L, being a converted F-BFD, carried that aircraft's price tag of $343,839.00. This amount did not reflect the significant cost of the Follow On modifications.

With the advent of more modern interceptors of the F-101B and F-106 types, the need for the F-86L declined. Two ANG squadrons (the 111th and 159th) already had flown the F-86L by mid-1959, and by the end of that year the ADC inventory of F-86Ls was down to 133. The last F-86L left the Air Defense Command in June 1960, but the interceptor remained a valuable Guard asset until mid-1965.

So, when we boil down the information we have about these two aircraft, what’s left? As good as they were—the best of their day—they had built-in flaws. It was these flaws (not pilot error, as some have alleged) which led to the mid-air collision over Savannah and left Colonel Richardson with no other option other than to jettison the hydrogen bomb.


Once a Soldier, Always a Soldier

No doubt a few of you are wondering what is this geezer’s problem; he’s retired, isn’t he? Why doesn’t he leave well enough alone?

It doesn’t work that way. Once a soldier, always a soldier. In the military profession, responsibilities do not end with retirement. My oath of allegiance still applies. Were I—God forbid—to disgrace my country, I would very likely be stripped of my pension and benefits. And, should the need arise (something like Pearl Harbor), I could be back in uniform. The contributions to America by retired military personnel have been enormous. General Dwight D. Eisenhower served as President. Most recently, General Colin Powell served as Secretary of State. Besides, I’m not ready to be put out to pasture.

* * *

No, we didn’t find the Savannah loose nuke—not yet, anyway. But it certainly wasn’t from lack of trying. When we came up empty-handed in the 2004 expedition with DTRA, everyone was disappointed, including the U.S. Air Force. On a personal, superficial level, there were probably individuals who were glad to see a rogue Colonel who had the unmitigated gall to challenge the experts come up short, but deep down inside I think everyone involved wanted to dispose of the nuke and thereby bring closure to the Cold War. That it didn’t happen; that Evil incarnate would be alive and ticking at the bottom of Wassaw Sound after 50 years of fruitless searching is disturbing to say the least. For the sake of our children and our children’s children, we need to find #47782 and its kindred loose nukes before its too late. The nuclear genie is out of the bottle. We either put an end to them or they will put an end to us.

What people don’t seem to understand is that these Doomsday Devices won’t go away by themselves. With radioactive half lives measured in hundreds of thousands of years, their species just might outlive ours. It is conceivable that a nuke could rest on the continental shelf for hundreds of years before leaking (or, worse yet, detonating). High explosives tend to sweat nitroglycerine—they become more dangerous with each passing year. All it would take to set the shaped charges off in unison and implode the plutonium core is the tiniest pulse from the thermal battery.

When it comes to nuclear weapons, what we have for the Cold War era is a policy of not telling the public the truth. Our leaders thought it was best to keep us in the dark. So whenever something went wrong, such as happened at Tybee, their first instinct was to downplay the danger. They couldn’t find the bomb, therefore they had to say that it did not need to be found. That is important. It covers the current people from wrongdoing. That is their story and they are sticking to it.

Upon rereading the manuscript version of this book for the umpteenth time, I was struck by how neat and orderly I made it appear. The events proceeded in logical progression, Point A led in a straight line to Point B, much like the flight plans that commercial pilots file with the FAA. Nothing of this sort occurred. We were constantly being blown off course by unforeseen impediments such as Hurricane Jeanne and the War on Terrorism or being distracted by short-circuited psychics, opportunistic bunko artists, and would-be Steven Spielbergs looking to cash in on loose nukes. I even took some heat for having dared to suggest that the Air Force should pay me for my time. Pundits with six figure salaries berated me for having made money an issue. But the truth of the matter is that I could not possibly come up with the $945,290 it would take to properly outfit a 90 day expedition to search for the lost Savannah nuke.

Where to go from here? You may recall that Earl’s magic box made it possible to narrow the 2004 search. It turned out that Earl wasn’t the only one working on this type of device. I received several proposals for assistance from reputable inventors who were at various stages in the development of a portable instrument that could prospect for anything and everything.

Scientists have determined that the universe is composed of 92 natural elements (plus a small number of manmade elements such as plutonium). Astronomers and astrophysicists have wavelength spectrometers that can analyze the makeup of objects that are light years away. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that we are not that far from being able to set a dial on a portable unit that would “dowse” (passive detection as opposed to projecting a beam) for minerals. In fact, that is precisely what these magic boxes do. The good part is that the higher energy elements are the easiest to determine. Because the spark plug and capsule of #47782 are composed of plutonium, they would stand out like a sore thumb if they weren’t shielded by 15 feet of seawater and 20 feet of sand.

One proposal that looked particularly promising had come from a former oil company engineer, a serious-minded World War II veteran who subsequently talked me into signing a non-disclosure agreement. As is often the case with cutting edge technology, the device and its inventor are top secret. All I can say is that I’ve seen it work. In fact, we tested for plutonium and came up positive. And, just to make certain, I used it to detect some hidden explosives.

As for me and the ASSURE team, we are aging about as gracefully as a Mark 15 nuke. At times, I am sorely tempted to drag a grappling hook along the bottom like Art Arseneault did in the original 1958 search. But snagging the Savannah loose nuke would be the last thing I did. They would slap me in jail and impound my boat for needlessly endangering the public. Consequently, there will be no grab for glory. The day when pilots lived “in fame or went down in flames” is gone forever. We will find #47782 and we will do it by the book. The chase doesn’t always go to the fleet of foot. By careful preparation and repeated calculations we are determined to rid the planet of abandoned nukes. God willing, WE WILL GET RID OF THEM BEFORE THEY GET RID OF US. There is no other way. We have no other choice. Want to do your part? Contact me, Colonel Derek Duke, online at, and I’ll put you to work getting out the word.

The late comedian George Burns commented: “You can’t help getting older but you don’t have to get old.” I can readily assure you that there is no danger that I will slow in my pursuit of loose nukes; I could no more do that than I could lose my lust for life. That the elusive Savannah nuke survived our last encounter does not mean that it has attained some kind of victory. This Doomsday Device’s inevitable demise has simply undergone a delay which will be remedied in due course. Although other WMD issues—such as port security—demand our immediate attention, we are very much aware that the bomb is still there. Its methods—fear and intimidation—are not ours. And that, no doubt, will be its undoing. Nuclear insanity is incompatible with our children’s tomorrows. We cannot and will not permit it to happen.


My heartfelt thanks to Mr. Don Ernst, Tybee Island, Georgia—owner of for his technical support, his personal contribution in time and equipment to the hunt, and being there for me when I needed him. Don got the ball rolling and I, the ASSURE team, and Chasing Loose Nukes took it from there.

Nor would this book have been possible without the help of many munificent media people whose professional approach to coverage of this news item connected people and information with this story. It truly became a “connect the dots” exercise. In particular I wish to thank:


Being a military man of few words, it is difficult for me to express how very grateful I am to all the private citizens who stepped forward with assistance. In particular, I wish to thank Mr. Chester Williams who as a young US Navy Lieutenant was one of the first on the scene to witness the devastation caused by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, an event which affected him so greatly that decades later he can recall it as if it happened yesterday.

Having spent hours on the phone interviewing the main players of the first two decades of the Savannah loose nuke’s 50 year saga—Colonel Howard Richardson, Bob Lagerstrom, Clarence Stewart, Howard Dixon, and W. J. Howard—I can’t thank them enough for their kind consideration. They are America’s best—fine gentlemen, fine citizens—outstanding individuals whose courage, integrity and honor set the standards for today’s military. I especially appreciate the photographs and documents they sent me, and that they put up with me when I asked them to revisit stressful—often traumatic—events and incidents from the past. Without the benefit of their oral and written statements, I would have been as lost as the Savannah nuke. They let me know where to start. If I don’t locate and recover the menace, it’s my fault, not theirs.

I would be remiss if I failed to thank all those within the government, citizens really, who helped me research, gather information, and assess its impact upon Georgia today. And I only wish that I had some means to adequately repay all the caring people within our government who extended a welcome helping hand on what the Air Force maintained was an old, better forgotten, issue. In particular:

The Savannah Office, US Corps of Engineers
The US Coast Guard, Savannah, Georgia
The Savannah, Chatham County Department of Emergency Management
The US Air Force
The US Navy
The US Army
The National Weather Service
The State of Georgia, DNR
The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography
The Tybee Island Museum, Tybee Island, Georgia
The 8th Air Force Museum, Savannah, Georgia

If I have left anyone out, I apologize profusely. There have been so many selfless, and often anonymous, individual contributors to the search for loose nukes that I could not possibly mention them all within the confines of this book.

There was a time when the Air Force could cite security reasons for not telling the public the truth about the lost nukes. That time has has long passed. The public has the right to decide what we should do about these weapons. I'm not an alarmist and I don't want to get people unnecessarily upset. However, I urge you to pass this book on to a friend when you finish reading it so that they too can learn a little more about what is going on concerning the real and present danger from Weapons of Mass Destruction than some people in the government would like them to know. You do that and maybe, just maybe, we can make this planet a better, safer place to live.

Appendix Alpha a

A.S.S.U.R.E.          A.S.S.U.R.E.

The Proposal below was presented to the USAF as a cost effective Solution utilizing a highly qualified “Top Secret Security Clearance” cleared group. The proposal was prepared by the very best professional firm specializing in such proposals. It is an intensely serious offer. Prior to this publication it has been a restricted document.

9 August 2000


This proposal is being submitted as an offer to the U.S. Government for specific scientific and technical research services for a non-intrusive site investigation to locate specific ordnance lost by the U.S. Air Force off the coast of Savannah following a mid air collision in 1958. The specific ordnance being sought is a Mark 15 Thermonuclear device.

The purpose of this investigation is to research all known information related to the incident, identify the most probable jettison area and area of impact for the search, and conduct an extensive passive non-intrusive search of the area using current state of the art technology for locating buried and/or underwater objects. The search is intended to identify potential targets in the area through passive detection and remote sensing, verify targets found by physical non-intrusive inspection, and precisely and clearly locate the target device or determine the device does not exist within the search area.

1. Offeror’s Name and Address:

This proposal is being submitted by:

American Sea Shore Underwater Recovery Expedition, Inc. (ASSURE)

A Georgia Corporation


Derek L. Duke, President (nominee)

[address and phone number deleted for purposes of publication]

2. Type of Organization:

This corporation was formed for the express purpose of providing the investigation services noted above. Derek Duke is one of the principals and President (nominee) of ASSURE. As such, he has assembled the scientific investigative team and the physical plant to perform the services described above. The qualifications of each team member are described in attachment A. The proposed physical plant, the primary search vessel, is described in attachment B. ASSURE has contracted for the services of this vessel during the search period. The cost estimates are detailed in attachment C. The Résumé's of key people of are included in Tab D. This proposal and the data contained herein are proprietary and are the result of extensive research efforts by ASSURE in assembling the assets needed for this effort.

3. Names and telephone numbers of personnel to be contacted for evaluation and/or negotiation purposes: 

[Editor's Note: All personal information on the ASSURE team has been deleted]

4. Name of Federal, state, and other agencies receiving this proposal or funding this effort: 

Proposal is only being made to the Federal Government at this time.

5. Date of Submission:

9 August 2000

6. Signed By:

__________Derek L. Duke


1. Abstract of Proposal:


This proposal is for an immediate passive search and non-intrusive site investigation to locate a Mark 15 thermonuclear device jettisoned following a mid air collision in 1958. This investigation will include assimilation and analysis of all known information related to the incident by a team of experts experienced in weapons and other hardware recovery in a marine environment, identification of the most probable area of jettison, development of a comprehensive search plan for the area based on analysis of conditions at the jettison area, and an extensive passive non-intrusive search of the area using current state of the art technology for locating buried and/or underwater objects. The search area may include near shore marsh and upland areas as well as shallow and deep-water environments. The search will cover all areas identified by the team. The search is intended to identify potential targets in the area through passive detection and remote sensing means using mainly magnetometer, side scan sonar, and similar detection devices, to physically identify any targets found by non intrusive inspection, and, if found, precisely locate the device for subsequent removal by the Government. The search results will be thoroughly mapped and all hits marked and identified for future reference. Electronic data files of the search and findings will be reviewed during the search by the investigative team to determine any needed adjustment in the search pattern and/or area. A detailed report of the search efforts and results will be prepared and furnished to the Government within 15 days of search conclusion.

2. Statement of Work:

a. Objectives: The objective of this effort is to locate the missing Mark 15 device for subsequent removal/disposal by others; or, determine that the device does not exist in the most probable impact area and does not pose a threat to the surrounding development and environment. In either case a detailed report of the search and investigations will be furnished to the Government for ultimate closure of the incident.

b. Method of Approach:

ASSURE will, upon award and notice to proceed:

1) Assemble the principal investigators and advisors as described in Tab A at the search site within 48 hours.

2) Mobilize the search vessel described in Tab B to the site within 72 hours.

3) Define the area and initial pattern of search to be conducted based on existing data. Provide a copy of the analysis and initial search pattern to the Government for review.

4) Initiate search operations within 72 hours of Notice to Proceed.

5) Provide daily status report to the Government on search operations and results obtained to date, proposed changes in search operations. ASSURE will also allow the government to uplink electronic data for real time use and analysis by agencies that the government desires.

6) Physically investigate targets found in the search area in non-intrusive manner to determine identity of object found.

7) Electronically mark, identify, and catalog targets found in the search area.

8) When subject device is found, immediately notify government liaison officer and secure site.

9) At the end of the base 30 day period, provide written report summarizing results of operations to date, to include cataloging targets found, location, and identification, and recommendations for further search activities.

10) At end of contract period, provide final report on operations and findings with electronic and hard copy files of targets found, location, and identification.

c. Extent of effort to be employed:

ASSURE will deploy the personnel listed in Tab A and the search vessel identified in Tab B. These resources will be deployed to the search area for the contract period or until the device is located.

d. Anticipated Results:

The unique nature and characteristics of the team and vessel provide the greatest possibility for detection of the device in the area. If there, the location of the device will be accurately notated and furnished to the Government for removal. If ASSURE is unable to locate the device in the search area, because of the methods and expertise deployed, the area can be determined clear of the device with substantial surety.

e. Benefit to the Government:

The benefit to the Government will be the location of a very hazardous device lost in a location near a large population and in an environmentally sensitive area. Whether or not the device is actually found, the Government will be able to accurately respond to the numerous enquiries that would be forthcoming under public disclosure of the event.

3. Key Personnel: See Tab A.

4. Support needed from Government:

a. Liaison Officer to provide direct liaison with contractor and any public officials or other agencies that may become knowledgeable of, or involved in the operations throughout the search planning and operations.

b. Site security to avoid interference with search operations should such be required.


1. Proposed price:

The proposed cost of the operations described above is $328,430 for a minimum base period of 30 days. Unless the device is found or unless otherwise instructed by the Government to discontinue search operations, the contractor will continue up to a maximum search period of 90 days with a total maximum cost of $945,290. Search efforts beyond the 90 day period will be at the direction of the government. Costs beyond the 90 day contract period will be based upon the daily rates for the base contract.

2. Period of time proposal is valid:

This proposal and pricing information is valid for 90 days from the date of this proposal.

3. Type of contract preferred:

Due to the increasing awareness of the situation, the impending public release by other parties (namely the big national television and print media), and the non-secure location, time is of the essence. Therefore, a Letter Contract is recommended to expedite initiation of the search effort. Due to the research, investigations, collective experience of contract team with similar type searches, and the unique nature of the search vessel proposed, a sole source contract is recommended. A justification and approval for other than full and open competition will be required. However, given the nature of the device lost, the closeness to a large civilian population, the impending release of information regarding the mishap to the news media by others, the unique qualifications of the contract team, the extensive research and collaboration already performed by the principal of the firm, and the singular existence of the proposed vessel for the shallow and deep water operations proposed, sufficient justification is believed to exist.

4. Proposed duration of effort:

The minimum base contract period is 30 days. The estimated maximum period of performance is 90 days.

5. Description of relevant experience:

The principal of the company, Derek Duke, is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel. His past experience with military operations makes him well qualified to lead this investigative search to locate this device. He was a Combat Select Lead Instructor Pilot in Strategic C141B Air Operations and supervised loading and flew nuclear weapons. He also served as Chief Pilot for the National Security Agency ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) EC-47 operation in the Southeast Asia/Vietnam Theater in 1972 during the height of that war. He then served in Air Search and Rescue operations as a pilot in this coastal area. He has personally spent hundreds of hours researching specific information regarding this incident, the device, and the personnel involved, potential means of discovery, and assembling the team and vessel necessary to find the device. He has performed site surveys of the jettison area numerous times both by boat and air and is intimately familiar with the location. As a current commercial airline captain, Mr. Duke is extremely knowledgeable of flight operations in all areas.

The remaining team members have been assembled based on their unique and direct experience in recovery of other weapons and items similar to the target device. Their individual experiences are contained in Tab A. Their qualifications are among the best of the best.

The search vessel is a heavily modified 1983 NATO constructed LST. It is ideally suited for this near shore, shallow water search area. The entire vessel, particularly the hull, has been reworked with composite material turning into part of the elaborate array of sensors. This is undoubtedly one of world's outstanding platforms for near shore operation. It is a one a kind vessel with its GPS synchronized, computer controlled search mode and just over 2 foot draft coupled with a propulsion system for 360 degree travel and station-keeping. The bridge tracking party is enabled by a wide array of imaging CRT's that locate contacts, electronic tag them, and allow total target prosecution to solution. The search devices and integrated computer system have been used on numerous search missions with outstanding results as noted in Tab B.

6. Other Relevant information:

The unique nature of this device, the non-recovery of the device, the pending disclosure by others of the incident, and the proximity to a large civilian population makes this search effort a very time and publicly sensitive effort. 



Derek L. Duke

President, ASSURE, Inc

Project Manager

Resume' attached.

Note varied military service involving air transport of nuclear weapons, Air-Sea Rescue and Recovery Helo experience in this region, ELINT experience for National Security Agency in Vietnam, and over 200 combat missions across span of 25 years.


Dr. Stephen Schlock

Lead Scientist

Resume' attached

Note Dr. Schlock's outstanding history in developing advanced programs for the discovery and recovery of underwater munitions for the US Navy. He also experienced nuclear weapons and submarine reactor operations under the famous Admiral Rickover.


Bruce David Salati

Lead Engineer/Analyst

Resume' attached

Note Mr. Salati's outstanding abilities in the electromagnetic sensing arena with both analytical and creative skills, as applied to the maritime environment. He was a key to the tremendous software development and application that has turned the DEEP SCAN into a powerhouse search vessel.  


Mr. J. Paulsen Helmken

Vessel Captain

Resume' attached

Note Captain Helmken's remarkable sea career in Savannah and the south really began when he first accompanied his Grandfather to work at the 1st Savannah tugboat company, which his Grandfather founded and operated. Captain Helmken acquired a natural ability to operate substantial vessels in tight, near shore conditions. Of comment is his excellence with extensive projects. He worked as a consultant with the US Coast Guard in the 1996 Olympic Sailing Event in Savannah for safe mooring in Wassaw Sound of the more than 1200 sailboats. (This is the very site of the weapon's loss in 1958) He invented numerous commercial safety devices for safe mooring of smaller vessels displaying his mastery of ocean and storm pulses.


Mr. R. Harris Parker

Vessel Captain

Resume attached

Note Mr. Parker's vast experience from his childhood days when MR. HENRY FORD played with him on Mr. Ford's Savannah plantation. (Mr. Parker's Father was Henry Ford's Plantation Overseer) His professional Sea Captain experience is enhanced by his diving expertise. Both the Dept of Justice and the FBI cite him with highly laudatory letters in the 1980's for his work in a Lear jet crash involving a known mob figure. The jet mysteriously disappeared into the depths of the ocean 60 miles east of Savannah. It was Mr. Parker alone who located the small jet's wreckage, planned, and executed the highly successful retrieval dives. Mr. Parker maintains a production facility in Savannah to create maritime assets for major Hollywood studio to use in their feature films. He is unequalled in his ability to adapt mechanical devices to the needs of a seaman in any maritime environment.



R/V Deep Scan


This vessel is unique unto itself in the world.

The original LST design was transformed into a highly modified shallow draft, station-keeping vessel that has become the ideal platform for the most precise underwater or under-seabed object sensing available.

The exceptional capabilities of its state of the art sensors are enhanced beyond any other known capability by using innovative hull construction techniques that turn the entire vessel structure into a sensor. Coupled with the computer modeling created by the technical staff, the vessel has unmatched capabilities.

Bottom line-

The highly computerized, GPS synchronized vessel can search with unerring accuracy, target the most elusive of objects regardless of composition at depths beneath the seabed that seem impossible. These targets are prosecuted with electronic marking and vessel station keeping that allow total sensory analysis. The tracking system provides total recall of all imagery and situational analysis.

In summary, for finding a 42 year lost nuclear weapon in a shallow maritime environment where its present existence beneath the seabed is almost a certainty, this vessel is the World's leading candidate.

R/V Deep Scan, History:

Plans for the modification of the original vessel were developed late in 1991. The hull was a 1983 standard NATO design LST.

Deep Scan was originally intended to serve as a remote sensing and recovery platform for archeological projects on the Florida East Coast. The design objectives included the ability to detect submerged objects on the coastal seafloor using acoustic imaging techniques (side scan sonar), detect metallic objects buried below the coastal seafloor using electromagnetic techniques (magnetometer and search coil gradiometer) and detect objects below the seafloor using acoustic imaging techniques (sub bottom profiling sonar).

Additionally, R/V Deep Scan was required to support the operation of these imaging and detection techniques at the surf line, often in depths as shallow as three feet. The operational requirements were unique, no vessel existed at that time that could support the required detection sensors and operate in a shallow coastal environment.

A landing craft hull was selected based on the need to conduct operations in shallow water. The selected hull was composed of wood and composite fiberglass materials, with small quantities of aluminum and stainless steel in some fittings. The amount and location of metals had to be tightly controlled to allow the search coil gradiometer to “see” through the non-conductive hull of the ship, and to keep the magnetic signature of ship low enough so that hull mounted magnetometers could be utilized.

Shallow water operations are supported through the use of a nearly flat bottom hull capable of sustaining repeated contact with coastal sand. The primary propulsion system consists of a diesel powering a water jet drive. Two gasoline engines, which drive retractable propellers, provide secondary propulsion; these propellers are retracted during survey operations to prevent contact with the sea floor and marine life.

The diesel primary propulsion system serves another important function: unlike a gasoline engine, a diesel has no spark ignition system and cannot generate undesired impulsive electrical noise. Controlling electrical noise generated by shipboard equipment was essential to allow the use of hull-mounted sensors. All wiring within the ship is also configured to minimize the generation and radiation of undesired electrical noise that could interfere with operation of the various remote-sensing systems.

Construction of R/V Deep Scan began early in 1992 with the addition of the propulsion systems, superstructure, electrical systems and the original detection systems. Research into the operation of the various detection systems continued through 1992 and 1993. Early research results demonstrated the following:

R/V Deep Scan could conduct operations in water at depths as shallow as three feet under proper sea conditions.

The search coil gradiometer could reliably detect non-ferrous metals (aluminum, brass, bronze...) in a coastal environment, provided that smooth sea conditions existed. The search coil gradiometer was susceptible to disruption by hull flexure and by roll and pitch with respect to the surface of the sea. It could only be operated under near perfect sea conditions.

Magnetometers could be hull mounted and provide useful data in shallow water. This was only possible due to the low magnetic signature of R/V Deep Scan’s hull and the electrical noise suppression techniques applied to the various shipboard systems.

Sub bottom profiling sonar systems produced useful results for geologic studies, but were not useful as a search tool for submerged objects in a large search area. The limited “footprint” of these systems would require a very difficult and time consuming search for most objects.

R/V Deep Scan, Present Capability:

Early research results led to many improvements in R/V Deep Scan’s capabilities. Hull mounted magnetometers were moved to extendable booms mounted forward on the hull. Towed magnetometers were added to extendable booms mounted aft on the hull. Sonar experiments continued with sub bottom profiling and side scan sonar systems. Navigation was upgraded to include a differential GPS receiver supplying data to the digital mapping system. Hull stiffness was increased and the search coil gradiometer coils were replaced to improve search coil gradiometer reliability. Proton precession magnetometers were replaced with cesium vapor magnetometers to increase operating speed and sensitivity. High-resolution side scan sonar capability was added. Improvements were made to software to enhance the ability of the ship’s crew to make real time decisions about a target’s identity. Research results up to the present demonstrate the following:

Side scan sonar images can be collected in very shallow water by using R/V Deep Scan’s forward center boom as the transducer tow point. This allows the transducer to be clear of all hull and propulsion generated air bubbles. (Air bubbles reflect high frequency acoustic energy and can seriously degrade image quality) Deep water towing is possible using the aft tow point. R/V Deep Scan’s side scan sonar system generates high quality images of objects on the sea floor. Present side scan sonar systems can not be reliably used in a practical search for objects buried below the seafloor.

The cesium vapor magnetometers can be operated in shallow water from the hull (forward) or from the aft booms. Three magnetometers can be operated simultaneously from R/V Deep Scan, giving the ship a very large data collection “footprint”, even for relatively small objects. (With aft booms fully extended, R/V Deep Scan could be expected to detect the magnetic disturbance created by a mass of steel equivalent to a small car at a distance of 150 feet from either side of the ship. Further, the multi-sensor magnetometer system is capable of determining if the disturbing object is to the left or right of the ship.) The magnetometers are a very valuable tool; they can reliably detect objects on or below the sea floor provided that the objects contain a sufficient quantity of steel or iron.

The search coil gradiometer remains as the only practical system that can reliably detect long buried metallic objects on or below the sea floor that do not contain magnetic materials. (Examples of such objects include bronze artifacts from colonial period wrecks, aircraft components, and missile components...) Increasing the hull’s stiffness improved gradiometer performance, improving coil-mounting structures reduced the mechanical stress on the coils during hull flexure. Even with these modifications, the search coil gradiometer must be used in near perfect sea state conditions due to roll and pitch sensitivity and hull flexure.

The ship’s navigation and remote sensing systems perform together reliably. Objects detected during a grid search can be relocated on a repeatable basis. During search operations for recoverable objects, the navigation system is configured to run a methodical grid pattern. All anomaly indications are manually entered into the navigation system in real time as the grid search continues. Following grid search conclusion, or during periods when conducting the grid search is not practical, anomaly site locations can be revisited. These visits are used to confirm the existence of a repeatable anomaly and to investigate the identity of the anomaly. This process is continued until desired object is located, determined to be outside of the search area, or assumed to be in a condition, position, or attitude which precludes detection.


R/V Deep Scan’s capability as a coastal/shallow water remote sensing platform is unique in the recovery industry and represents the culmination of eight years of research and development. Research into improvements in remote sensing capability is continuing. R/V Deep Scan is a dynamic platform that is well suited to modifications for unique remote sensing applications.



See Attached Excel Document





    1. Prices include Overhead and Profit and are valid for a period of 90 days from proposal.

    2. The final contract price will depend on the number of days of service as directed by the government.
    3. The minimum number of days ordered by the government shall be 30 days.
    4. This contract is effective for the period stated in the contract/purchase order document.

Abbreviations: DY=Day HR=Hour LS=Lump Sum MD=Man Day EA=Each CD=Crew Day Item

Description (See Note 1) U/M Unit Price 30 Days 90 Days
Mobilization/Demob LS 5,000 5,000 5,000
Project Manager MD 650 19,500 58,500
Senior Search Advisor MD 740 22,200 66,600
Senior Data Analyis MD 740 22,200 66,600
Historical Data Researcher MD 465 13,950 41,850
Search Vessel (Assumes 24hr/day use) DY 1,526 45,780 137,340
Boat Captain (Assumes 2 Crews) CD 555 33,300 99,900
Instrument Supervisor CD 465 27,900 83,700
Data Logger CD 370 22,200 66,600
Deck Hand CD 280 16,800 50,400
Per Diem        
Vessel Crew (2 Crews @ 4 Each) DY 75 18,000 54,000
Search Team (4) DY 75 9,000 27,000
Contract Divers (2) DY 1,800 54,000 162,000
Service Vessel DY 120 3,600 10,800
Report Production LS 15,000 15,000 15,000
(Includes Typing and Copying)
Total Proposal $328,430 $945,290

Cost Calculations

Labor Costs

Type Annual Rate Hourly Rate Man Day Rate Fringe (15%) G&A (115%) Profit (10%) Total Daily Rate Rounded
Project Manager 70,000 33.65 269.23 40.38 309.62 26.92 646.15 $650
Senior Search Advisor 80,000 38.46 307.69 46.15 353.85 30.77 738.46 $740
Senior Data Analysis 80,000 38.46 307.69 46.15 353.85 30.77 738.46 $740
Historical Data Analyzer 50,000 24.04 192.31 28.85 221.15 19.23 461.54 $465
Boat Captain 60,000 28.85 230.77 34.62 265.38 23.08 553.85 $555
Instrument Supervisor 50,000 24.04 192.31 28.85 221.15 19.23 461.54 $465
Data Logger 40,000 19.23 153.85 23.08 176.92 15.38 369.23 $370
Deck Hand 30,000 14.42 115.38 17.31 132.69 11.54 276.92 $280


1) All admin costs, telephones, copies, mailing, secretarial support, admin support are included in the General and Administrative (G&A) overhead.
2) Fringe Benefits include all additional costs for insurance, etc., on labor costs.
3) Profit is calculated on base labor rate.

Search Vessel
Base Cost LS $2,000,000
Depreciation @ 5 yrs. DY 1,333 (Based on 300 days per year available)
Operational Costs
Fuel DY 165 (Based on 100 gal/day@$1.65/gal)
Repair/Maintenance Yearly 6,000 DY 16
Insurance Yearly 4,000 DY 11
Total Daily Cost $1,526
Service Vessel 19 ft. Service Boat LS 18,000
Depreciation DY 80 (Based on 60% Salvage after 90 day search)
Fuel DY 33 (Based on 20 gal/day@$1.65/gal.
Repair/Maintenance Yearly 1,200 DY 4
Insurance Yearly 1,000 DY 3
Total Daily Cost $120
Contract Divers
Diver Rate Hr 150 DY 900
2 Divers 1,800

Appendix Beta b

This is the receipt that Colonel Howard Richardson signed for the Savannah nuke:

Colonel Howard Richardson's Receipt for the Savannah Nuke


Appendix Gamma c

Air Force Search & Recovery Assessment of the 1958 Savannah, GA B-47 Accident

AF Nuclear Weapons and Counterproliferation Agency

12 April, 2001


· On 5 February 1958, a B-47 returning from a simulated combat mission suffered a midair collision with an F-86. The B-47 was carrying a Mk 15 Mod 0 nuclear bomb in a training configuration (no nuclear capsule was on board). Because the bomb was incapable of a nuclear explosion, permission was granted to jettison the bomb, permitting the disabled B-47 to land without conventional explosive on board. The bomb fell into the waters off the coast of Georgia. An intensive, nine-plus week search failed to locate the bomb, and the bomb was declared irretrievably lost on 16 April 1958.

· The bomb contained approximately 400 lbs of conventional explosive as well as uranium (considered to be a heavy metal).

· In early August 2000, Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) requested the Air Force

reinvestigate the accident following inquiries from constituents and the media.

· The Air Force consulted the Navy, the Department of Energy (DOE), the Savannah District Army Corps of Engineers, and the Skidaway Oceanographic Institute to investigate the details surrounding the incident, the most likely current condition of the bomb, associated hazards, and to determine whether search and subsequent recovery operations should be attempted.

· Assuming the bomb did not detonate on impact, the Department of Energy analysis concluded the bomb probably survived the accident intact and is believed to be resting 5-15 feet under the seabed. If the bomb did not survive intact, its components would have been dispersed and location/recovery is not possible.

· Assuming the bomb is intact, the DOE evaluated its status given the accident and subsequent 40 years of exposure to ocean water, silt and mud. The DOE determined that there is no current or future possibility of a nuclear explosion; the risk associated with the spread of heavy metals used in the bomb is low; and if undisturbed, the explosive in the bomb pose no hazard. However, intact explosive would pose a serious explosion hazard to personnel and the environment if disturbed by a recovery attempt.

· Cost estimates for search and recovery operations are difficult to pinpoint due to the

uncertainty of the impact point and the uncertainty in the condition of the bomb. Search and recovery costs would most likely start at over $5 Million.

· Based on the available data, the suspected orientation of the bomb, the search methods and available equipment, the Navy Supervisor of Salvage estimates there is a very low possibility of successfully locating the bomb.

· Recovery operations could not begin until after an approximate 2 plus year environmental decision making process.

· Disposition costs following a successful recovery are also difficult to quantify and would need to be determined by the Department of Energy.

· There could be substantial economic impact to the region if an accidental detonation of the conventional explosive occurred during search or recovery operations. The shipping, fishing and recreation industries in the area account for over $28 million in annual economic activity.

· Impact to the regional aquifer and the local drinking water supply due to search and

recovery operations could be significant.

· The Air Force concurs with expert conclusions that it is in the best interest of the public and the environment to leave the bomb in its resting-place and remain categorized as irretrievably lost.

· There may be unacceptable environmental impact associated with search and recovery



The Accident

· On 5 February 1958, a B-47 bomber was on a simulated combat mission fromHomestead AFB, FL.

§ The B-47 was carrying a single transportation configured (see Bomb description section below) Mk15 Mod 0 nuclear bomb.

- The bomb weighed approximately 7600 lbs. The B-47 had a 10,000-lb. maximum payload capacity.

§ It was common practice to train with transportation configured bombs.

· The B-47 had a mid-air collision with an F-86 fighter at approximately 2:00 AM on 5 February 1958.

§ The F-86 crashed after the pilot successfully bailed out.

§ The F-86 was not directly involved with the B-47 simulated combat mission.

§ The B-47 was damaged but flyable.

- Three attempts to land at Hunter AFB, GA were unsuccessful.

- The Mk15 Mod 0 bomb was jettisoned to avoid possibility of conventional explosive detonation caused by a crash landing at Hunter AFB, GA.

- The jettison location was several miles from Savannah, GA in the

Wassaw Sound area of the Atlantic Ocean.

- The drop elevation and air speed were approximately 7200 feet and

approximately 200 knots respectively.

- The B-47 crew did not see an explosion upon impact.

- The B-47 landed safely at Hunter AFB, GA.

· Recovery efforts were conducted from 6 February 1958 until 16 April 1958.

§ A three square mile area was searched using the Air Force 2700th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron and approximately 100 Navy personnel equipped with hand held sonar and galvanic drag and cable sweeps.

- Water depth in the search area was approximately 8-40 feet.

- The Air Force declared the bomb irretrievably lost on 16 April 1958.

The Bomb

· The bomb contained approximately 400 lbs of conventional explosive as well as uranium (considered to be a heavy metal).

· The Mk15 bomb type utilized a removable nuclear capsule, which was required for a nuclear explosion, but was not present in this transportation-configured bomb.

· An Atomic Energy Agency (AEC) to Air Force "Transfer of Custody" receipt, dated

4 February 1958, confirms no nuclear capsule was present, therefore no nuclear yield was possible.

· The Mk15 bomb was produced in two versions; the Mod 0 and Mod 2. The Mod 2 version of this bomb type replaced the removable nuclear capsule of the Mod 0 with a

non-removable nuclear capsule, thus making the Mod 2 version a self-contained fully functional nuclear bomb.

· Concern has been raised as to which version of the bomb was present. The AF and DOE have concluded that the bomb was a Mod 0, based on the following facts:

§ Maintenance records for this specific bomb indicate the only maintenance activity during which the Mod 0 to Mod 2 conversion might have been completed took place in July 1956.

§ AEC production records indicate Mod 2 conversion kits were not ready until December 1957.

§ AEC production records indicate Mod 0 to Mod 2 conversions did not begin until March 1958.

§ As the accident occurred in Feb 1958, the evidence is conclusive that the bomb involved was a Mod 0.


A team of engineers from Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories developed the best estimate of the possible condition of the bomb. The analyses and calculations were based upon detailed bomb design information, reports on the accident and information provided by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Skidaway Oceanographic Institute. There are many sources of uncertainty in the initial conditions, the aerodynamic and hydrodynamic models developed, and soil conditions; hence, these results should be viewed as "reasonable estimates," the best that could be done with the information and time available.

· Bomb Condition Assessment is dependent on several interrelated evaluations

§ Aerodynamic and hydrodynamic trajectory calculations.

§ Structural analysis of the response of the bomb case to these impacts and potential damage to bombs internals.

§ Evaluation of the expected penetration depth into the seabed.

§ Potential corrosion of the case and the internals from prolonged exposure to the seabed environment.

§ Evaluation of the condition of the explosive and the potential for explosion.

§ Evaluation of the potential for criticality.

· The bomb is predicted to have survived the accident, assuming it did not explode on impact.

· Based on the expected depth of water in the impact region, the 12-foot long bomb is expected to be buried nose-down, probably 5-15 feet below the seabed (depth from the seabed to the tail of the bomb). See appendix A

§ Substantial internal damage is expected.

§ It is possible portions of the bomb internals could have breached the nose of the case and have been separated from the case in the seabed.

§ The seabed/seawater environment has minimal effect on the bomb case:

- Corrosion rates are such that the integrity of the case would currently not be compromised but instead the case would merely be pitted.

- The internal components would be fully saturated in a salt-water environment and would also be subject to corrosion. Leaching of the materials is expected to remain within a few feet of the bomb.

- Selected components within the conventional explosive are water-soluble; however, the explosive is expected to remain viable but somewhat less sensitive than the original formulation.


The Supervisor of Salvage was requested to assess the technologies available for a future search of the lost bomb.

· Three technologies were considered for use in search operations - 1) Side Scan Sonar (high frequency acoustic waves), 2) Magnetometer (magnetic signature) and 3) Sub-Bottom Profiler (low frequency acoustic waves).

§ Side-scan sonar, although widely used as a primary search tool, is not applicable due to the belief that the bomb is buried beneath the seabed.

§ The magnetometer would not be well suited due to the lack of ferrous materials in the bomb and the impact orientation of the bomb.

§ The Sub-Bottom Profiler was deemed to be the most effective technology due to the likely burial depth of the bomb and the lack of ferrous materials.

- Sub-bottom profiling utilizes low frequency "acoustic image" of content below the seafloor. A range of equipment within this category is readily available and commonly utilized for applications at depths of penetration well beyond the depths believed involved with this search.

- The disadvantage of sub-bottom profiling is the narrow swath or width covered with each sweep.

· Search operations with a sub-bottom profiler are estimated to cost $10,000 per day with a search rate of 1 square mile per 12 days. This estimate only includes the search activities (based on 24-hour operations) and does not include the time and resources required for personnel and equipment mobilization. Weather related delays would extend the search time. The $10K per day search cost accrues whether searching or not.

· Based on the data reviewed, the suspected physical condition and orientation of the bomb, the search methods and available equipment, the Navy Supervisor of Salvage estimates there is a very low probability of successfully locating the bomb.

· In addition, such a search would undoubtedly indicate the presence of many targets, which would then need to be characterized and prioritized for follow-up investigation.

§ These targets would need to be sufficiently uncovered and investigated by divers to allow for clear identification. This could cause an unacceptable environmental impact and would be dangerous to personnel involved.

· Navy Supervisor of Salvage Conclusion

§ Completing a search for the lost bomb is certainly within the capabilities of the U.S. Navy. However, given the limited amount of information available, the area to be searched and the number of false targets that would have to be prosecuted would be unreasonably large when compared to an average search operation.

§ From a technical standpoint, the Navy Supervisor of Salvage does not recommend undertaking this effort.


There are a number of general issues to consider as well as option specific issues prior to recommending a course of action.

· Given the previously discussed information, there are two possible courses of action: § Leave the bomb in its resting location.

§ Pursue a search and subsequent recovery attempt.

· The following criteria should be used to determine the most prudent path forward.

§ Economic - The potential economic impacts to the region (e.g. tourism, shipping, fishing) of the various courses of action.

§ Environmental - The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) implications (e.g., the potential impacts to human and natural environments) associated with each course of action.

§ Costs - The costs for each course of action as well as the likelihood of success.

§ Disposal—If recovered, how will the bomb be disposed of and what are the costs associated with disposition.


· General Public Safety Considerations—There is no possibility of nuclear explosion due to conclusive evidence of the absence of a nuclear capsule.

§ Four primary hazards were identified for consideration.

1. Conventional Explosives

2. Potential for environmental contamination

3. Safety hazards to personnel

4. Potential for criticality

§ Situations in which the bomb might be disturbed were evaluated.

- Hurricane - Hurricanes typically only disturb the first 2 to 3 feet of the seabed. Initial assessment of this scenario does not indicate a problem.

- Dredging activities - The area in question supports local fishing and pleasure boating. There are no current or planned dredging activities in this area to support either the fishing industry or the pleasure-boating industry.

- Fishing and pleasure boating - Due to the estimated depth of the bomb in the seabed, and the weight of the bomb (7600 lbs), fishing and boating activities are unlikely to disturb the bomb. Los Alamos scientists believe that even if the bomb was accessible and a boat anchor was dropped on it, a violent reaction of the explosive is very unlikely.

· General Environmental implications and issues.

§ Search and recovery operations could cause unacceptable environmental impacts.

§ NEPA requires Federal Agencies to make environmentally informed decisions prior to any irrevocable or irretrievable commitment of resources (resources are defined as personnel, facilities, or money).

- The NEPA process would involve creation of either an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement.

§ Regional Aquifer (Floridian)

- In the Wassaw Sound area, the top of the Floridian aquifer (limestone) would generally be expected to be encountered at about 90 to 100 feet below mean low water (MLW). The Floridian aquifer is overlain by about 40 to 50 feet of Miocene layer confining material (clayey sand), depending on water depth. The top of the Miocene layer would be expected to be encountered about 40 feet below MLW, with the exception of areas where the Miocene may have been scoured away by old river channels. In the scour areas, the Miocene could be encountered as deep as 60 to 70 below MLW. Dredging or removal of the Miocene confining material above the aquifer would need to be limited, to insure minimum impact on the aquifer from salt-water intrusion due to a thinned confining unit. The vertical hydraulic conductivity of the Miocene unit is currently under further investigation, but in no case should the entire thickness of the confining material be completely removed.

- Should invasive search or recovery operations entail dredging, either by clamshell or cutterhead dredge, the maximum depth will be restricted by the presence of the Floridian aquifer.

- If the confining material above the aquifer is breached, it will allow seawater to enter the fresh water aquifer. The degree of damage to the aquifer would depend on the aerial extent and depth of the breach. Since water in the aquifer is under a downward gradient, due to the cone of depression from pumping at Savannah, seawater would be pulled down into the aquifer, where it would then travel toward Savannah. Since the Floridian aquifer is the principal source of fresh water in coastal Georgia, the potential effect could be significant.

· General Economic Impact Factors

§ Activities along the Georgia coast include commercial fishing, recreation (both general and specialized), and deep and shallow draft navigation. Any event occurring in Wassaw Sound would likely impact the entire coastal region of Georgia as the expected event site is in the upper coastal region and littoral drift would carry the impact southward. Specific impacts are as follows and only represent a portion of potential economic impact.

- Economic impact to the local shipping industry (deep and shallow draft vessels) is unlikely. However, it cannot be completely ruled out and the impact would depend on the context and extent of an accidental detonation of the conventional explosive.

- The local commercial fishing industry would likely be impacted by search and recovery operations.

- In 1997 commercial fishing on the Georgia coast produced $28.5 million in seafood. The heart of the Georgia seafood industry occurs near or south of the site of concern. Shrimp made up the largest portion of this value with an estimated value of $22.3 million.

- With littoral drift, dredging activities and/or an explosion or leakage could impact a significant portion of the fishery. The Georgia fishery supports no less than 75 local, regional, and national seafood dealers.

- The following local recreation will be impacted during search and recovery operations and certainly be impacted in the event of an inadvertent explosion.

Public Beaches

Tybee Island

St Simons Island

Jykell Island

Coastal Island and main use or purpose (north to south along coast)

Tybee Residential, Recreation

Little Tybee State controlled natural area

St Catherine’s Island State controlled natural area

Sapelo Island State controlled natural area

St Simons Island Residential and recreation

Jekyll Island State controlled recreation

Cumberland Island National seashore and wildlife management

Other areas of concern

Kings Bay Submarine facility, St Mary’s, Georgia

§ Impact to the regional aquifer and the local drinking water supply due to search and recovery operations could be significant.

Leave Bomb in place

Experts considered the current state of the bomb, the range of possible damage states, and the technical risks associated with leaving it in place, recovery and ultimate disposition; but did not consider legal or sociopolitical aspects of any such operations.

· Specific environmental & regulatory considerations


§ There is no possibility of contamination of the drinking water supply given the region’s hydrology.

§ If left undisturbed, there is no reason to expect the explosives to spontaneously explode.


§ There will be continuing doubt surrounding the bomb should it not be recovered.

§ Left undisturbed in its current state, the principal risk to the environment is from localized heavy metal contamination due to corrosion and leaching of materials.

§ With regard to potential criticality, it is judged that there are no practical criticality concerns with this bomb under any foreseen scenario.

· Cost Considerations -

§ None identified except for avoidance of economic impacts to shipping, fishing and local recreation industries from an accidental explosion during search and recovery operations.

Search and Recovery

· Specific Environmental & Regulatory Considerations


§ Should the explosive detonate the shock wave and debris would be limited to less than 1000 feet.


§ There are potential environmental and safety hazards associated search operations.

§ Subsequent invasive search operations to distinguish between the Mk 15 bomb and other identified targets, may create cultural resource, and public safety concerns. Completion of the NEPA process and documentation as well as obtaining all Federal (Corps) and State permits or approvals would be required. For instance, all of the ocean south of Tybee Island is subject to the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (COBRA). Also, it is a certainty that coordination under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act will have to be completed due to the presence of Right Whales and various endangered sea turtle species such as the Loggerhead, Kemps Ridley and Green turtles.

§ Assuming all hazards were characterized and controlled, complete mitigation of risk would be unlikely; the bomb would still be hazardous to recovery personnel.

§ Recovery would entail the potential for explosion due to the unpredictable response of the explosive to being disturbed during recovery operations.

§ Impact to the Floridian aquifer could be substantial if the bomb’s conventional explosives detonated during search and/or recovery operations.

§ Subsequent to recovery, the materials would need proper disposition.

- The conventional explosive is the primary hazard for recovery operations.

- Assuming the nuclear materials (uranium categorized as a heavy metal) could be separated from the explosive, it is expected they could be safely packaged and disposed of. However, safe separation of the nuclear materials is questionable.

- An approved method for packaging and shipping the damaged bomb would also be required.

· Cost Considerations - see Appendix B for Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) cost estimates


§ None identified


§ Environmental Assessments/Impacts are complex, lengthy and expensive - on the order of several years and involving several hundred thousand dollars. If a full Environmental Impact Statement is required, the cost could be in the million-dollar range.

§ Cost estimates for a search operation are difficult to quantify due to the uncertainty in the impact point and the likely vertical impact orientation.

- Estimated search area is at least one square mile and could easily be as large as 20 square miles. See Appendix B for breakdown of costs for various activities.

§ The Navy Supervisor of Salvage estimates there is a very low probability of successfully locating the bomb.

§ Recovery and disposition related costs cannot be accurately estimated until the bomb is positively identified and its condition assessed. ROM cost estimates are included in Appendix B.

§ Costs for disposition of the bomb would also have to been taken into consideration.

§ Once a search operation is initiated, will it be possible to stop it? Identification of the stoppage criteria (e.g., cost, time) will be difficult.

§ If the bomb were located, site monitoring and protection would be required to prevent unauthorized recovery efforts prior to recovery if undertaken.

§ A complete site protection, recovery and disposition plan would have to be developed and approved prior to initiating search activities.


· For the following reasons, the Air Force recommends the bomb be left in its resting place and remain categorized as irretrievably lost.

§ No possibility of nuclear explosion.

§ No risk to public.

§ Avoids potential for unacceptable impact to the environment.

Hydrological Cross-Section with Bomb Impact Location


APPENDIX B - Table of ROM Cost Estimates

Rate (K)

Estimated time/qty

Total (K)


2 days

$10 - $20

Search activities w/boat


12 - 220 days

$120 - $2200

Target Characterization

Not quantifiable

NEPA related activities

1 year


Target core samples

$50 Each

25 - 100

$1,250 - $5,000

Search total

>$1,695 - $7,525

Recovery pre-planning


Dev. Recovery options


NEPA related activities

2 years


Disposition preparations

2 years



30 days



To be determined

Pre-recovery protection


1 - 3 yrs

$250 - $750

Recovery & Disp total



~5 yrs

>$5,065 - $11,425


Appendix Delta d

Air Force Assessment of Reported Elevated Radiation Resulting from a 1958 B-47 Accident

AF Nuclear Weapons And Counterproliferation Agency

This is a textual summary. The full report is available through the Air Force Nuclear Weapons and Counterproliferation Agency.

31 May, 2005

The Air Force has reaffirmed that the lost incomplete bomb is the property of the United States Government, and has consistently asserted that the best course of action in this matter is to not continue to search for it and to leave the property in place. Due to the concerns previously expressed, the Air Force continues to reject any offer of salvage.


This report contains the findings of the Air Force coordinated multi-agency inquiry into the possibility that the location of the Air Force nuclear weapon lost in 1958 in the vicinity of Wassaw Sound near Savannah, GA, had been identified. Information had been provided to the Air Force from local Georgia residents that elevated radiation readings and abnormal magnetometer readings may have indicated that the location of the weapon had been discovered. A team composed of personnel from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, National Nuclear Security Administration, and Georgia Department of Natural Resources, led by Headquarters United States Air Force, was sent to determine if elevated radiation readings were in fact present; if so, was the radiation indicative of the lost nuclear weapon; and if not, what was the source of the elevated radiation levels. In addition, the team was to evaluate available magnetometer data, and all data acquisition methods to determine if the lost nuclear weapon had been discovered. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY On 5 February 1958, a B-47 bomber, carrying a single transportation-configured (no nuclear capsule on board) Mk15 Mod 0 nuclear bomb, had a mid-air collision with an F-86 fighter. Three attempts to land at Hunter AFB, GA were unsuccessful. The Mk15 Mod 0 bomb was jettisoned several miles from Savannah, GA in the Wassaw Sound area of the Atlantic Ocean. Search efforts were conducted from 6 February 1958 until 16 April 1958. A three square mile area was searched using the Air Force 2700th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron and approximately 100 Navy personnel equipped with hand held sonar and galvanic drag and cable sweeps. The Air Force declared the bomb irretrievably lost on 16 April 1958.

In 2001, in a study led by the Air Force Nuclear Weapons and Counterproliferation Agency, the Air Force concurred with expert conclusions that it is in the best interest of the public and the environment to leave the bomb in its resting-place and remain categorized as irretrievably lost.

The Air Force considered the case to be closed until 2004, when media reports indicated a citizens group named ASSURE (American Sea Shore Underwater Recovery Expedition) had discovered enhanced levels of radiation and were concerned that the elevated readings were associated with the lost bomb. In response, the Air Force organized a team of experts to evaluate these reports, with representatives from several organizations. It was determined that the next step was to conduct a radiological survey of the area to ensure valid survey methods, equipment, and readings.

Using sodium iodide detectors, the Air Force-led team surveyed the Wassaw Sound area identified by ASSURE, detecting variations in radioactivity, although the magnitudes reported by the ASSURE team were greater. By utilizing high purity germanium detectors, the source of the radiation was identified as naturally occurring radioactivity. Specific emphasis was placed on determining the presence of the two isotopes of uranium that would indicate presence of the Mk15. These two uranium isotopes were not detected using gamma-ray spectral analysis.

Sediment samples were retrieved from the Wassaw Sound bottom for radio-chemical analysis using a chain-of-custody procedure. In this much more sensitive laboratory analysis, primordial uranium (uranium deposited at the creation of the earth’s crust) was detected. Uranium isotope ratio analysis confirmed that the small quantities of uranium present were from natural sources, and not anthropogenic (human influenced). No traces of reactor waste or any effluent from sources such as the Department of Energy Savannah River Site were detected in any of the samples.

A wide area survey was performed using an array of six sodium iodide detectors towed behind one of the team boats. This allowed a larger area to be covered during the radiation survey. The broad area survey results detected approximately the same radiation levels found by a second team boat, but no indication of the Mk15.

No new information was uncovered that would lead the Air Force to modify the conclusions reached in 2001. Valuable experience was gained in utilizing modern radiation detection methodology in this endeavor.


In April 2001, the United States Air Force Nuclear Weapons and Counterproliferation Agency compiled a report on the current feasibility of recovery options, in the event that the location of the bomb was uncovered. This was undertaken in response to a request from Representative Jack Kingston (R-Ga), who had received information from a group of concerned constituents. The Background and Executive Summary sections of the 2001 report are reproduced here to provide background for this report.

On 5 February 1958, a B-47 bomber was on a simulated combat mission from Homestead AFB, FL. The B-47 was carrying a single transportation-configured (see Bomb description section below) Mk15 Mod 0 nuclear bomb. The bomb weighed approximately 7600 lbs. The B-47 had a 10,000-lb. maximum payload capacity. It was common practice to train with transportation-configured bombs.

The B-47 had a mid-air collision with an F-86 fighter at approximately 2:00 AM on 5 February 1958. The F-86 crashed after the pilot successfully bailed out. The F-86 was not directly involved with the B-47 simulated combat mission. The B-47 was damaged but flyable. Three attempts to land at Hunter AFB, GA were unsuccessful. The Mk15 Mod 0 bomb was jettisoned to avoid possibility of conventional explosive detonation caused by a crash landing at Hunter AFB, GA. The jettison location was several miles from Savannah, GA in the Wassaw Sound area of the Atlantic Ocean. The drop elevation and air speed were approximately 7200 feet and approximately 200 knots respectively. The B-47 crew did not see an explosion upon impact. The B-47 landed safely at Hunter AFB, GA.

Recovery efforts were conducted from 6 February 1958 until 16 April 1958. A three square mile area was searched using the Air Force 2700th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron and approximately 100 Navy personnel equipped with hand held sonar and galvanic drag and cable sweeps. Water depth in the search area was approximately 8-40 feet. The Air Force declared the bomb irretrievably lost on 16 April 1958.

The bomb contained less than 500 lbs of conventional explosive as well as uranium (considered to be a heavy metal).

The Mk15 bomb type utilized a removable nuclear capsule, which was required for a nuclear explosion, but was not present in this transportation-configured bomb.

An Atomic Energy Agency (AEC) to Air Force “Transfer of Custody” receipt, dated 4 February 1958, confirms no nuclear capsule was present, therefore no nuclear yield was possible.

The Mk15 bomb was produced in two versions: the Mod 0 and Mod 2. The Mod 2 version of this bomb type replaced the removable nuclear capsule of the Mod 0 with a non-removable nuclear capsule, thus making the Mod 2 version a self-contained fully functional nuclear bomb.

Concern has been raised as to which version of the bomb was present. The AF and DOE have concluded that the bomb was a Mod 0, based on the following facts:

• Maintenance records for this specific bomb indicate the only maintenance activity during which the Mod 0 to Mod 2 conversion might have been completed took place in July 1956.

• AEC production records indicate Mod 2 conversion kits were not ready until December 1957.

• AEC production records indicate Mod 0 to Mod 2 conversions did not begin until March 1958.

• As the accident occurred in Feb 1958, the evidence is conclusive that the bomb involved was a Mod 0.

In early August 2000, Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA) requested the Air Force reinvestigate the accident following inquiries from constituents and the media.

The Air Force consulted the Navy, the Department of Energy (DOE), the Savannah District Army Corps of Engineers, and the Skidaway Oceanographic Institute to investigate the details surrounding the incident, the most likely current condition of the bomb, associated hazards, and to determine whether search and subsequent recovery operations should be attempted.

Assuming the bomb did not detonate on impact, the Department of Energy analysis concluded the bomb probably survived the accident intact and is believed to be resting 5-15 feet under the seabed. If the bomb did not survive intact, its components would have been dispersed and location/recovery is not possible.

Assuming the bomb is intact, the DOE evaluated its status given the accident and subsequent 40 years of exposure to ocean water, silt and mud. The DOE determined that there is no current or future possibility of a nuclear explosion; the risk associated with the spread of heavy metals used in the bomb is low; and if undisturbed, the explosive in the bomb pose no hazard. However, intact explosive would pose a serious explosion hazard to personnel and the environment if disturbed by a recovery attempt.

Cost estimates for search and recovery operations are difficult to pinpoint due to the uncertainty of the impact point and the uncertainty in the condition of the bomb. Search and recovery costs would most likely start at over $5 Million.

Based on the available data, the suspected orientation of the bomb, the search methods and available equipment, the Navy Supervisor of Salvage estimates there is a very low possibility of successfully locating the bomb.

Recovery operations could not begin until after an approximate 2 plus year environmental decision-making process.

Disposition costs following a successful recovery are also difficult to quantify and would need to be determined by the Department of Energy.

There could be substantial economic impact to the region if an accidental detonation of the conventional explosive occurred during search or recovery operations. The shipping, fishing and recreation industries in the area account for over $28 million in annual economic activity.

Impact to the regional aquifer and the local drinking water supply due to search and recovery operations could be significant. The Air Force concurs with expert conclusions that it is in the best interest of the public and the environment to leave the bomb in its resting-place and remain categorized as irretrievably lost.

There may be unacceptable environmental impact associated with search and recovery operations.

The full report is available through the Air Force Nuclear Weapons and Counterproliferation Agency.


The Air Force considered the case to be closed until late July 2004, when media reports indicated a citizens group named the American Sea Shore Underwater Recovery Expedition (ASSURE) had detected enhanced levels of radiation and were concerned that these elevated readings were associated with the lost bomb. According to these media reports, radiation readings of 7 to 10 times normal levels had been discovered, and together with additional information and conclusions drawn by the ASSURE team, ASSURE’s estimation of the location of the missing bomb had been narrowed down to an area the size of a football field in the waters of Wassaw Sound. The Air Force organized a team of experts to evaluate these reports, with representatives from several organizations including Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving, Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), plus several Air Force staff offices in the fields of safety, environmental protection, legal affairs, Congressional liaison, and public affairs. Additionally, liaison was established with the appropriate experts at the Savannah District Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard. Team members reviewed the original accident information, the actions taken in the 2000-2001 time frame and the recent media reports, and determined they needed further information to evaluate the situation.

Senior military personnel contacted the ASSURE team leader requesting additional information, including specific information on the reported radiation readings and the equipment and methodology used to collect those readings. The ASSURE team provided magnetometer readings and location information. Additionally, one of the ASSURE team members who had collected radiation data met with Air Force team members at the Pentagon, including the Air Force Associate Director of Strategic Security, an Air Force nuclear engineer, and representatives from the three national laboratories. The ASSURE member provided specific information on radiation readings, the radiation detection equipment, and the methodology used; however, the information could not be correlated with the magnetometer and location data previously provided by the ASSURE team. After evaluating all available information, the Air Force-led team determined that further clarification on the radiation readings and methodology was required. It was determined that the next step was to meet directly with the ASSURE team. In conjunction with the meeting, the Air Force-led team conducted a radiological survey of the Wassaw Sound area.

Planning and preparations began in late August 2004 to organize a highly specialized technical team to visit the Savannah area. Led by the Air Force Associate Director of Strategic Security, the technical team consisted of Navy Salvage and Diving experts, radiation experts from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), an Air Force nuclear engineer, an Air Force health physicist and safety officer, a DTRA technical collection team, radiological experts from the Georgia State Department of Natural Resources (GaDNR), and public affairs experts. The GaDNR members served as independent data collectors and evaluators. Planned team visits were twice delayed by inclement weather, and the team finally traveled to Savannah on September 28, 2004. A marine security and safety officer from the US Coast Guard (Port of Savannah), and a liaison from the Department of Energy Savannah River Site also joined the technical team in Savannah. Hosted by the Savannah District Army Corps of Engineers, this team, together with staff members from the local Congressional delegation, met with ASSURE team members at the Army Corps of Engineers building in Savannah on September 29, 2004. They provided interviews and answered questions for local and national media and gathered information on the ASSURE team's previous data collection efforts. Additionally they completed planning for the next day's on-water radiological survey in Wassaw Sound.

September 28, 2004 meeting in Savannah


The 29 September meeting started with an introduction of attendees, their professional qualifications, and a review of Air Force goals.

The purpose and goals of the two-day meeting were discussed with all participants to maximize the effectiveness of both the meeting and the data collection efforts planned for the next day.

At the conclusion of the two-day trip (and subsequent analysis of data) the Air Force desired to answer three questions:

1. Has the ASSURE team identified an area of enhanced radiation?

2. If yes, is the enhanced radiation attributable to the Mk15?

3. If it is not from the Mk15, can the radiation source be characterized?

The face-to-face meeting was to clarify information previously provided by ASSURE. The meeting included technical discussions aimed at understanding all aspects of the information provided by ASSURE, their collection techniques, and any other information pertinent to comprehending what the information truly indicated.

Around the midpoint of the meeting, a break was taken to accommodate a press conference. The press opportunity was used to fully explain to the media the goals of the Air Force in this endeavor. Air Force and ASSURE team leaders, organizational public affairs representatives, and Congressional Staff representatives from the offices of Senator Miller, Senator Chambliss, and Congressman Kingston were in attendance.

At the conclusion of the meeting, plans were confirmed for the next day’s activities, which would include on-water data collection in and around the area identified by the ASSURE team. DTRA, NNSA, Georgia, and ASSURE radiation experts agreed that three initial reference background measurements (to be made at marker buoys 1, 3, and 14) would be adequate.

On September 30, 2004, team members set out to make measurements in Wassaw Sound. The DTRA technical team utilized two boats and was accompanied by a radiation expert from NNSA. These boats were equipped with radiation detectors for a wide-area survey and for conducting full-spectrum (gamma) radiation sampling at specific locations on the ocean floor. The DTRA technical team possessed the capability to collect sediment samples from the ocean floor for subsequent laboratory analysis. A third boat was used by a joint ASSURE, NNSA and GaDNR team. This boat was equipped with radiation detectors belonging to NNSA and the state of Georgia for more detailed point measurements; additionally, this third boat was equipped with the ASSURE radiation detection equipment used during their previous efforts. The personnel on this third boat became know as the radiation detection team. All three radiological survey boats were equipped with global positioning system (GPS) equipment to provide precise location data. A fourth boat was used by leadership from the various organizations including ASSURE. An additional boat was leased by the Air Force for media members to visit the survey site and conduct an on-water interview with the team leaders. An Air Force shore team provided logistical support and helped manage media activities.

The reasoning behind formation of these teams and their particular members was to assign technical tasks to those most qualified and experienced in the respective fields, while providing a single “Command Team” to help coordinate efforts. The ASSURE team had previously indicated they would be unable to utilize their boat so a decision had been made to accommodate ASSURE members on government-leased boats. This decision proved most useful as the Air Force was able to have direct communication with the ASSURE leadership and thus was able to address all concerns as they arose.

Weather was fair, partly overcast with mild temperatures and light and variable winds. Seas were calm for most of the day but increased to approximately 2-foot swells in the late afternoon. Water depths in the survey area varied from 5 to 17 feet, including tidal variation throughout the day.


The missions of each survey team varied. The primary mission of the radiation detection team was to establish a background reference by taking gamma radiation measurements at the three predetermined locations outside the area identified by ASSURE using both sodium iodide (NaI) and high purity germanium (HPGe) detectors. The secondary mission of the radiation detection team was to perform any additional point measurements at locations indicated by the command team. The DTRA team mission was to map the gamma radiation in the area identified by ASSURE and collect seabed samples for further analysis. Samples were collected from predetermined locations as well as at any location that real-time analysis indicated may be of interest.

Upon arrival at the morning meeting location, buoy 1, both the DTRA team and the radiation detection team made initial background measurements.

The radiation detection team continued making reference background measurements using a NaI detector for count rate measurements and a stationary HPGe detector, which was placed on the seabed for 30-minute duration measurements. After completing the reference background measurements, the command team was to direct the radiation detection team to specific spots (primarily areas of interest to be identified during DTRA’s wide-area survey) for detailed measurements.

Meanwhile, the DTRA team mapped an area measuring approximately 800 feet by 300 feet and oriented along and centered upon the same axis as the “football field” described by ASSURE. The entire command team agreed upon the corners of the box to be mapped. The mapping performed would identify areas of interest that the radiation detection team would further evaluate utilizing more precise instrumentation. Additionally 12 seabed samples were collected by the DTRA technical team, 10 coinciding with the magnetometer readings provided by ASSURE and two identified by the command team.

As the day progressed, the ASSURE leader indicated an uneasiness with the GPS coordinates provided to the Air Force and that the survey may be in the wrong area. The Air Force asked the ASSURE leader what measurements or survey areas would make him feel more confident that the proper area was being surveyed. As a result, the radiation detection team’s mission was modified to include using ASSURE’s equipment, methods, and techniques in an attempt to locate the elevated radiation described by ASSURE. The initial technique requested by the ASSURE lead was to drift with the tide through an area of interest making measurements. The ASSURE lead identified the starting point of four drifts. These measurements had two goals: 1) provide data for later comparison to DTRA measurements, and 2) provide a simplified contour which should show the radiation feature anecdotally reported by the ASSURE team. After completing the drifts and a short meeting between the Air Force, the ASSURE lead, and the ASSURE radiation expert, it was decided that the DTRA mission was progressing favorably (the DTRA team was just reaching the quadrant of the survey area where ASSURE believed the Mk15 to be located). However, the ASSURE lead then requested a particular “line” along which he would like the radiation detection team to take measurements. The Air Force agreed to this request as well as two other requests (described below) so that all parties could feel confident the survey was thorough.

After measurements were made along this line, the ASSURE lead requested he personally guide the radiation team to an additional location. The ASSURE lead and an Air Force member boarded the radiation detection boat for these readings. The ASSURE lead then guided the boat to the desired location. After a few readings for orientation, measurements were made along a direction back towards the original survey area. At this point the ASSURE lead indicated he was confident the Air Force-led radiation teams had measured the ambient radiation in all areas of concern. However, since low tide was expected within 30 minutes and since ASSURE made their best measurements at low tide, one more “line” of measurements was requested and performed.

At approximately the same time, the radiation detection team completed the low tide measurements and the DTRA boat finished their tasks; both came alongside the command boat. All parties verified that measurements had been made to each other’s satisfaction, and preliminary review of the data indicated nothing out of the ordinary or that required further investigation. The ASSURE team affirmed that all the areas had been surveyed to their satisfaction. The ASSURE team was asked if they would like the DTRA team to survey a modified area the next day. After consultation the ASSURE team replied that a modified survey would not be necessary.

The data collection teams were then released from the mission and to return to their home stations. Each collection authority (DTRA, NNSA, and GaDNR) would evaluate their data independently and provide technical input to the Air Force. The Air Force would then consolidate information from each into an overall report to be released upon completion of the evaluation, report writing, and required management outbriefs.

In the days following the survey ASSURE and the Georgia State Department of Natural Resources personnel determined that the survey area was correct partially due to the Air Force-led team purposely covering an area larger than the specific spot identified by ASSURE.


The reports and data communicated from the ASSURE team to the Air Force fell into two primary areas: magnetometer data and radiation data.


The ASSURE team magnetometer data consisted of ten GPS positions with corresponding magnetometer readings (Table 1). The U.S. Navy, through a representative of the Supervisor of Salvage, evaluated the data. The equipment described by ASSURE was consistent with the type of equipment that the U.S. Navy would use in a magnetometer search. However, the evaluation indicated the ten magnetometer readings were very low and not large enough to be distinguishable from “noise” levels. The Navy provided technical experts to augment the deployed team to Wassaw Sound to better evaluate the equipment used, and to discuss methods and results with the ASSURE magnetometer expert. The ASSURE magnetometer expert was unable to attend the meetings, and no further evaluation of the data, equipment, or data collection methods could be accomplished.


Table 1. Magnetometer readings and positions provided by ASSURE.


nano Tesla


31 deg. 55 min.


80 deg. 55 min.
































In subsequent e-mail exchanges, the ASSURE magnetometer expert indicated that the ten points provided to the Air Force were a randomly selected subset of 2700 data points collected by the ASSURE team. The method of selection of these particular ten points was unclear and no indication was given as to the relative significance of these points as compared to the others of the data set. However, the 2700 points were obtained by expanding in a spiral pattern out from a center point judged by ASSURE to be the position of the Mk15.


The ASSURE team provided anecdotal radiation information, with no specific radiation readings or locations. ASSURE reported that they observed a factor of ten increase in their radiation detection readings using a 2x2 sodium iodide (NaI) detector, but these readings and the positions where they were taken was not provided. The ASSURE team indicated the locations would be provided when the team was on the water. To attempt to replicate the measurements described by the ASSURE team, and to analyze the radiation present, the Air Force team took several sets of equipment to Wassaw Sound.

A subsequent meeting with the ASSURE radiation expert provided additional insight into the radiation detection methods and was very helpful. The Air Force experts were satisfied that the ASSURE data measurement methodology was valid, even though the data was not recorded. The ASSURE radiation expert described readings 5 to 7 times higher in the area of interest than in adjoining areas but he was not able to characterize the source of the radiation. He provided the specifications of the equipment used to gather the data so the Air Force team could procure comparable equipment to attempt to replicate the data.

Radiation Detection

Two boats were deployed to take radiation measurements on Wassaw Sound. The first boat was designated the radiation boat, and was manned by the boat captain, two Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GaDNR) experts, two NNSA National Laboratory radiation detection experts, and the ASSURE team radiation expert. The radiation boat was equipped with two types of radiation detection equipment. The first detector was the same 2x2 NaI detector used by the ASSURE team in their previous measurements. The second piece of equipment was a 40% efficiency high purity germanium (HPGe) detector, capable of energy resolution of radiation spectra, which is used in the identification of radionuclides. The detector was provided and operated by the GaDNR and was equipped with a watertight housing for making in situ measurements underwater, on the seabed floor.

The second boat for radiation detection was a Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) boat equipped with a towed array of 6 3x3 NaI detectors, summed together to record radiation levels at a rate of one data point per second. Figure 3 depicts the 6-detector array. This array would allow a wide-area survey and possibly detect localized points of higher radiation. The DTRA boat also possessed an HPGe detector for detailed radiation characterization. In addition to the DTRA personnel on the boat, an NNSA radiation detection expert was present to analyze data in real time.

The radiation boat took several series of data points, which are shown in Figure 4. These data were taken with a Ludlum Model 3 Survey Meter, using a Ludlum Model 44-10 2x2 NaI Gamma Scintillator. This was the same instrument that was used by the ASSURE team in their previous measurements. The gamma scintillator is able to provide integral count rates at a position. This instrument allowed the Air Force-led team to attempt to replicate the anecdotal data provided by ASSURE and helped answer the first question identified in the task force mission. The complete set of data taken by the radiation boat is listed in Appendix 1.

The first data sets acquired by the radiation boat consisted of three widely spaced positions well away from the ASSURE identified area of interest at which representative background readings were acquired. The points selected were at fixed channel markers in the Bull River channel. These three positions, and their respective detector readings, are shown in Figure 5. The three readings varied by a factor of 1.8. Figure 5 also indicates the area identified by the ASSURE team as the possible location of the Mk15.

Once the area was identified by the ASSURE team, the DTRA team marked the area with temporary buoys and collected data, which is described later. The radiation boat then took a series of data points at the request of the ASSURE team lead.

The count rates ranged from 600 counts per minute (cpm) to 2000 cpm. While the DTRA team was working in the buoyed area, the radiation boat took a series of data in the general area of the magnetometer positions given by the ASSURE team, shown in Figure 6 (a). The ASSURE team leader then directed the radiation boat to perform a series of drifts to mimic the method previously employed by the ASSURE team. Four drifts were conducted in this manner, as shown in Figure 6 (b). The radiation boat then returned to the position that had produced the highest reading of 2000 cpm in drift 2. The count-rate recorded at this time was 1700 cpm, and is shown in Figure 6 (c). At this point, the ASSURE team leader was taken to the radiation boat and directed a series of measurements. This series is shown in Figure 6 (d). After the ASSURE team leader returned to the command boat, the radiation boat returned to the position where the highest readings had been measured, and took two additional measurements of 1900 and 2000 cpm, shown in Figure 6 (e). The final series of data points is comprised of two separate drifts directed by the ASSURE team, closer to the sand bar shallows. Both drifts are shown in Figure 6 (f). Figure 6(g) depicts all NaI data collected by the radiation boat.

If a simple linear interpolation routine is used to construct a contour map of the count-rate data shown in Figure 6 (g), variations in radiation readings can be seen. These variations support ASSURE’s anecdotal description of an area of enhanced radiation readings. This simple contour map of the readings is shown in Figure 7.

By doing so, the Air Force-led team was able to replicate the general radiation trends reported by ASSURE. Although the variations in radiation readings support ASSURE’s description of varied readings, the highest reading measured by the Air Force team, 2000 cpm, was not of the magnitude that ASSURE had reported. Also, the range of readings taken by the Air Force team, 600-2000 cpm (a factor of 3.3) was not as large a range as reported by the ASSURE team. Nonetheless, the presence of varying levels of radiation was

sufficient to address the first question of the Air Force mission, and to proceed to the second question, to determine if the enhanced radiation comes from the Mk15.

High Purity Germanium Detector Spectra

The radiation boat identified an area of enhanced radiation readings, and then employed a much more sensitive radiation detector to characterize the radiation coming from the identified areas. The 40% efficiency high purity germanium (HPGe) detector uses energy resolution of the detected radiation to identify the suspected source of the radiation. The resulting spectra uniquely identify the source of the radiation. The radiation boat returned to the position of highest radiation readings and took a 30-minute spectrum using the HPGe detector. It also collected a 30-minute spectrum at the position of the highest radiation reading taken in the buoyed area of interest (1300 cpm). Again for comparison, 30-minute HPGe spectra were also collected at the three channel markers in the Bull River channel, where the NaI background readings were taken. These positions are shown in Figure 8.

Each energy spectrum was analyzed to identify the energy peaks present, thus identifying the radioisotopes that are emitting the radiation. Spectrum sample 2, SAM02, was taken at the position of the highest radiation reading identified by the NaI detector. This spectrum is shown in Figure 9.

Spectral analysis software compares peak energies against the known energies of gamma rays from radionuclides. It then searches for gamma-ray peaks from the same isotope, or from daughter isotopes that would corroborate the presence of that isotope. The first, and most prominent isotope identified, is a component of seawater, potassium-40 (40K). 40K emits a gamma ray at 1460.8 keV. Figure 10 shows the 40K peak in SAM02. The peak occurs at 1461.8 keV due to spectral energy calibration shift.

Uranium-238 (238U) occurs naturally in the earth’s crust at an average concentration of 4 parts per million. It decays through many consecutive radioactive daughters including 226Ra. The gamma-ray spectra of separated 226Ra and natural 238U, each in equilibrium with its daughters, are nearly the same and are dominated by gamma rays from the daughters bismuth-214 (214Bi) and lead-214 (214Pb). Three of these gamma ray energies are listed in Table 2, and shown in Figure 11.

The same spectral analysis is used for the identification of thorium-232 (232Th). 232Th is present in the Earth’s crust and is identified by its daughters. Table 3 lists the daughter gamma rays that identify 232Th and Figure 12 depicts the spectral peaks from SAM02 that are from 232Th.

Table 2. Spectral identification peaks for 226Ra, as shown in Fig. 11.


Gamma Ray Energy (keV)

Spectral Peak Energy (keV)











No other isotopes could be identified from the spectrum taken. The spectral analysis software attempts to identify a list of over 60 isotopes, such as cobalt-60 (a common isotope used for radiation sources); molybdenum-99 and tecnecium-99metastable (used in medical radioisotope imaging); iodine-129 through iodine-135 (common reactor products and fallout components); cesium-136, -137, -138 (another reactor byproduct); and the actinides uranium-235 (235U), 238U, and americium-241. None of these isotopes were found in the spectral data.

Uranium, as a component of nuclear weapons, is one of the main elements for which the spectral analysis software used searches. Natural uranium is composed of 99.2745% 238U, 0.72% 235U, and 0.0055% uranium-234 (234U). Natural uranium that has been separated from ore, and depleted uranium (which has much of the 235U and 234U removed), are identified by the presence of gamma-rays from 234mPa but an absence of gamma rays from Ra-226 and later daughters. It would take thousands of years for these daughters to build back up to their natural concentrations. Enriched uranium would be identified by the


Table 3. Spectral identification peaks for 232Th, as shown in Fig. 12.


Gamma Ray Energy


Spectral Peak Energy (keV)

















presence of the isotope of 235U in elevated amounts. 238U emits only low energy gammas, so gamma detectors typically cannot detect pure 238U directly. 238U is most easily identified by the gamma radiation of its daughter 234mPa, which builds up through decay of 238U. It takes two to three months for detectable quantities of 234mPa to accumulate, well within the 50+ years since the Mk15 was lost. The energies of the two primary gamma rays of 234mPa, which indicate of the presence of 238U, are 766.4 keV and 1001.0 keV. Figure 13 shows the points on the spectrum that the analysis software searches for the presence of 238U. The peaks occur at 765.5 keV and 1001.0 keV due to spectral energy calibration.

Similar spectral analysis techniques are used to identify the presence of 235U. 235U does emit easily detectable gamma radiations, so it can be detected directly. Unfortunately, the three primary gamma rays are of relatively low energy, and therefore more difficult to detect. The three energies are 143.8, 185.7, and 205.3 keV. The corresponding peak energies in the spectrum are shown in Figure 14. Table 4 identifies the gamma ray and peak energies used to search for the presence of uranium in the spectra.

Table 4. Spectral identification peaks for 235U and 238U.


Gamma Ray Energy (keV}

Spectral Peak Energy (keV)














Table 5. Attributes of the Computed Source Spectrum in Gamma Designer. • 16 ppm for thorium-uranium-potassium compounds

o 75.0% Th-232

o 0.175% U-235

o 24.8% U-238

o Sufficient K-40 to match

• Decayed 1 million years

• 15 gm/cm2 attenuation coefficient/absorber (to match continuum)

To offer a comparison of the spectra that would be seen by the detectors in the presence of 235U and 238U, NNSA has provided calculations of representative uranium sources. These computed spectra show the general position and relative magnitudes of peaks coming from the two uranium isotopes. Figure 18 shows the portion of the collected spectrum below 430 keV and a calculated spectrum from a 1-kg ball of highly enriched uranium (HEU). The HEU calculation also used 15gm/cm2 attenuation coefficient/absorber to match the continuum. The inset shows clearly where the three low energy peaks (and relative magnitudes) from 235U would be present. The collected spectrum shows no sign of the isotope 235U, which is the more difficult isotope to detect, due to the low energy of its radiation, and it’s very small abundance compared to 238U.

The same has been done in Figure 19 for a 2-kg ball of depleted uranium (238U enriched, or 235U depleted). The 766.4 and 1001.0 keV characteristic peaks of 238U are not present in the collected spectrum, as compared to the calculation. This indicates no 238U (the most prominent isotope of uranium) is present in the spectrum taken at this position in Wassaw Sound.

No depleted uranium or highly enriched uranium was found at the survey location. The absence of the characteristic radiation that would form the signature of the Mk15 leads to the conclusion that no evidence of the Mk15 was found in any of the measurements taken. However, the data cannot prove that the Mk15 is not present in this general location. This effectively answers the second question set out in the Air Force mission; the variations in measured radiation are not attributable to the Mk15.


The DTRA technical team provided an additional method of analysis to the Air Force team by collecting sediment samples from the sea floor and entering them into a chain-of-custody system for analysis. One sediment sample was taken from each of the ten magnetometer positions given by the ASSURE team, and two additional samples were taken as directed by the command team from the survey area. The locations, from which the sediment samples were taken, are shown in Figure 20. These samples were then sent to NNSA laboratories for analysis.

Two methods of analysis were employed for sample characterization. Mass spectrometry was performed to analyze for anthropogenic uranium in the samples. Gamma spectroscopy was performed to attempt to identify the source of the radiation in the same manner that spectral analysis was done on the GaDNR and DTRA HPGe spectra.

Mass Spectrometry

The isotopic composition of uranium in the collections was determined by plasma-source mass spectrometry after radiochemical processing of both aqueous and solid collection fractions. Criteria for presence of anthropogenic uranium (depleted or enriched) were: (1) a statistically significant deviation in the 238U/235U atom ratio from the invariant natural ratio, or (2) the presence of 236U, which does not occur naturally. Within the suite of twelve collections, there would be evidence for a localized source if individual collections were to differ from the population as a whole.

Analyses for all collections displayed natural uranium isotopic composition considering the 238U/235U and 236U/235U ratios within measurement uncertainties, which were quite low. No one collection or set of collections stood apart from the others in its uranium isotopes.

Figure 21 shows the 238U to 235U ratio for the twelve samples taken in Wassaw Sound. The nominal natural uranium composition ratio is 137.88; the twelve samples taken do not differ significantly from this value. The average of the twelve samples is 137.9, which is equivalent to the nominal natural ratio.

The other criterion for anthropogenic uranium is the presence of 236U, which is not present in nature. No 236U was detected outside of measurement uncertainties. The results of the mass spectrometry on the twelve sediment samples are shown in Table 6.

Table 6. Final Results for Savannah Survey sample.


Run Number




7.679 E-03



7.693 E-03



7.717 E-03



7.661 E-03



7.786 E-03



7.723 E-03



7.848 E-03



7.647 E-03



7.659 E-03



7.663 E-03



7.657 E-03



7.758 E-03



The observed 234U/235U, 238U/235U, and 236U/235U ratios for all twelve collections form a consistent suite of data, with no one collection or set of collections standing apart outside of uncertainties. No variations from natural uranium isotopic composition outside the limits of analytical uncertainty were detected for any sample for 234U/235U, 236U/235U or 238U/235U. In Table 6, “not detected” for 236U reflects that no mass spectrometer counts were detected above instrumental background.

Gamma Spectroscopy

To determine any degree of Savannah River Site (SRS) regional background present in the collections, gamma spectroscopy of solid collection fractions was performed to assay for 137Cs content. In this geographic area, elevations in 137Cs beyond natural marine levels have been determined to be a reliable indicator of the regional background from the SRS. Had there been any observed departures from natural uranium, 137Cs assay levels would become important in determining whether the cause was the SRS regional background or an actual local source. Notionally, however, any SRS effluent present would be expected across the collection suite, whereas a localized source could stand out more apparently.

Analysis of the gamma spectroscopy results for solid-fraction portions of all twelve collections showed that all detected nuclides are those commonly found in natural soil decay chains and the naturally occurring 40K. The observed variation is expected for sediment collections such as these. No evidence was found for detection of any fission products, including 137Cs. Minimum detection limits of 137Cs were estimated for the spectra in hand, and these limits were all found to be lower than 10 Bq/kg, which is the threshold for non-natural 137Cs content in the Savannah River estuary.

Figure 22 shows the intrinsic gamma emission spectrum of Collection A-5001, which is representative of the twelve samples. A long-duration spectrum with high-purity germanium spectroscopy displays the presence of anticipated natural sediment nuclides: 226Ra and daughters, thorium-228 and daughters, and potassium-40. The absence of detectable cesium-137 at 661.6 keV was especially noted. No evidence for any SRS effluent signatures, either fission products or actinides was observed.

The mass spectrometry analysis confirmed the analysis of the HPGe spectra collected in the sound by both the DTRA team and the radiation boat. Only traces of natural uranium were found using two distinctly different analysis methods. This corroboration allows the conclusion that only naturally occurring radioisotope chains are present in the areas sampled in Wassaw Sound.

The long-duration gamma spectroscopy produced the same results, while also eliminating the possibility of SRS effluent as a source of the radiation.

This effectively answers the third question of the Air Force mission to Wassaw Sound. The radiation measured from the sound is from natural sources.


In order to determine if the radiation detected in Wassaw Sound is unique to the area or a feature common to a much larger area, these measurements can be compared to other data taken at other points along the Georgia coast.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources maintains a limited database of HPGe information taken in and around the Savannah River, and in King’s Bay, GA. Several sites in King’s Bay have been sampled (Figure 23), and several samples have been taken from four sites in the Savannah River system (Figure 24). This data provides a baseline for comparison to the Wassaw Sound data.

In the spectral analysis of the HPGe data, each peak can be analyzed to estimate the amount of the isotope that would need to be present to create the peak shown in the spectrum. This analysis has been done by GaDNR and is shown in Table 7.

The Wassaw Sound measurements can be compared to the previously recorded data statistically. Figure 25 shows the statistical analysis done for the 226Ra daughters. The mean activity for the GaDNR data, exclusive of the Wassaw Sound data, is 481 pCi/kg. One standard deviation is shown in the graph by the dashed red line. Statistically speaking, one-third of the measurements will tend to fall outside of one standard deviation if the value is distributed normally. This is the case for the three background measurements. Two fall within one standard deviation, and one falls outside. The 226Ra activity in the two sample spectra collected by the radiation boat fall outside one standard deviation. This is not unexpected, because these points were specifically selected due to the increased radiation signature of the positions.

When the 232Th data is analyzed, as shown in Figure 26, the Wassaw Sound samples are shown to be more in line with the compiled data. As in the 226Ra data, two background activities fall within one standard deviation, and one lies outside. But one of the sample activities, SAM02 (taken at the position of the highest radiation identified by the NaI detector) falls within one standard deviation of the mean. It is in fact equal in magnitude to the 232Th activity measured at the third background measurement. Statistically, the Wassaw Sound data does not appear to be significantly different than the previous data measured by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

These enhanced radiation levels can be attributed to monazite deposits, which are rich in thorium sand. The Blue Ridge and Piedmont Provinces, which lie inland of the coast, contain monazite deposits. The Savannah and Ogeechee river basins carry monazite sand to their estuaries on the coast of Georgia.4 Wassaw Sound lies between these two estuary systems. These monazite deposits are common in parts of the southeastern coast of the United States.


The DTRA team provided the ability to perform a broad-area survey using a 6-detector array towed behind a boat. The detectors were 3x3 NaI gamma ray detectors, ganged to integrate total counts from all six detectors. Each was spaced two feet apart on centerline. If the acceptable range of detection is taken to be one foot on either side of each detector, this total width comes to twelve feet of coverage. The array was moving at a reported speed of 2 knots, or approximately 3.38 feet per second. A total count from all detectors was recorded each second, which on average results in a count rate averaged over an area of 40.5 square feet. This area coverage would deviate as speed fluctuated, and when the detector array planed above the seabed surface. Once the measurements were started, it was noticed that one detector was not functioning. This was a detector on the end of the array, which decreased the area coverage to 33.8 square feet, but increased the dead space between each track by an additional two feet. The distance between tracks was approximately thirty feet. This gives an approximate distance not covered by the detectors of twenty feet between each track.

Figure 27 provides a qualitative view of the broad-area survey. Any instances where the count rate fell below 100 cps (marked in dark green in Figure 27) were reported to be the times that the detector array planed off the bottom of the seabed.

The highest count rates reported by DTRA were 1100 cps. A definitive comparison between the radiation boat NaI count rates and the DTRA count rates is difficult, due to the differences in measurement techniques. The radiation boat readings were point measurements as opposed to the integrated counts measured by dragging the DTRA array.


The ASSURE magnetometer expert did not attend the meeting or provide additional data. This report can draw no conclusions about the magnetometer data other than it appeared to the Air Force-led team of experts to be indistinguishable from "noise". The first question that the Air Force set out to answer was whether or not there were areas of enhanced radiation present in Wassaw Sound. The Air Force led team identified variations in radiation readings which were consistent with the anecdotal radiation descriptions provided by ASSURE, although the reported magnitudes related by the ASSURE team were greater. The same equipment used by the ASSURE team in their previous measurements was used in the Air Force survey, under the guidance of the ASSURE radiation expert. Measurement variations of a factor of 3.3 (600cpm to 2000cpm) were enough to lead the Air Force team to conclude that the phenomena of a radiation feature observed by ASSURE was indeed present in Wassaw Sound.

The second question asked if the enhanced radiation levels could be attributed to the Mk15. Detailed spectral analysis of the radiation at three points within the survey area (and three “background” reference points outside the survey area) showed only natural primordial decay chains. There is likelihood that any enhanced radiation levels could be attributed to the presence of monazite deposits containing thorium carried to the sound by the river estuary systems. There was no evidence of the Mk15 in any of the measurements taken.

In order to answer the final question, if the radiation source could be identified, radiochemical analysis of twelve sediment samples was performed. Samples were collected from the ten reported magnetometer positions and two additional samples were collected from positions directed by the command team. The radiochemical analysis confirmed the spectral analysis, showing only natural isotopes, in ratios that are consistent with natural sediment. Additional gamma spectroscopy found no evidence of Savannah River Site effluent, or any other unnatural nuclear waste as the source of the enhanced radiation.

Areas of varying radiation levels were observed in Wassaw Sound, but no evidence of the Mk15 was found. Detailed analysis of the data concluded the varying radiation was from natural elements contained in the sediment of the southeastern coast (i.e., background radiation).

No new information has been uncovered that would lead the Air Force to modify the conclusions reached in 2001. Valuable experience was gained in utilizing modern radiation detection methodology to attempt to locate the missing weapon.

Appendix Epsilon e

The following is the official policy of the Department of Defense in regard to reporting Broken Arrows and similar nuclear emergencies:

DOD Doctrine

SORT: 5230.16 DOCI: DODD 5230.16 DATE: 19931220 TITL: DODD 5230.16 Nuclear Accident and Incident Public Affairs (PA) Guidance, December 20, 1993

Refs: (a) DoD Directive 5230.16, subject as above, February 7, 1983 (hereby canceled) (b) Federal Preparedness Circular 8, "Public Affairs in Emergencies," June 22, 1989 NOTE: Available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 500 C Street, SW, Washington, D.C. 20429 END NOTE: (c) DoD Directive 5100.52, "DoD Response to an Accident or Significant Incident Involving Radioactive Materials," December 21, 1989 (d) Executive Order 12356, "National Security Information," April 2, 1982 (e) through (h)1 see enclosure 1


This Directive:

1. Reissues reference (a) to update DoD policy, responsibilities, and procedures for the prompt release of information to the public in the interest of public safety, and to prevent public alarm in the event of accidents or significant incidents involving nuclear weapons or nuclear components, radioactive material, nuclear weapon launch or transport vehicles (when a nuclear weapon is aboard), or nuclear reactors under DoD control.

2. Updates DoD policy, responsibilities, and procedures during an improvised nuclear device (IND) incident.


This Directive applies to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Military Departments, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Unified Commands, the Defense Agencies, and the DoD Field Activities (hereafter referred to collectively as "the DoD Components"). The term "Military Departments," as used herein, refers to the Airy, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marine Corps.


Terms used in this Directive are defined in enclosure 2.


It is DoD policy:

1. To establish efficient and effective procedures for the release of information to the public in the event of nuclear accidents, IND incidents, or nuclear weapon significant incidents. These procedures include exceptions to the policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence or absence of nuclear weapons at any specified location.

2. That in a nuclear weapon accident occurring in the United States, its territories or possessions, the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs (ATSD(PA)) and the On-Scene Commander (OSC) are required to confirm to the general public the presence or absence of nuclear weapons or radioactive nuclear components, when necessary, in the interest of public safety or to reduce or prevent widespread public alarm. Notification of public authorities is also required if the public is, or may be, in danger of radiation exposure or other danger posed by the weapon or its components.

3. That in a nuclear weapon significant incident that has the potential of escalating to an accident, the Deputy Director of Operations (DDO), National Military Command Center (NMCC), may confirm to appropriate authorities, or the ATSD(PA) may confirm the presence of nuclear weapons in the interest of public safety or to reduce or prevent widespread public alarm.

4. That during a nuclear weapon accident overseas, the ATSD(PA) or the theater Commander in Chief (CINC), with concurrence of the foreign government through the appropriate Chief of U.S. Mission, may confirm the presence of nuclear weapons or radioactive nuclear components in the interest of public safety. Notification of public authorities is also required if the public is, or may be, in danger of radiation exposure or other danger posed by the weapon or its components.

5. That in a nuclear weapon significant incident overseas having the potential to escalate to an accident, the ATSD(PA) or the theater CINC with concurrence of the foreign government, through the appropriate Chief of U.S. Mission, may confirm the presence of nuclear weapons in the interest of public safety or to reduce or prevent widespread public alarm.

6. That information releases relating to improvised nuclear devices will follow the same general guidelines as for accidents or significant incidents. However, the Defense Senior Representative must have the concurrence of the Federal Bureau of Investigation as lead Federal Agency (on U.S. territory or possessions) or of the foreign government and Department of State as lead Federal Agency through the appropriate chief of U.S. mission.

7. With the exception of releasing information in the event of nuclear accidents and nuclear weapon significant incidents, to respond to any public requests about the location of nuclear weapons as follows: It is U.S. policy to neither confirm nor deny the presence or absence of nuclear weapons at any general or specific location. This response shall be provided even when such location is thought to be known or obvious. Regarding the release of information on nuclear capable ships, submarines, and naval aircraft, the following statement shall be used: It is general U.S. policy not to deploy nuclear weapons aboard surface ships, attack submarines, and naval aircraft. However, we do not discuss the presence or absence of nuclear weapons aboard specific ships, submarines, or aircraft. There is no exception to policy governing release of information about IND incidents.

8. That if asked why the United States has a Neither Confirm Nor Deny policy, the response should be as follows: The basis for the security requirement inherent in the U.S. policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence or absence of nuclear weapons is to deny militarily useful information to potential or actual enemies, to enhance the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence, and contribute to the security of nuclear weapons, especially against the threats of sabotage and terrorism.


1. The Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs shall:

a. When notified of an accident or significant incident involving nuclear weapons, nuclear components, nuclear reactors or radioactive materials in the custody of or under the physical control of the Department of Defense do the following:

(1) Establish communications, as appropriate, with public affairs officers (PAOs) of the Unified Commands, the Military Departments, Defense Nuclear Agency (DNA), Department of Energy (DoE), and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The U.S. Chief of Mission and the U.S. Department of State (DoS) PAO shall be notified and consulted on accidents overseas or on accidents and significant incidents near a U.S. border.

(2) Provide initial PA guidance, make news releases, respond to news media inquiries, and hold news conferences at the national level in coordination with appropriate DoD officials (to include the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Atomic Energy) and the Director, DNA), the DoE, the FEMA, and if overseas or near a U.S. border, with the DoS.

(3) Ensure that the DoD OSC is advised immediately of all news releases and news conferences held at the national level addressing accident response or recovery operations.

(4) Delegate, when appropriate, overall PA responsibility to the Military Department or Unified Commander having primary responsibility for the DoD accident response.

b. Issue, as necessary, a DoD PA regulation and other discretionary instructions and guidance to ensure timely and uniform implementation in the Department of Defense of approved exceptions to the policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence or absence of nuclear weapons in a specific location.

c. When notified of an IND incident:

(1) Establish communications with PAOs of the lead Federal Agency. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the lead agency for incidents in the United States, its territories and possessions. The DoS is the lead agency for acts not under FBI responsibility.

(2) Establish communications with PAOs of the Military Departments, the DNA, the DoE, the FEMA, the applicable Unified Command, and other appropriate Federal Agencies.

(3) Act in support of the lead Federal Agency PAO by ensuring DoD PAO representation in the joint information center (JIC) established by the lead Federal Agency. Such support shall include jointly coordinating all press releases and media events.

(4) Ensure the Defense Senior Representative (DSR) is advised immediately of all news releases and press conferences held at the national level addressing IND incident response operations.

(5) Delegate, when appropriate, overall DoD PA responsibility to the Military Department or Unified Command having primary responsibility for the DoD response to an IND incident.

d. Coordinate with the General Counsel of the Department of Defense, as appropriate, when litigation is likely due to the conditions surrounding a nuclear accident or incident.

2. The Secretaries of the Military Departments, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Commanders of the Unified Commands, and the Directors of the Defense Agencies shall implement this Directive and shall ensure that the following PA aspects are included in their contingency planning:

a. Comprehensive PA planning for DoD nuclear accident, IND incident and nuclear weapon significant incidents, and comprehensive PA operations, including adequate personnel and administrative, communications, and logistical support for a potential DoD response force.

b. Procedures to be followed by potential OSCs under the DoD Component's command in the United States, its territories and possessions. These PA procedures shall be in the form of a checklist and shall include the subjects in the example in enclosure 4.

c. Precoordinated contingency releases for nuclear weapon accidents. Examples of contingency releases in enclosure 5 are appropriate for inclusion in PA plans. Actual releases shall pertain to the area and situation where they are needed; however, they should follow the examples in enclosure 5.

d. News media support at a nuclear weapon accident or significant incident site. If the DoD OSC designates the site a national defense area (NDA), news media representatives shall be supported as on a military installation. Briefings shall be given to news media representatives informing them of the appropriate information that can be disclosed during a nuclear accident and the procedures to be followed. A handout that provides the same information as the briefing shall be given to news media representatives.

e. Periodic training or at least annual briefings that include the PA aspects of a nuclear accident or incident. Briefings shall cover this Directive and implementing instructions of the applicable DoD Component, command, and unit. Such training is recommended for personnel who are directly involved in operations or events or have the potential of becoming involved. However, training shall include members from the Military Department police agencies, base, or station security personnel; nuclear weapons security force; and intelligence, operations, and PA personnel. In areas outside the United States, its territories, and possessions, members of the U.S. diplomatic mission, DoS, shall be invited to attend the annual briefings.

f. Provision for informing emergency response personnel, key local leaders, civilians, and State officials on radiation and other hazards that may or may not exist. For nuclear weapon or nuclear component accidents, IND incidents, and nuclear weapon significant incidents, notification may be accomplished early in the response process through telephone calls from or visits by the OSC or designees. As the response force increases, this may be accomplished with a Community Emergency Action Team (CEAT) comprising PA, medical, legal, security, communication, administrative, logistics, or other appropriate personnel from DoD and civil resources. As these resources become available, they shall function under the direction of the OSC or the DSR, or the lead Federal Agency. The CEAT shall be physically located in the JIC to facilitate coordination. Activities of the CEAT shall be coordinated through the senior FEMA official (SFO), under relationships established by Federal Preparedness Circular 8 (reference (b)), with similar activities of other agencies to ensure a unified approach in working with the community. In overseas areas, the OSC or DSR may constitute a CEAT that shall coordinate through the appropriate Unified Commander, or designee, and Chief of U.S. Mission and host-government authorities. For military nuclear reactor or radiological material accidents, State and local officials can be informed via the FEMA in the United States, its territories and possessions, as appropriate; or through the Unified Commander, or designee, and Chief of U.S. Mission in overseas areas with host-government authorities who have this responsibility.

g. Expeditiously inform the ATSD(PA) on the PA aspects of military nuclear reactor or radiological material accidents.

3. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall:

a. Notify the ATSD(PA), in accordance with DoD Directive 5100.52 (reference (c)), to provide timely, accurate information on the progress of an accident response.

b. Invoke exceptions to the policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence or absence of a nuclear weapon before the OSC arrives at a nuclear weapon accident site in accordance with procedures in enclosure 3 when it is necessary immediately to implement public safety actions or to reduce public alarm. This action shall be taken with available information and the Chief, or designee, of the responsible Military Department shall be informed. Precoordinated information required by local and State officials to ensure public safety and health, and necessary to aid law enforcement personnel to secure the weapon, shall be retained in the NMCC. The DDO shall give this information to State and local officials (if time permits, via the FEMA) when required to reduce the hazard to life, health, or property before the initial response force arrives.

c. Refer news media inquiries received at the NMCC to the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs duty officer.

4. The Commanders of the Unified Commands shall implement this Directive and develop nuclear weapon accident, IND incident, nuclear weapon significant incident, and nuclear reactor or radiological accident PA planning guidance, including:

a. Provisions and procedures to expeditiously inform the ATSD(PA); Chief of U.S. Mission, DoS; and the host government of emergency news releases; and the use of the host government's public release facilities.

b. Contingency plans, announcements, and methods of release developed by Unified Commanders, or designees, in consultation with the Chief of U.S. Mission in the country concerned.

c. Provisions for clearing contingency announcements and methods of release with host governments, when required by international agreement. This process shall be accomplished by the theater CINC through the Chief of U.S. Mission in the country concerned.

5. The Heads of the DoD Components shall comply with this Directive and shall establish notification procedures as required by DoD Directive 5100.52 (reference (c)).


DoD-prescribed procedures on nuclear weapon accidents and significant incidents, nuclear components, radioactive material, and DoD nuclear reactor and radiological accidents are in enclosure 3.


This Directive is effective immediately. Forward two copies of implementing documents to the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs within 120 days.

William J. Perry Deputy Secretary of Defense

Enclosures - 5 1. References 2. Definitions 3 Procedures on Accidents and Significant Incidents Involving Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Components, Nuclear Reactors, or Radioactive Materials 4. Model PA Checklist for DoD OSC or Designee at an Accident Involving Radioactive Materials 5. Contingency Releases for Nuclear Weapon Accidents

REFERENCES, continued

(e) Public Law 93-288, "Disaster Relief Act of 1974," May 22, 1974, as amended (f) Joint Pub 102, "Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms," December 1, 1989 (g) Section 142 of Public Law 83-703, "Atomic Energy Act of 1954," August 30, 1954, as amended (h) Executive Order 12148, "Federal Emergency Management," July 20, 1979


1. Area Commander. A Military Service-designated commander with authority in a specific geographical area.

2. BENT SPEAR. A Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff term used in the Department of Defense to identify and report a nuclear weapon significant incident involving a nuclear weapon or warhead, nuclear components, or vehicle when nuclear loaded. This term includes a significant incident as defined in DoD Directive 5100.52 (reference

3. BROKEN ARROW. A Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff term to identify and report an accident involving a nuclear weapon or warhead or nuclear component. (See definition 23, below, nuclear weapon accident.)

4. Classified National Security Information. Information or material subject to the control of the U.S. Government encompassing both U.S. national defense and foreign relations that has been determined under E.O. 12356 (reference (d)) to require protection against unauthorized disclosure and that is so designated.

5. Combined Information Bureau (CIB). A facility established in a foreign country near the scene of a nuclear weapon accident or significant incident and staffed by U.S. and host-nation PA personnel. Space may also be allocated for the media. Normally, press briefings will be conducted at the CIB.

6. Community Emergency Action Team (CEAT). A team comprising PA, medical, legal, security, communication, administrative, logistics, or other appropriate personnel from DoD and civil resources whose function is to inform emergency response personnel, key local leaders, civilians, and State officials on radiation and other hazards that may or may not exist. A team of response and local experts that operates out of the JIC and is available to assist the local community.

7. Coordinate. To bring into common action so as not to duplicate unnecessarily or omit important actions. The act of coordination does not involve direction of one agency by another.

8. Custodial Commander. A commander responsible for maintaining custody, guardianship, and safekeeping of nuclear weapons and their components and of source and special nuclear materials.

9. Defense Senior Representative (DSR). A general or flag officer provided by the responsible Military Department or CINC who acts as the DoD single point of contact on-site in the event of an IND incident. The DSR exercises operational control over all responding DoD assets unless otherwise specified. The DSR provides assets, advice, and assistance to the lead Federal Agency, and coordinates actions with the DoE senior official.

10. EMPTY QUIVER. A reporting term to identify and report the seizure, theft, or loss of a U.S. nuclear weapon.

11. FADED GIANT. A reporting term to identify an event involving a nuclear reactor or radiological accident.

12. Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO). The Federal official appointed by the President upon declaration of a major disaster or emergency under Public Law 93-288 (reference (e)) to coordinate the overall Federal response.

13. Formerly Restricted Data. Information removed from the restricted data category upon a joint determination by the DoE (or antecedent agencies) and the Department of Defense that such information relates primarily to the military use of atomic weapons and that such information can be adequately safeguarded as classified defense information. (For foreign dissemination, however, such information is treated in the same manner as restricted data.)

14. Improvised Nuclear Device (IND). A device incorporating radio-active materials designed to result in either the dispersal of radioactive material or in the formation of nuclear yield. Such devices may be fabricated in a completely improvised manner or may result from the sabotage, seizure, theft, or loss of a U.S. or foreign nuclear weapon.

15. Improvised Nuclear Device (IND) Incident. An event resulting from a deliberate act, involving nuclear weapons or nuclear materials that included the sabotage, seizure, theft, loss of a nuclear weapon or radiological nuclear weapon component, or the fabrication and employment of an IND or a credible threat of either.

16. Initial Response Force (IRF). An element (whose capabilities are delineated in the Nuclear Accident Response Capabilities Listing), belonging to DoD or DoE installations, facilities, or activities, that would take emergency response actions necessary to maintain command and control on-site pending arrival of the Service or Agency response force. Functions that the initial response force is tasked to perform (within its capabilities) are rescue operations; accident site security; fire fighting; initiation of appropriate explosive ordnance disposal procedures; radiation monitoring; establishment of command, control, and communications; and PA activities.

17. Installation. See Joint Pub 102 (reference (f)). For PA purposes, any Federal installation in active status.

18. Joint Information Center (JIC). A facility established at the scene of a nuclear weapon accident or significant incident to coordinate all PA activities. The JIC shall include representation from the Department of Defense, the DoE, the FEMA, and other Federal Agencies, as well as State and local governments.

19. Lead Federal Agency. The Federal Agency that owns, authorizes, regulates, or is otherwise deemed responsible for the radiological activity causing the emergency and that has the authority to take action on site.

20. National Defense Area (NDA). An area established on non-Federal lands located within the United States, its possessions or territories for safeguarding classified defense information or protecting DoD equipment and/or material. Establishment of an NDA temporarily places such non- Federal lands under the effective control of the Department of Defense and results only from an emergency event. The OSC or DSR at the scene shall define the boundary, mark it with a physical barrier, and post warning signs. The landowner's consent and cooperation shall be obtained whenever possible; however, military necessity will dictate the final decision regarding location, shape, and size of the NDA.

21. National Security Area (NSA). An area established on non-Federal lands located within the United States, its possessions or territories, for safeguarding classified information and/or restricted data, equipment, or material belonging to the DoE. Establishment of a national security area temporarily places such non-Federal lands under the effective control of the DoE and results only from an emergency event. The senior DoE representative having custody of the material at the scene shall define the boundary, mark it with a physical barrier, and post warning signs. The landowner's consent and cooperation shall be obtained whenever possible; however, operational necessity shall dictate the final decision regarding location, shape, and size of the national security area.

22. Nuclear Reactor Accident. An uncontrolled reactor criticality resulting in damage to the reactor core or an event such as loss of coolant that results in significant release of fission products from the reactor core.

23. Nuclear Weapon Accident. An unexpected event involving nuclear weapons or nuclear components that results in any of the following:

a. Accidental or unauthorized launching, firing, or use by U.S. forces or U.S. supported Allied forces of a nuclear-capable weapons system.

b. An accidental, unauthorized, or unexplained nuclear detonation.

c. Non-nuclear detonation or burning of a nuclear weapon or nuclear component.

d. Radioactive contamination.

e. Jettisoning of a nuclear weapon or nuclear component.

f. Public hazard, actual or perceived.

24. Nuclear Weapon Significant Incident. An unexpected event involving nuclear weapons, nuclear components, or a nuclear weapon transport or launch vehicle when a nuclear weapon is mated, loaded, or on board that does not fall into the nuclear weapon accident category but that:

a. Results in evident damage to a nuclear weapon or nuclear component to the extent that major rework, complete replacement, or examination or recertification by the DoE is required.

b. Requires immediate action in the interest of safety or nuclear weapons security.

c. May result in adverse public reaction (national or international) or inadvertent release of classified information.

d. Could lead to a nuclear weapon accident and warrants that senior national officials or agencies be informed or take action.

25. On-Scene Commander (OSC) for Nuclear Accidents. The flag or general officer designated to command the DoD response efforts at the accident site.

26. On-Site. That area around the scene of a nuclear weapon accident or significant incident that is under the operational control of the installation commander, facility manager, or DoD OSC or DoE team leader. The on-site area includes any area that has been established as an NDA or NSA.

27. Photograph. Any plate, negative, print, videotape, live television transmission, or other form of graphic representation, including any sketch or drawing.

28. Primary Commander. The Unified Commander in Chief whose forces have possession of nuclear weapons.

29. Radiological Accident. A loss of control over radiation or of radioactive material that presents a hazard to life, health, or property, or that may result in any member of the general population exceeding exposure limits for ionizing radiation.

30. Radiological Assistance. That assistance provided after an accident involving radioactive materials to:

a. Evaluate the radiological hazard.

b. Accomplish emergency rescue and first aid.

c. Minimize safety hazards to the public.

d. Minimize exposure of personnel to radiation or radioactive materials.

e. Minimize the spread of radioactive contamination.

f. Minimize damaging effects on property.

g. Disseminate technical information and medical advice to appropriate authorities.

31. Responsible Military Department. See DoD Directive 5100.52 (reference (c)).

32. Restricted Data. All data (information) on the following:

a. Design, manufacture, or use of nuclear weapons;

b. Production of special nuclear material; or

c. Use of special nuclear material in the production of energy. The term does not include data declassified or removed from the restricted data category under Pub. L. No. 83-703, Section 142 (Section 11w, Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended) (reference (g)) (Joint Pub 102, reference (f)).

33. Senior FEMA Official (SFO). A person appointed by the Director of the FEMA to coordinate the Federal response to a civil emergency. (See E.O. 12148, reference (h).)

34. Service Response Force (SRF). A DoD response force appropriately manned, equipped, and able to perform and coordinate all actions necessary to control and recover from the effects of an accident or significant incident. The specific purpose of a Service response force is to provide nuclear weapon accident or significant incident assistance. Service response forces are organized and maintained by those Services or Agencies that have custody of nuclear weapons or radioactive nuclear weapon components.

35. U.S. Chief of Mission. The senior DoS official permanently assigned to represent the U.S. Government within a foreign country, often the U.S. ambassador to that country.



1. The ATSD(PA) retains initial PA responsibility for nuclear weapon accident and significant incidents in the United States, its territories and possessions. In overseas areas, the appropriate theater CINC, in coordination with the ATSD(PA) shall retain initial PA responsibility for nuclear weapon accidents and significant incidents.

2. The presence of nuclear weapons or nuclear components at any specified location may not be confirmed nor denied except as follows:

a. In the interest of PUBLIC SAFETY in the United States, its territories and possessions, confirmation of the presence of nuclear weapons or nuclear components must be made by the OSC. The DDO, NMCC, or the ATSD(PA) may invoke this exception to policy before the OSC arrives, based on available information and in coordination with the Chief, or designee, of the responsible Military Department. Any statement confirming the presence of nuclear weapons should contain information about the possibility of injury from high explosive weapon components and/or potential radiation exposure. If necessary, the statement may list the radiation hazards that are unclassified, such as uranium or plutonium, but may not reveal classified technical data about the weapon(s). The amounts of explosive or radioactive material are examples of classified technical data. If injury or radiation exposure is unlikely, it should also be stated. Public authorities shall be notified immediately in a candid manner to enable them to take public safety actions. Notification of public authorities confirming the presence of nuclear weapons or radioactive nuclear components is required if the public is, or may be, in danger of radiation exposure or any other danger posed by the nuclear weapon or nuclear components. Confirmation shall be made promptly when actions in the interest of public safety must be taken, particularly when protective action or evacuation of civilians may be required. These actions will include releasing statements to the news media to expedite public safety procedures. The ATSD(PA) shall be advised as soon as practical when confirmation has been made directly by the OSC or DDO.

b. To reduce or prevent widespread PUBLIC ALARM in the United States, its territories and possessions, the OSC may issue an official statement of reassurance to the public that confirms or denies the presence of nuclear weapons or nuclear components. Before the OSC arrives, the ATSD(PA) may invoke this exception to policy with available information and inform the Military Department responsible. The DDO shall implement this policy through the appropriate local officials or by authorizing the DoD initial response force commander to issue a statement in an emergency. The DDO shall notify the responsible Military Department or Unified Commander if this authority is granted. Any statement confirming the presence of nuclear weapons should contain information about the possibility of injury from high explosive weapon components and/or potential radiation exposure. If injury or radiation exposure is unlikely, it should also be stated. The confirmation may state also that the use of explosive ordnance disposal teams is only a precautionary measure, and the evacuation of DoD personnel is only a precautionary measure designed to limit the number of personnel at the accident scene. A denial should characterize the accident or incident as a nonnuclear event. The ATSD(PA) shall be notified in advance if practical, or as soon as possible thereafter, if this exception to policy is initiated to enable the ATSD(PA) to continue initial PA responsibilities and to ensure the release of timely, accurate information at the national level.

c. In overseas areas outside the United States (and its territories and possessions), the ATSD(PA) or the Unified Commander or representative, with concurrence of the foreign government through the appropriate Chief of U.S. Mission, may confirm the presence of nuclear weapons or nuclear weapon components at the scene of an accident or significant incident in the interest of public safety or to reduce or prevent public alarm. The ATSD(PA) shall be advised in advance, when practical, if exception to policy is necessary. Notification of civil authorities of foreign governments, through the Chief of the appropriate U.S. Mission, is required if the public is, or may be, in danger of radiation exposure or other danger posed by the weapon or its components. (Notification of foreign governments is not considered an exception to the neither confirm nor deny policy. It is U.S. Government policy to notify foreign governments promptly of any U.S. incident that may create a hazard to public health and safety.) Any statement confirming the presence of nuclear weapons should contain information about the possibility of injury from high explosive weapon components and/or potential radiation exposure. If injury or radiation exposure is unlikely, it should also be stated.

d. In a nuclear weapon significant incident, the DDO, NMCC, or the ATSD(PA) and the Unified Commander or his representative may confirm the presence of nuclear weapons in the interest of public safety or to reduce or prevent public alarm. Confirmation must be with the concurrence of the foreign government through the appropriate Chief of U.S. Mission.

3. The DoD OSC, or designee, at a nuclear weapon or nuclear component accident or significant incident site in the continental United States shall expeditiously establish communication with the ATSD(PA) by ANY means available, if an accident or incident affecting the public requires implementation of public safety measures. Direct communication between the ATSD(PA), or designee, and the OSC, or designee, ensures appropriate coordination of PA policy matters for the Department of Defense and provides timely, accurate information for public release at the national level until the Military Department responsible for the weapon is delegated PA responsibility by the ATSD(PA).

a. If a nuclear weapons accident or significant incident results or appears likely to result, a JIC shall be established near the scene as a focal point for public release of information in a timely, accurate manner, guided by Federal Preparedness Circular 8 (reference (b)). The OSC, or designee, shall establish the JIC in coordination with the DoE, the FEMA, and State and local authorities without delay. If the SFO, or designee, arrives at the accident scene before the DoD OSC, or designee, the SFO, or designee, may establish and supervise a JIC until the OSC, or designee, arrives. JIC capabilities shall be expanded when additional personnel and resources arrive. The JIC shall have dedicated administrative, communications, and logistical support for use by all participating agencies. The JIC shall include a press center for media use and press briefings.

b. The OSC, or designee, shall assume primary leadership and direction of the JIC until such time as transition of JIC responsibility may occur, as described in paragraph A.3.c. of this enclosure, below. To provide a coordinated Federal response to the public, the OSC, or designee, shall ensure that on-scene DoD PA activities, such as news releases, briefings, or interviews, are coordinated in advance with the DoE, FEMA, and other agencies represented in the JIC. Other DoD Components will advise the OSC. Other agencies also are obligated to coordinate PA activities in advance with the OSC, or designee.

c. The ATSD(PA) and the Director of Public Affairs for the FEMA, by mutual agreement, may transfer JIC responsibility and authority from the OSC to the SFO at any time. However, when a presidentially declared emergency or disaster exists, the appointed FCO, or designee, shall assume leadership and direction of the JIC. In all cases, the Department of Defense, through the OSC, shall retain authority on security classification matters. When JIC responsibility and authority are delegated to the SFO or FCO, all PA matters about the Federal technical response shall be coordinated in advance with the OSC, or designee.

4. If an accident or significant incident, with the potential to evolve into an accident, happens outside the continental United States, the Unified Commander or the OSC, or their designees, shall expeditiously establish communication with the appropriate Chief of Mission and the ATSD(PA), or their designees, by ANY means available if an accident or incident requires implementation of public safety measures. In the absence of international agreements that provide specific guidance, the OSC, or designee, shall establish the CIB in coordination with the Chief of Mission, the foreign government military and civilian national and local authorities, and the DoE. The OSC or designee shall ensure that on-scene DoD PA activities, such as news releases, briefings, or interviews, are coordinated in advance with the Chief of Mission, the foreign government, and the DoE.

5. Policy and responsibilities about DoD programs that provide information to appropriate Federal, State, and local officials and news media on radiological safeguards, emergency plans, and other unclassified nuclear matters are outlined in DoD Directive 5100.52 (reference (c)).

6. In the event of losses, seizures, or thefts of nuclear weapons, materials, or components by terrorists or other dissident groups, or in the case of seizures of nuclear storage sites, or any site or location having a nuclear weapon or nuclear weapon system, the ATSD(PA) shall approve and handle release of information for the Department of Defense. However, this does not apply in overseas areas outside the United States, its territories and possessions, where governmental agreements exist for the release of this information.

7. Most information on nuclear weapons and their storage is classified restricted data or formerly restricted data and is very sensitive; e.g., information about the design of nuclear weapons and components, disclosing its physical state and chemical form, and the specific location of nuclear weapons. The OSC and other responsible persons at the scene shall follow the contingency releases to prevent compromise of classified information. If declassification of other information is needed, it shall be referred to the Department of Defense for consideration and coordination with the DoE as required.


1. Detailed PA planning and guidance shall be incorporated in the DoD Components' nuclear reactor and radiological accident plans and shall be in effect for the United States, its territories and possessions, and in overseas areas. This planning shall include provisions for notifying the ATSD(PA) through the chain of command to ensure PA coordination for the Department of Defense.

2. Within the United States, its territories and possessions, the appropriate DoD commander (area, on-scene, or custodial):

a. Shall immediately notify public authorities in the United States, its territories and possessions, when a DoD nuclear reactor or radiological accident presents an immediate danger to the public, particularly when the evacuation of civilians is considered prudent. If time permits, the appropriate DoD commander should issue to State and local officials any recommendations on the need to take shelter or to evacuate. In cases of imminent peril, it may be necessary for the DoD commander to issue, directly to the public or through the news media, a warning for individuals to take shelter or evacuate in those areas in immediate danger of exposure. The ATSD(PA) and other PA components shall be advised immediately of this notification.

b. May issue a public statement confirming a DoD nuclear reactor or radiological accident to reduce or prevent widespread public alarm. This confirmation may be beneficial when the accident requires a special team that attracts public attention or when evacuation of DoD personnel is necessary to prevent injury from radiation exposure.

c. When a nuclear reactor accident occurs outside the United States, its territories and possessions, the commander shall immediately inform the Chief of the U.S. Mission in the country (or its territory) where the accident occurs, as well as the Chiefs of U.S. Missions in countries whose populations might be affected. He or she also shall inform the authorities of the host-country's government through the Chief of U.S. Mission when the local population is in immediate danger and public announcement is necessary for public safety. Coordination procedures for these eventualities shall be established in advance. The ATSD(PA) shall be kept advised in all cases.


1. Expeditiously contact the ATSD(PA) by any means available. The ATSD(PA) duty officer phone numbers are DSN 227-5131 or commercial (703) 697-5131 and are maintained on a 24-hour basis. As a backup, communication also may be established through the NMCC.

2. If actions have not been taken by the FEMA or the DoE to establish a JIC, immediately establish a JIC near the scene of the accident, but outside the NDA and the OSC operational location. A press center shall also be established. Notify the ATSD(PA) of the locations of the JIC and press center and phone numbers. Also advise the ATSD(PA) how to contact the PAO at the OSC operational location. PA representation in the JIC shall include the Department of Defense, the DoE, the FEMA, other Federal Agencies, and State and local governments. Ensure that all public information is coordinated in the JIC before release.

3. When an accident occurs in overseas areas, immediately establish a CIB near the accident site if the foreign government has not already done so. The CIB should include representatives from the appropriate U.S. Embassy, the Department of Defense, the DoE, and foreign national and local military and civilian organizations. Ensure that all public information is coordinated in the CIB before release. (Before CIB establishment, ensure all information is coordinated with the U.S. Embassy, which will ensure coordination with the foreign government.)

4. Activate a CEAT, as appropriate.

5. Immediately provide dedicated administrative, communications, and logistical support to the JIC. Communication support to the JIC shall include adequate dedicated telephone lines, fax capability, and copiers.

6. Immediately provide the press center with dedicated communications and logistical support.

7. Do not disclose classified information, unclassified controlled nuclear information, or critical nuclear weapons design information.



To notify the general public

"No Radiological Danger to the Public"

(Confirms to reduce public alarm)

(Format of sample release to be used initially when no danger to the public from contamination or blast exists, but when confirmation of the presence or absence of a nuclear weapon or nuclear components significantly prevents or reduces widespread public alarm that will result from unusual activity at the incident site.)

A U.S. (type) aircraft (other type of transportation) carrying hazardous material, classified cargo, or unarmed nuclear weapon(s)) crashed (or other circumstances) at approximately (location and time).

The public is requested to stay out of the area (add, if true: under surveillance by guards) to prevent any remote possibility of hazard from the accident (or conventional high explosives detonation) and to avoid hampering removal operations. There is no need for evacuation. (There is no danger of nuclear detonation.)

The cause of the accident is under investigation. Further details will be provided as they become available.


To notify the general public

"When Public Is Possibly in Dancer"

(Confirms possibility of contamination in a nuclear weapon accident)

(Format of sample release to be used when nuclear weapons or nuclear components have been involved in an accident and the possibility exists for contamination due to fire or explosion, and details are unknown. The release to the general public should only be used after the area has been secured. Release can be modified as indicated below depending on audience.)

Minimum Announcement

A U.S. (type) aircraft (other type of transportation) carrying unarmed nuclear weapons or nuclear components crashed (or other circumstances) at (location) at approximately (time).

The public is asked to stay out of the accident area in the interest of safety due to the possibility of hazard from the accident (or conventional high-explosives detonation) and to avoid hampering recovery operations. (There is no danger of nuclear detonation.)

Add the following for appropriate officials:

Fire, rescue, and other emergency services personnel should approach the area with caution from upwind and be equipped with protective clothing and breathing apparatus. Any local official at the scene of the accident or who has left the site who can provide details on the situation should call this number: ( ). Current information from the accident scene will assist response personnel in responding to the accident and providing additional public safety guidance. If contact with the accident scene is established, determine the following: condition of aircraft and/or vehicle (such as burning, evidence of explosion, or extent of damage); condition of accident site (such as fire or blast damage); or evidence of obvious cargo (such as shapes or containers). Avoid handling any debris at the crash site.

If the aircraft is transporting nuclear weapons containing insensitive high explosives or weapons overpacked with accident resistant containers, there is a much lower probability of a detonation and the fire should be fought as long as there is a reasonable expectation of saving lives or containing the fire. The weapons, or containers, if exposed, should be cooled with water.

Law enforcement officials should prevent unauthorized personnel from entering the site and picking up fragments of the plane (vehicle) or its cargo. If any fragments already have been picked up, avoid further contact or handling. Notify (authorities) for retrieval and proper disposition.

A U.S. (Military Department) team from (name of installation) is en route to (has arrived at) the accident scene.

We have no details yet on civilian or military casualties or property damage.

The cause of the accident is under investigation. Further details will be provided as they become available.


To the General Public

"When Public Is Probably in Danger"

(Does Confirm)

(Format of sample release to be used when a nuclear accident occurs. Public safety considerations require this announcement because of the likelihood of fire or conventional high-explosive detonation of the weapon. The following statement should be made locally or by appropriate higher authority if no local authority is available:)

An aircraft (other type of transportation) accident occurred (or other circumstances) approximately (location and time). The accident involved a nuclear weapon that contains conventional explosives and radioactive material. There is no danger of a nuclear detonation, but there is a danger from the conventional explosives that (are burning, may detonate, have detonated). The public is requested to stay out of (indicate the area) (under surveillance by guards) in the interest of safety and to avoid hampering operations at the accident scene. An experienced response team has been ordered to the scene.

(If appropriate, the following WILL be included in the release:) Radioactive material in the form of dust may be scattered as a result of the accident. The dust poses little risk to health unless taken into the body by breathing or swallowing, although it is unlikely that any person would inhale or swallow an amount that would cause illness. As a precautionary measure, you are asked to remain calm and indoors. Turn off fans, air conditioners, and forced-air heating units that bring in fresh air from the outside. Use them only to recirculate air already in the building. Eat and drink only canned or packaged food and drinks that have been inside. If you must go outside, cover your nose and mouth and avoid stirring up and breathing any dust. It is important to remember that your movement could cause yourself greater exposure to any radioactive dust, should it be present, and you could possibly spread contamination to others.

(If plutonium is involved) One of the materials involved is plutonium, which is both a toxic and radiation hazard and chemical poison if ingested. The radiation given off consists of alpha particles that do not have sufficient energy to penetrate buildings, clothing, or even the outer skin. Therefore, short-term exposure to contamination outside the body poses a negligible health risk. The precautions mentioned earlier should be carefully followed to prevent ingestion.

(If uranium is involved) One of the materials involved is uranium. Uranium, depending upon the type, may be a radiological hazard or a chemical health hazard, similar to lead poisoning. Uranium gives off alpha particles that cannot penetrate skin and pose no health risk when outside the body.

The public is asked to stay out of the area (under surveillance or closed off by guards) (and if true) until a monitoring team, now en route to the accident site, can survey the ground and determine the exact area affected by the accident. Any fragments found near the scene may be contaminated and should be left in place. If fragments have been picked up, avoid further handling and notify (authorities) for proper retrieval and disposition.

Periodic announcements will be made as more information is known. It is expected that these precautionary actions will be modified as more information becomes available. A U.S. (Military Service) team from (name of installation) is en route to (has arrived at) the accident scene.

We have no details yet on civilian or military casualties (or give the number only of civilian and military casualties) or property damage.

The cause of the accident is under investigation. Further details will be provided as they become available.


Question: Are nuclear weapons stored at (name of facility) or (name of facility)?

Answer: It is U.S. policy neither to confirm nor deny the presence or absence of nuclear weapons at any specific location.

If asked whether nuclear weapons are aboard a specific surface ship, attack submarine, or naval aircraft:

It is general U.S. policy not to deploy nuclear weapons aboard surface ships, attack submarines, and naval aircraft. However, we do not discuss the presence or absence of nuclear weapons aboard specific ships, submarines or aircraft.

Appendix Zeta f

Nuclear Explosions Conducted by the United States from 1945–63

Operation Names:

Dominic I
Dominic II
Hardtack I

Hardtack II
Manhattan Project
Project 56
Project 57
World War II

George, Enewitok Atoll, Yield 225 Kilotons

Date Conducted Location Detonation Type Yield Kt. Operation Name
July 16, 1945 Alamogordo, New Mexico Tower 19 Manhattan Project Trinity
August 5, 1945 Hiroshima,Japan Air Delivered 15 W.W.II Little Boy
August 9, 1945 Nagasaki,Japan Air Delivered 21 W.W.II Fat Man
June 30, 1946 Bikini atoll Air Delivered 21 Crossroads Able
July 24,1946 Bikini atoll Underwater 21 Crossroads Baker
April 14, 1948 Enewitok atoll Tower 37 Sandstone Xray
April 30, 1948 Enewitok atoll Tower 49 Sandstone Yoke
May 14, 1948 Enewitok atoll Tower 18 Sandstone Zebra
January 27, 1951 Nevada, Frenchman Flat Air Delivered 1 Ranger Able
January 28, 1951 Nevada, Frenchman Flat Air Delivered 8 Ranger Baker
February 1, 1951 Nevada, Frenchman Flat Air Delivered 1 Ranger Easy
February 2, 1951 Nevada, Frenchman Flat Air Delivered 8 Ranger Baker-2
February 6, 1951 Nevada, Frenchman Flat Air Delivered 22 Ranger Fox
April 7, 1951 Enewitok atoll Tower 70 Greenhouse Dog
April 20, 1951 Enewitok atoll Tower 47 Greenhouse Easy
May 8, 1951 Enewitok atoll Tower 225 Greenhouse George
May 24, 1951 Enewitok atoll Tower 45.5 Greenhouse Item
October 22, 1951 Nevada Tower <0.1 Buster-Jungle Able
October 28, 1951 Nevada Air Delivered 3.5 Buster-Jungle Baker
October 30, 1951 Nevada Air Delivered 14 Buster-Jungle Charlie
November 1, 1951 Nevada Air Delivered 21 Buster-Jungle Dog
November 5, 1951 Nevada Air Delivered 31 Buster-Jungle Easy
November 19, 1951 Nevada Surface 1.2 Buster-Jungle Sugar
November 29, 1951 Nevada Crater 1.2 Buster-Jungle Uncle
April 1, 1952 Nevada Air Delivered 1 Tumbler-Snapper Able
April 15, 1952 Nevada Air Delivered 1 Tumbler-Snapper Baker
April 22, 1952 Nevada Air Delivered 31 Tumbler-Snapper Charlie
May 1, 1952 Nevada Air Delivered 19 Tumbler-Snapper Dog
May 7, 1952 Nevada Tower 12 Tumbler-Snapper Easy
May 25, 1952 Nevada Tower 11 Tumbler-Snapper Fox
June 1, 1952 Nevada Tower 15 Tumbler-Snapper George
June 5, 1952 Nevada Tower 14 Tumbler-Snapper How
October 31, 1952 Enewitok atoll Surface 10,400 Ivy Mike
November 15, 1952 Enewitok atoll Air Delivered 500 Ivy King
March 7, 1953 Nevada Tower 16 Upshot/Knothole Annie
March 24, 1953 Nevada Tower 24 Upshot/Knothole Nancy
March 31, 1953 Nevada Tower 0.2 Upshot/Knothole Ruth
April 6, 1953 Nevada Air Delivered 11 Upshot/Knothole Dixie
April 11, 1953 Nevada Tower 0.2 Upshot/Knothole Ray
April 18, 1953 Nevada Tower 23 Upshot/Knothole Badger
April 25, 1953 Nevada Tower 43 Upshot/Knothole Simon
May 8, 1953 Nevada Air Delivered 27 Upshot/Knothole Encore
May 19, 1953 Nevada Tower 32 Upshot/Knothole Harry
May 25, 1953 Nevada Artillery Projectile 15 Upshot/Knothole Grable
June 4, 1953 Nevada Air Delivered 61 Upshot/Knothole Climax
March 1, 1954 Bikini atoll Surface 15,000 Castle Bravo
March 26, 1954 Bikini atoll Barge 11,000 Castle Romeo
April 6, 1954 Bikini atoll Surface 110 Castle Koon
April 25, 1954 Bikini atoll Barge 6,900 Castle Union
May 4, 1954 Bikini atoll Barge 13,500 Castle Yankee
May 13, 1954 Enewitok atoll Barge 1,690 Castle Nectar
February 8, 1955 Nevada Air Delivered 1 Teapot Wasp
February 22, 1955 Nevada Tower 2 Teapot Moth
March 1, 1955 Nevada Tower 7 Teapot Tesla
March 7, 1955 Nevada Tower 43 Teapot Turk
March 12, 1955 Nevada Tower 4 Teapot Hornet
March 22, 1955 Nevada Tower 8 Teapot Bee
March 23, 1955 Nevada Crater 1 Teapot Ess
March 29, 1955 Nevada Air Delivered 3 Teapot Wasp
March 29, 1955 Nevada Tower 14 Teapot Apple-1
April 6, 1955 Nevada Air Delivered 3 Teapot Ha
April 9, 1955 Nevada Tower 2 Teapot Post
April 15, 1955 Nevada Tower 22 Teapot Met
May 5, 1955 Nevada Tower 29 Teapot Apple-2
May 4, 1955 Pacific Ocean Underwater 30 Wigwam Wigwam
May 15, 1955 Nevada Tower 28 Teapot Zucchini
January 18, 1956 Nevada Surface <0.02 Project 56 Proj 56
May 21, 1956 Bikini atoll Air Delivered 3,800 Redwing Cherokee
May 5, 1956 Enewitok atoll Surface 40 Redwing Lacrosse
May 27, 1956 Bikini atoll Surface 3,500 Redwing Zuni
May 27, 1956 Enewitok atoll Tower 0.19 Redwing Yuma
May 30, 1956 Enewitok atoll Tower 16.8 Redwing Erie
June 6, 1956 Enewitok atoll Surface 13.7 Redwing Seminole
June 11, 1956 Bikini atoll Barge 365 Redwing Flathead
June 11, 1956 Enewitok atoll Tower 8.5 Redwing Blackfoot
June 13, 1956 Enewitok atoll Tower 1.4 Redwing Kickapoo
June 16, 1956 Enewitok atoll Air Delivered 1.9 Redwing Osage
June 21, 1956 Enewitok atoll Tower 16 Redwing Inca
June 25, 1956 Bikini atoll Barge 1,000 Redwing Dakota
July 2, 1956 Enewitok atoll Tower 350 Redwing Mohawk
July 8, 1956 Enewitok atoll Barge 1,900 Redwing Apache
July 10, 1956 Bikini atoll Barge 4,500 Redwing Navajo
July 20, 1956 Bikini atoll Barge 5,000 Redwing Tewa
July 21, 1956 Enewitok atoll Barge 270 Redwing Huron
May 28, 1957 Nevada Tower 12 Plumbbob Boltzman
June 2, 1957 Nevada Tower 0.14 Plumbbob Franklin
June 5, 1957 Nevada Baloon 0 Plumbbob Lassen
June 18, 1957 Nevada Baloon 10 Plumbbob Wilson
June 24, 1957 Nevada Baloon 37 Plumbbob Priscilla
July 5, 1957 Nevada Baloon 74 Plumbbob Hood
July 15, 1957 Nevada Tower 17 Plumbbob Diablo
July 19, 1957 Nevada Rocket 2 Plumbbob John
July 24, 1957 Nevada Tower 10 Plumbbob Kepler
July 25, 1957 Nevada Baloon 9.7 Plumbbob Owens
August 7, 1957 Nevada Baloon 19 Plumbbob Stokes
August 7, 1957 Nevada Open Shaft .055 Plumbbob Pascal-A
August 8, 1957 Nevada Tower 17 Plumbbob Shasta
August 23, 1957 Nevada Baloon 11 Plumbbob Doppler
August 27, 1957 Nevada Open Shaft .3 Plumbbob Pascal-B
August 30, 1957 Nevada Baloon 4.7 Plumbbob Franklin
August 31, 1957 Nevada Tower 44 Plumbbob Smoky
September 2, 1957 Nevada Tower 11 Plumbbob Galileo
September 6, 1957 Nevada Baloon 0.2 Plumbbob Wheeler
September 6, 1957 Nevada Surface 0.3 Project 57 Coloumb B
September 8, 1957 Nevada Baloon 1 Plumbbob Laplace
September 14, 1957 Nevada Tower 11 Plumbbob Fizeau
September 16, 1957 Nevada Baloon 12 Plumbbob Newton
September 19, 1957 Nevada Tunnel 1.7 Plumbbob Rainier
September 23, 1957 Nevada Tower 19 Plumbbob Whitney
September 28, 1957 Nevada Baloon 12 Plumbbob Charleston
October 7, 1957 Nevada Baloon 8 Plumbbob Morgan
December 6, 1957 Nevada Open Shaft Slight Hardtack II Pascal-C
December 9, 1957 Nevada Surface 0.5 Project 57 Coloumb C
April 28, 1958 Pacific Ocean Baloon 1.7 Hardtack I Yucca
May 5, 1958 Enewitok atoll Surface 18 Hardtack I Cactus
May 11, 1958 Bikini atoll Barge 1,300 Hardtack I Fir
May 11, 1958 Enewitok atoll Barge 90 Hardtack I Butternut
May 12, 1958 Enewitok atoll Surface 1,370 Hardtack I Koa
May 16, 1958 Enewitok atoll Underwater 9 Hardtack I Wahoo
May 20, 1958 Enewitok atoll Barge 6 Hardtack I Holly
May 21, 1958 Bikini atoll Barge 24 Hardtack I Nutmeg
May 26, 1958 Enewitok atoll Barge 350 Hardtack I Yellowwood
May 26, 1958 Enewitok atoll Barge 61 Hardtack I Magnolia
May 30, 1958 Enewitok atoll Barge 15 Hardtack I Tobacco
May 31, 1958 Bikini atoll Barge 130 Hardtack I Sycamore
June 2, 1958 Enewitok atoll Barge 18 Hardtack I Rose
June 8, 1958 Enewitok atoll Underwater 9 Hardtack I Umbrella
June 10, 1958 Bikini atoll Barge 195 Hardtack I Maple
June 14, 1958 Bikini atoll Barge 320 Hardtack I Aspen
June 14, 1958 Enewitok atoll Barge 1.5 Hardtack I Walnut
June 18, 1958 Enewitok atoll Barge 11 Hardtack I Linden
June 27, 1958 Bikini atoll Barge 415 Hardtack I Redwood
June 27, 1958 Enewitok atoll Barge 875 Hardtack I Elder
June 28, 1958 Enewitok atoll Barge 8,900 Hardtack I Oak
June 29, 1958 Bikini atoll Barge 13 Hardtack I Hickory
July 1, 1958 Enewitok atoll Barge 5 Hardtack I Sequoia
July 2, 1958 Bikini atoll Barge 220 Hardtack I Cedar
July 5, 1958 Enewitok atoll Barge 390 Hardtack I Dogwood
July 12, 1958 Bikini atoll Barge 9,300 Hardtack I Poplar
July 14, 1958 Enewitok atoll Barge 0 Hardtack I Scaevola
July 17, 1958 Enewitok atoll Barge 250 Hardtack I Pisonia
July 22, 1958 Bikini atoll Barge 62 Hardtack I Juniper
July 22, 1958 Enewitok atoll Barge 195 Hardtack I Olive
July 26, 1958 Enewitok atoll Barge 2,000 Hardtack I Pine
August 1, 1958 Johnston Island Rocket 3,800 Hardtack I Teak
August 6, 1958 Enewitok atoll Surface 0 Hardtack I Quince
August 12, 1958 Johnston Island Rocket 3,800 Hardtack I Orange
August 18, 1958 Enewitok atoll Surface 0.2 Hardtack I Fig
August 27, 1958 South Atlantic Ocean Rocket 1-2 Argus Argus 1
August 30, 1958 South Atlantic Ocean Rocket 1-2 Argus Argus 2
September 6, 1958 South Atlantic Ocean Rocket 1-2 Argus Argus 3
September 12, 1958 Nevada Open Shaft .038 Hardtack II Otero
September 17, 1958 Nevada Open Shaft .015 Hardtack II Bernalillo
September 19, 1958 Nevada Baloon 0.08 Hardtack II Eddy
September 21, 1958 Nevada Open Shaft 1.5 Hardtack II Luna
September 23, 1958 Nevada Tunnel Slight Hardtack II Mercury
September 28, 1958 Nevada Tunnel .013 Hardtack II Mars
September 29, 1958 Nevada Baloon 2.00 Hardtack II Mora
October 5, 1958 Nevada Baloon .077 Hardtack II Hidalgo
October 5, 1958 Nevada Open Shaft .055 Hardtack II Colfax
October 8, 1958 Nevada Tunnel .072 Hardtack II Tamalpais
October 10, 1958 Nevada Tower .079 Hardtack II Quay
October 13, 1958 Nevada Baloon 1.4 Hardtack II Lea
October 14, 1958 Nevada Tunnel .115 Hardtack II Neptune
October 15, 1958 Nevada Tower .0012 Hardtack II Hamilton
October 16, 1958 Nevada Baloon .037 Hardtack II Dona Ana
October 16, 1958 Nevada Tunnel 5 Hardtack II Logan
October 17, 1958 Nevada Surface .024 Hardtack II Vesta
October 18, 1958 Nevada Tower .09 Hardtack II Rio Arriba
October 20, 1958 Nevada Shaft 0 Hardtack II San Juan
October 22, 1958 Nevada Baloon 6 Hardtack II Socorro
October 22, 1958 Nevada Baloon .115 Hardtack II Wrangell
October 22, 1958 Nevada Baloon 188 Hardtack II Rushmore
October 22, 1958 Nevada Tower 0 Hardtack II Oberon
October 24, 1958 Nevada Surface .0017 Hardtack II Juno
October 24, 1958 Nevada Tower .021 Hardtack II Catron
October 26, 1958 Nevada Baloon 4.9 Hardtack II Sanford
October 26, 1958 Nevada Baloon 2.2 Hardtack II De Baca
October 26, 1958 Nevada Tower .0007 Hardtack II Ceres
October 27, 1958 Nevada Tower .0006 Hardtack II Chavez
October 29, 1958 Nevada Tower 0 Hardtack II Mazama
October 29, 1958 Nevada Tower .0078 Hardtack II Humboldt
October 29, 1958 Nevada Tunnel .055 Hardtack II Evans
October 30, 1958 Nevada Tunnel 22 Hardtack II Blanca
October 30, 1958 Nevada Baloon 1.3 Hardtack II Santa Fe
October 30, 1958 Nevada Tower .0002 Hardtack II Titania
October 30, 1958 Nevada Surface 0 Hardtack II Ganymede
September 15, 1961 Nevada Tunnel 2.6 Nougat Antler
September 16, 1961 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Shrew
October 1, 1961 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Boomer
October 10, 1961 Nevada Tunnel Low Nougat Chena
October 29, 1961 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Mink
December 3, 1961 Nevada Shaft 13.4 Nougat Fisher
December 10, 1961 Carlsbad, New Mexico Shaft 3 Plowshare Gnome
December 13, 1961 Nevada Shaft 0.5 Nougat Mad
December 17, 1961 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Ringtail
December 22, 1961 Nevada Tunnel .15 Nougat Feather
January 9, 1962 Nevada Shaft 5.1 Nougat Stoat
January 18, 1962 Nevada Shaft 6.4 Nougat Acouti
January 30, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Dormouse
February 8, 1962 Nevada Shaft 3.07 Nougat Stillwater
February 9, 1962 Nevada Shaft 7.1 Nougat Armadillo
February 15, 1962 Nevada Shaft 5.7 Nougat Hard hat
February 19, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Chinchilla
February 19, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Codsaw
February 23, 1962 Nevada Shaft 11.9 Nougat Cimarron
February 24, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Platypus
March 5, 1962 Nevada Crater 0.43 Nougat Dannyboy
March 6, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Ermine
March 8, 1962 Nevada Shaft 8.4 Nougat Brazos
March 15, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Hognose
March 28, 1962 Nevada Shaft 3.4 Nougat Hoosic
March 31, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Chinchilla-2
April 5, 1962 Nevada Shaft 10.6 Nougat Dormouse Prime
April 6, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Pasaic
April 12, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Hudson
April 14, 1962 Nevada Tunnel 1.85 Nougat Platte
April 21, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Dead
April 25, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 190 Dominic I Adobe
April 27, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 410 Dominic I Aztec
April 27, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic II Black
May 2, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 1,090 Dominic I Arkansas
May 4, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 670 Dominic I Questa
May 6, 1962 Pacific Ocean Polaris Airburst 600 Dominic I Frigate Bird
May 7, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Paca
May 8, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 100 Dominic I Yukon
May 9, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 100 Dominic I Mesilla
May 10, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Arikakee
May 11, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 50 Dominic I Muskegon
May 11, 1962 Pacific Ocean Underwater 20? Dominic I Swordfish
May 12, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 500 Dominic I Encino
May 12, 1962 Nevada Shaft 40 Nougat Aardvark
May 14, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 97 Dominic I Swanee
May 19, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 73 Dominic I Chetco
May 19, 1962 Nevada Shaft 4.9 Nougat Eel
May 25, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat White
May 25, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 2.6 Dominic I Tanana
May 27, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 43 Dominic I Nambe
June 1, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Raccoon
June 6, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Packrat
June 8, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 782 Dominic I Alma
June 9, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 210 Dominic I Truckee
June 10, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 1,000 Dominic I Yeso
June 12, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 1,200 Dominic I Harlem
June 13, 1962 Nevada Tunnel 2.9 Nougat Des Moines
June 15, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 800 Dominic I Rinconada
June 17, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 52 Dominic I Dulce
June 19, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 2.2 Dominic I Petit
June 21, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Daman 1
June 22, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 81.5 Dominic I Otowi
June 27, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 1,000 Dominic I Bighorn
June 28, 1962 Nevada Tunnel Low Nougat Marshmallow
June 30, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Nougat Sacramento
June 30, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 1,000 Dominic I Bluestone
July 6, 1962 Nevada Crater 104 Plowshare Sedan
July 7, 1962 Nevada Surface <0.02 Dominic II Little Feller 1
July 9, 1962 Johnston Island Rocket 1,400 Dominic I Starfish
July 10, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 1,000 Dominic I Sunset
July 11, 1962 Christmas Island Air Delivered 1,000 Dominic I Pamlico
July 11, 1962 Nevada Crater 0.50 Dominic II Johnnie Boy
July 13, 1962 Nevada Shaft 150? Dominic II Merrimac
July 14, 1962 Nevada Tower <0.02 Dominic II Small Boy
July 17, 1962 Nevada Surface .022 Dominic II Little Feller 2
July 27, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic II Wichita
August 24, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic II York
August 24, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic II Bobac
September 6, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic II Raritan
September 14, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic II Hyrax
September 20, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic II Peba
September 29, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic II Allegheny
October 2, 1962 Johnston Island Air Delivered 20-1000 Dominic I Androscoggin
October 5, 1962 Nevada Shaft 115 Dominic II Mississippi
October 6, 1962 Johnston Island Air Delivered 11.3 Dominic I Bumping
October 8, 1962 Johnston Island Air Delivered 1000 Dominic I Chama
October 12, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic II Roanoke
October 12, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic II Wolverine
October 18, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic II Tioga
October 19, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic II Bandicoot
October 20, 1962 Johnston Island Rocket <0.02 Dominic I Checkmate
October 26, 1962 Johnston Island Rocket <1000 Dominic I Bluegill
October 27, 1962 Johnston Island Air Delivered 1000 Dominic I Calamity
October 27, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic I Santee
October 30, 1962 Johnston Island Air Delivered 1000 Dominic I Housatonic
November 1, 1962 Johnston Island Rocket <1000 Dominic I Kingfish
November 4, 1962 Johnston Island Rocket <0.02 Dominic I Tightrope
November 9, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic II Saint Louis
November 15, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic II Gundi
November 27, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Plowshare Anacostia
December 4, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic II Taunton
December 12, 1962 Nevada Tunnel Low Dominic II Madison
December 12, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic II Numbat
December 14, 1962 Nevada Shaft Low Dominic II Manatee

Radiation Exposure to Veterans

According to the National Association of Atomic Veterans (NAAV), over a million U.S. servicemen as well as civilian personnel took part in a variety of tests during the Cold War hen the Atomic Energy Commission working in conjunction with the Department of Defense had troops participate in and witness the detonations at the various Pacific and Nevada Test areas. Most detonations were larger than and emitted considerably more deadly radiation than the two weapons which were employed against Japan at the end of WWII. During the tests various government agencies and departments were interested in learning about the various effects of atomic and nuclear weapons, as well as how these weapons affected the immediate performance of military personnel and equipment. Troops, ships, and various types of equipment were placed from several hundred yards to several miles from the center of each detonation. On many occasions military personnel performed maneuvers in and around ground zeros without protective clothing or respiratory devices.

Various public laws, enacted between 1981 and 2003, provide the basis for medical care and compensation entitlement for veterans that were exposed to radiation as a consequence of their military service. These public laws are codified by the VA in Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 3.309 and Part 3.311 (38 CFR 3) and by the Department of Justice in 28 CFR 79. The Government Printing Office offers free online access to the Code of Federal Regulations.

Exposure from Buster-Jangle (source: DTRA fact sheet)

The three events involving the largest numbers of Department of Defense participants were Shots DOG, SUGAR, and UNCLE.

Area 7, Yucca Flat, NTS, Nevada, Airborne units and support troops are intentionally exposed to radiation from nuclear experiment DOG on November 1, 1951

Atomic bomb experiment DOG, a nuclear weapon dropped from an aircraft, was exploded at 7:30 AM, on November 1, 1951. The nuclear bomb detonated 1,417 feet above the terrain of Area 7, Yucca Flat, at the National Test Site in Nevada. As part of Exercise Desert Rock I, the armed services fielded a troop observer program with approximately 2,800 participants, a tactical troop maneuver with approximately 880 participants, and damage effects tests with approximately 60 participants. All troops observed the shot from a location 11 kilometers south of ground zero.

The following United States Army units conducted the tactical maneuver at atomic bomb experiment DOG:


Home Station

1st Battalion, 188th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 11th Airborne Division

Camp Campbell, KY

3rd Medical Platoon, 188th Airborne Medical Company

Camp Campbell, KY

Platoon, Company A, 127th Engineer Battalion

Camp Campbell, KY

Battery C, 546th Field Artillery Battalion

Fort Lewis, WA.

The Army units formed a Battalion Combat Team (BCT) for the maneuver. During the weeks preceding the shot, BCT personnel dug foxholes and built gun emplacements and bunkers in a tactical defensive position southwest of ground zero. Several hours before the shot, the BCT and observers went by truck and bus convoy into the forward area. They proceeded to the observation point about 11 kilometers from ground zero, where they were intentionally exposed to radiation when DOG exploded. After the detonation, the troops moved by convoy to their tactical defensive position, where they viewed the effects of the nuclear detonation on the fortifications. The BCT then proceeded in an attack formation to its objective. The objective was southwest of ground zero; at its closest point, it was 460 meters from ground zero. The BCT was accompanied by radiological safety monitors and was preceded by radiation survey teams who determined the limits of safe advance. After reaching the objective, the troops toured two equipment displays 900 and 1,350 meters south of ground zero. The troops were then trucked to a display position over 6 kilometers south of ground zero. During these activities, Human Resources Research Office personnel tested the troops to determine their psychological reactions to the detonation [Editor’s Note: In other words, the troops were used as human guinea pigs in an atomic experiment—not quite Josef Mengele's modus operandi, but about as close to it as the United States Army has ever come].

Atomic bomb blast SUGAR, the first surface detonation at the National Test Site (formerly known as the National Proving Grounds) was fired at 9 AM, on November 19, 1951. The SUGAR device was detonated 3.5 feet above the ground in Area 9, Yucca Flat. The initial survey detected onsite fallout to the north of ground zero.

About 550 Department of Defense personnel participated in scientific projects conducted by the two test units at Shot SUGAR. Approximately 450 SWC participants performed support missions. Perhaps an additional 100 Department of Defense personnel worked for various units coordinated by the test organization.

Atomic bomb blast UNCLE, the first underground nuclear detonation at the National Test Site in Nevada, was fired at noon on November 29, 1951. The nuclear device was detonated 17 feet beneath the ground in Area 10 of Yucca Flat. The initial survey showed onsite fallout north of ground zero. As with SUGAR, the troops observed the detonation at a distance of 5 miles. Near ground zero the radiation level was 5000 roentgens/hour at one hour after the test, with levels of 1000 R/hr extending up to 1200 yards from the burst point. Hazardous levels of 100 R/hr extended past 5000 yards in some areas.

Exposure from Dominic I (excerpt from DTRA fact sheet)

In general, Dominic I doses were as follows: Approximately 5 percent (some 1,200 military personnel) of Dominic I personnel had doses greater than 0.5 rem.  Approximately 230 personnel had doses greater than 2.0 rem, with approximately 40 people receiving doses over 5.0 rem.  Included in this group are 20 individuals with doses greater than 10.0 rem; the highest total dose for the entire operation was 17.68 rem.

The government claims that many of the badges worn by personnel during Dominic I were defectively sealed, which purportedly resulted in damage to the films from moisture, light and heat.  Film damage typically caused optical density (darkening) in addition to that from nuclear radiation, which was, nonetheless, historically attributed to radiation.  A 1979–1980 reevaluation of 1,349 Dominic I film badges showed that 45 percent exhibited some damage related to light, heat, and age, due to defective wax seals.  Of the badges that had apparent readings over 0.4 rem, 98 percent were observed to have had suffered environmental damage.  Subsequent research [Editor's Note: "subsequent research" is government doublespeak for statistics that have been altered ex post facto] of radiological data from Dominic I indicates that only the following categories of participants had the potential for radiation exposure:

   ♦ Crewmembers of SIOUX.
   ♦ Nuclear cloud sampler aircrews or associated ground crewmembers.
   ♦ Personnel involved in the recovery and handling of radioactive instrumented pods, rocket noses cones, or any other contaminated material.
   ♦ Radiation Safety monitors.

Exposure from Plumbbob

Plumbbob released 58,300 kilocuries (2.16 EBq) of radioiodine (I-131) into the atmosphere. Troop exercises conducted near ground zero of "Smoky" exposed over three thousand servicemen to relatively high levels of radiation.

A study in 1980 found significantly elevated rates of leukemia among the soldiers surveyed (ten cases were found, instead of the baseline expected four).

Department of Defense Personnel Exposed to Nuclear Testing
Operation Name Year Place # of Tests # of Troops
Project Trinity 1945 U.S.A. 1 164
Operation Crossroads 1946 Pacific 2 40,112
Operation Sandstone 1948 Pacific 3 11,782
Operation Ranger 1951 U.S.A. 5 266
Operation Greenhouse 1951 Pacific 4 7,590
Operation Buster-Jangle 1951 U.S.A. 7 7,812
Operation Tumbler-Snapper 1952 U.S.A. 8 8,710
Operation Ivy 1952 Pacific 2 11,650
Operation Upshot-Knothole 1953 U.S.A. 11 18,000
Operation Castle 1954 Pacific 11 12,700
Operation Teapot 1955 U.S.A. 14 8,700
Operation Wigwam 1955 Pacific 1 6,800
Operation Redwing 1956 Pacific 17 11,350
Operation Plumbbob 1957 U.S.A. 24 13,300
Operation Hardtack I 1958 Pacific 34 16,000
Operation Argus 1958 Atlantic 3 4,500
Hardtack II 1958 U.S.A. 19 1,650
Operation Dominic I 1962 Pacific 36 22,600
Operation Dominic II 1962 U.S.A. 4 2,900
Project Plowshare 1961–1962 U.S.A. 27 Unknown


Gallagher, Carole, American Ground Zero, MIT Press, Boston, 1993, 430 pp

Lapp, Ralph E., The Voyage of the Lucky Dragon, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, 1958

Norris, Robert S., Arkin, William M., and Burr, William, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, (vol. 55, no. 06), November/December 1999 pp. 26-35

Rhodes, Richard, Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1995, 731 pp

Rumrill, Clark, “Aircraft 53-1876A Has Lost a Device,” American Heritage, September 2000

Rumrill, Clark, “Lost One H-Bomb, Call Owner,” The Washington Post, Apr 17, 2005, p. D01

Sewell, Kenneth, with Richmond, Clint, Red Star Rogue, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2005, 462 pp

Smyth, Henry D., A General Account of the Development of Methods of Using Atomic Energy for Military Purposes Under the Auspices of the United States Government, 1940—1945, War Department lithoprint, 1945

Sontag, Sherry and Christopher Drew, Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage, Public Affairs Books, New York, New York, 1998, 352 pp

Teague, Matthew, “The Real American Bomb,” Gentlemen’s Quarterly, June 2003, p. 228

Wolfe, Thomas, The Right Stuff, Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, 1979, 436 pp