20 Times Humanity Had a Close Call with Nuclear Weapons... and We Are Still Miraculously Here to Tell the Tales
20 Times Humanity Had a Close Call with Nuclear Weapons… and We Are Still Miraculously Here to Tell the Tales

20 Times Humanity Had a Close Call with Nuclear Weapons… and We Are Still Miraculously Here to Tell the Tales

Steve - October 6, 2018

20 Times Humanity Had a Close Call with Nuclear Weapons… and We Are Still Miraculously Here to Tell the Tales
Aerial Photograph of Blackened Ice at the Crash Site in Thule, Greenland. Wikimedia Commons.

19. The U.S. accidentally crashed a nuclear weapon into anti-nuclear Greenland

On January 21, 1968, a B-52 from Plattsburgh Air Force Base, New York crashed due to a fire erupting in the navigator’s compartment during its landing approach approximately 7 miles southwest of Thule Air Force Base, Greenland. The crash killed one of the aircraft’s seven crewmen, and destroyed all of the four hydrogen bombs carried by the B-52. These explosions scattered plutonium and other radioactive materials across a 300 yard radius, with many pieces described as being as large as “cigarette box-sized”, causing significant contamination of the local area.

The recovery and decontamination operation was hindered by Greenland’s harsh winter weather, prolonging the operation to over four months in length, during the course of which approximately 237,000 cubic feet of contaminated ice, snow, water, and debris was removed and transported for burial at nuclear dumps in the United States. The incident caused widespread protests in Denmark, which forbade the placement of nuclear weapons on its territory. In an attempt to mollify international outrage, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara subsequently ordered the removal of nuclear weapons from airborne alerts and “Operation Chrome Dome”, the aforementioned Strategic Air Command’s continuous airborne alert operation of which the bomber was participating in, was later suspended in its entirety due to the growing casualties stemming from the program.

20 Times Humanity Had a Close Call with Nuclear Weapons… and We Are Still Miraculously Here to Tell the Tales
A Soviet-era Papa Class Submarine. Wikimedia Commons.

20. A Soviet submarine accidentally fired a nuclear warhead in 1977

On November 22, 1977, the Soviet submarine K-171 accidentally released a nuclear warhead whilst off the coast of Kamchatka. The cause of the accident has never been determined or revealed, in part due to characteristic Soviet military secrecy, and the incident only became public knowledge after a newspaper report on the incident in Vladivostok in 1993. The jettisoned warhead became the subject of an expansive search and recovery operation involving dozens of Soviet ships and aircraft, which eventually located and retrieved the intact nuclear device.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Afri Special Report: DoD Nuclear Mishaps”, H.L. Reese, Nuclear Defense Agency, April 1983.

“U.S. Nuclear Weapons Accidents”, Jaya Tiwari and Cleve J. Gray, Center for Defense Information.

“Nuclear weapon missing since 1950 ‘may have been found”,

“The Crash of the B-29 on Travis AFB, CA”, Check-Six, November 21, 2014.

“Broken Arrow Nuclear Weapon Accidents”, Jeff Scott, Aerospaceweb, April 2, 2006.

“Broken Arrow B-47”, Check-Six, November 22, 2016.

“The day America dropped 4 nuclear bombs on Spain… but the disaster, 50 years ago, has been forgotten by all but its surviving victims”, Guy Walters, Daily Mail, January 18, 2016.

“List of Military Nuclear Accidents”, Wikipedia.

“U.S. Nuclear Weapons Accidents: Danger In Our Midst”, Center for Defense Information, 1981.

“Broken Arrow: Goldsboro, N.C.”, IBiblio, December 4 2000.

“Narrative Summaries of Accidents Involving U.S. Nuclear Weapons 1950-1980”, Department of Defense.

“The Worst Nuclear Disasters”, Time Magazine.

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