KF5JRV > TODAY 17.01.19 13:30l 65 Lines 3442 Bytes #9 (0) @ WW
BID : 29535_KF5JRV
Subj: Today in History - Jan 17
Sent: 190117/1222Z 29535@KF5JRV.#NWAR.AR.USA.NA BPQ6.0.18
On this day, a B-52 bomber collides with a KC-135 jet tanker over
Spain’s Mediterranean coast, dropping three 70-kiloton hydrogen bombs
near the town of Palomares and one in the sea. It was not the first or
last accident involving American nuclear bombs.
As a means of maintaining first-strike capability during the Cold War,
U.S. bombers laden with nuclear weapons circled the earth ceaselessly
for decades. In a military operation of this magnitude, it was
inevitable that accidents would occur. The Pentagon admits to more than
three-dozen accidents in which bombers either crashed or caught fire on
the runway, resulting in nuclear contamination from a damaged or
destroyed bomb and/or the loss of a nuclear weapon. One of the only
“Broken Arrowsö to receive widespread publicity occurred on January 17,
1966, when a B-52 bomber crashed into a KC-135 jet tanker over Spain.
The bomber was returning to its North Carolina base following a routine
airborne alert mission along the southern route of the Strategic Air
Command when it attempted to refuel with a jet tanker. The B-52 collided
with the fueling boom of the tanker, ripping the bomber open and
igniting the fuel. The KC-135 exploded, killing all four of its crew
members, but four members of the seven-man B-52 crew managed to
parachute to safety. None of the bombs were armed, but explosive
material in two of the bombs that fell to earth exploded upon impact,
forming craters and scattering radioactive plutonium over the fields of
Palomares. A third bomb landed in a dry riverbed and was recovered
relatively intact. The fourth bomb fell into the sea at an unknown
Palomares, a remote fishing and farming community, was soon filled with
nearly 2,000 U.S. military personnel and Spanish civil guards who rushed
to clean up the debris and decontaminate the area. The U.S. personnel
took precautions to prevent overexposure to the radiation, but the
Spanish workers, who lived in a country that lacked experience with
nuclear technology, did not. Eventually some 1,400 tons of radioactive
soil and vegetation were shipped to the United States for disposal.
Meanwhile, at sea, 33 U.S. Navy vessels were involved in the search for
the lost hydrogen bomb. Using an IBM computer, experts tried to
calculate where the bomb might have landed, but the impact area was
still too large for an effective search. Finally, an eyewitness account
by a Spanish fisherman led the investigators to a one-mile area. On
March 15, a submarine spotted the bomb, and on April 7 it was recovered.
It was damaged but intact.
Studies on the effects of the nuclear accident on the people of
Palomares were limited, but the United States eventually settled some
500 claims by residents whose health was adversely affected. Because the
accident happened in a foreign country, it received far more publicity
than did the dozen or so similar crashes that occurred within U.S.
borders. As a security measure, U.S. authorities do not announce nuclear
weapons accidents, and some American citizens may have unknowingly been
exposed to radiation that resulted from aircraft crashes and emergency
bomb jettisons. Today, two hydrogen bombs and a uranium core lie in yet
undetermined locations in the Wassaw Sound off Georgia, in the Puget
Sound off Washington, and in swamplands near Goldsboro, North Carolina.
73 de Scott KF5JRV
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