Well, the calendar calls, even though no one will be paying attention to Today’s History Lesson…except maybe me. The Super Bowl tends to drown out all other distractions. My favorite commercial was probably that first Doritos commercial with the dog, followed by the VW/Star Wars commercial. The game was fantastic to watch, and I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did, even if your Patriots lost. I was neutral tonight, and that makes the game way more entertaining.
Anyways, I won’t take a lot of your time.
On February 5, 1958, the U.S. Air Force got its B-47 Stratojet in its F-86 Sabre. Or maybe the U.S. Air Force got its F-86 Sabre in its B-47 Stratojet. And while the idea has worked incredibly well for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, it doesn’t have the same happy result when high-speed aircraft are the two ingredients. And it’s particularly bad when the center of the result is not delicious – no, scrumptious – creamy peanut butter, but a thermonuclear bomb.
The B-47 had taken off from Florida on a simulated combat mission and in the wee morning hours, collided with the Sabre. The fighter pilot was able to safely eject from his stricken plane, but the bomber guys had a bit of a problem. Their aircraft was also badly damaged and barely flyable, and the plane needed to be lightened to keep her in the air. But the plane’s lone occupant (besides the crew) was a Mk-15 thermonuclear device.
The Mk-15 was a tactical weapon, which meant it was fairly small as nuclear bombs went, weighing 7,500 pounds. And like other instances we’ve discussed, just dropping a nuclear bomb doesn’t guarantee a nuclear detonation, because of all the safety devices that are in place. And nearly all of these weapons were “two-stage”, with a small warhead that triggered the nuclear cataclysm. So the bomb reaches it “trigger height”, the small warhead explodes, and (if all the safeties are turned off) the “big one” goes off. As it turns out, this particular bomb didn’t have the “small exploder” in it (it was a training mission after all). But still, hitting the surface (whether land or water) might be enough to break the bomb apart, causing radiation from the uranium core to leach into the surroundings.
Got all that?
All that stuff ran through the minds of the pilots way faster than I could type it, and after contacting their superiors, the decision was made to ditch the bomb. So they dropped it off the coast of Georgia, presumably off Tybee Island, which sits just a handful of miles from Savannah.
There was no visible explosion, so that was good news. The bad news? When search crews tried to find the bomb, they couldn’t. And now we’re what?…54 years later? That bomb still hasn’t been found.
Anyway, I’m not an expert, but if I’m going to go on an off-shore fishing trip, it’ll be down in Florida, or maybe Alaska, or anywhere not named Tybee Island.
Recommended Reading: SAC Chart of Nuclear Bombs – A nice comparison of the various nukes.