Early in the morning on Sunday, June 23, 2019, residents of Ahlbach, Germany woke to a sudden explosion somewhere outside. Emergency service responded to a 33 feet wide and 13 feet deep crater laying within a barley field. After investigating, police were sure the explosion was caused by a 550 lb dud that was left over from WWII.
Though this may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, lost bombs are actually common in Europe. In Germany alone, over 100 undetonated WWII bombs are found a year. In April of 2018, Emergency Services located and defused a 1,100 lb bomb in Berlin. Most of the found bombs are left over from the Nazi occupation in Germany. It is believed that over a thousand tons of unexploded bombs remain lost in Germany to eventually be discovered.
Germany is not the only country to have lost bombs. The United States Of America has lost eight known bombs during the era of The Cold War. Mind you, not any bombs, but nuclear. The Department of Defense states that these “Broken arrows” combined could render an explosion 2,200 times the size of the drop at Hiroshima during WWII.
One incident occurred in February of 1950. A US B-36 Bomber carrying a 30-kiloton Mark IV nuclear bomb was on a training exercise from Alaska to Texas. While flying over the Pacific Ocean, the B-36 lost power to three of its engine turbines causing the plane to quickly lose altitude. The decided course of action from the crew was to lighten the cargo weight to help the plane rise. They did this by dropping the “Fat Man” out of the back of the plane to fall down into the ocean. The main explosives exploded on impact of the water, but the bombs uranium components sank to the bottom to be lost.
On February 5th, 1958, a US B-47 Bomber collided with F-86 jet during a training combat mission off the Atlantic Coast. The bomber could not land due to the damage and weight of the aircraft. A decision was made to jettison a 3,400 Kilogram Mark 15 Nuclear Bomb the plane was carrying. The bomb was dropped into the mouth of the Savannah River close the the city of Savannah, with at the time a population close to 120,000. The bomb never detonated and the plane landed safely with its crew. The bomb has still yet to be found.
Another incident occurred on land. On January 24th, 1961, a US B-52 took off from a base located in Goldsboro, North Carolina. The plane was performing an alert mission, carrying two 24-megaton nuclear bombs. While flying, a wing of the plane broke off causing it to crash down into a swamp. One of the bombs deployed its emergency parachute and landed safely while the other crashed deep into what is believed to be farmland. The United States Airforce began an extensive search for the missing uranium core including excavating to depths of 50 feet in some areas. The Airforce eventually bought the land the bomb was presumed to be located on in effort to keep the public and enemy forces from ever obtaining the core.
On December 5th, 1965, off the coast of Japan, an A-4E Skyhawk aircraft rolled of the back of the USS Ticonderoga, an aircraft carrier. The Skyhawk was carrying none other then a one-megaton thermonuclear weapon known as a hydrogen bomb. Both the plane and bomb sank 16,000 feet under the ocean never to be found. In 1989, the United States Navy admitted to loosing the bomb 500 miles off from the coast in the safety of the open sea. This later turned out to be false, with the Navy later admitting the bomb sank only 80 miles from the coast of Ryukyu, an island chain of Japan. This of course, caused serious issues with the US and Japan relationship which now prohibits the US in bringing any nuclear weapons in Japan’s territory.
These are only some of the known atomic weapons lost. With the eight lost during The Cold War compared to the amount of atomic weapons produced, it is likely the number is higher. It’s not likely that any of these devices will detonate, but the threat is always there. So remember to Duck and Cover in case there is an atomic bomb in your backyard.
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