The American nuclear program is designed to be spotless, but despite that, the military experienced the misfortune of losing even seven nuclear bombs. Four of them are still missing.
1956: B-47 disappeared with two nuclear capsules
A website devoted to military topics, wearethemighty.com, created a list of cases when a nuclear bomb went missing. The first story on the list is also one of the most mysterious stories because not only the weapons, but also wreckage and the crew have never been found. A B-47 Stratojet took off from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida on March 10, 1956 headed to Morocco. It was scheduled for refueling in the air, twice, but it failed to appear for the second time.
1958: Damaged bomber disposed of a nuclear bomb near the Tybee Island, Georgia
B-47 bombers left Florida on February 5, 1958 with nuclear weapons. They went on a training mission simulating the bombing of a Soviet city and the evasion of interceptors afterwards. Over the coast of Georgia a bomber and interceptor collided. The interceptor pilot ejected, and the bomber crew attempted to land with the bomb but failed. Instead of that, they disposed of the bomb over the ocean, which fell into the water without explosion.
1961: Two nuclear bombs had nearly turned North Carolina into a bay
An aircraft B-52 took off on January 24, 1961 carrying two Mark 39 bombs, each 253 times as strong as the bomb that dropped on Hiroshima. The aircraft broke apart in a storm and dropped both of its bombs. The pilot who survived the crash, managed to notify the Air Force about the incident.
The first bomb was found hanging by a parachute from a tree, standing with the nose of the weapon against the ground. It completed six of possible seven steps necessary to detonate. The second bomb went through all seven detonating phases, but for unknown reason, it didn’t detonate, saving thousands of lives.
1965: Missing plane, pilot and a B43 nuclear bomb
A Navy plane A-4 Skyhawk was being moved aboard the USS Ticonderoga carrier during a military exercise on December 5, 1965 when it rolled off its elevator with a pilot and a B43 nuclear bomb and it sank into the waters 5,000 meters deep. It is unknown what happened next, but the water pressure at that depth may have been enough to detonate the bomb, without anyone noticing it because of the depth of the water.
1966: B-52 crashed, four thermonuclear bombs were released over Spain
On January 17, 1966 a plane B-52 was approaching a KC-135 for refueling when the bomber struck the flying tanker, killing the crew of the KC-135 and three men on the B-52. The plane with four B28 thermonuclear bombs fell near Palomares, a small fishing village in Spain. Three bombs were recovered in the first 24 hours. One had landed safely while two had detonated, contaminating the area of two square kilometers with plutonium. A local fisherman claimed he saw the fourth bomb sinking into the ocean and that one was found after more than three months.
1968: B-52 crashed and the weapon was lost under the Arctic ice
Like in the Palomares case, a crash of a B-52 on January 21 resulted in releasing of four B28 bombs. This time it was over Greenland and at least three of the bombs broke apart. Investigators recovered most of these components before realizing the fourth bomb was missing. It is believed that the first or second phase of the detonation began, bomb melted the ice and sank into the water of the Arctic Ocean.
1968: The sinking of the USS Scorpion
The USS Scorpion, a nuclear-powered attack submarine, was declared lost on June 5, 1968. The problem was especially difficult for the American Navy because the submarine had been following a Soviet research group just before it disappeared. At the time, the Scorpion was carrying two Mark 45 antisubmarine torpedoes and the wreckage was found at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean in October 1968. It looks like torpedoes remained intact.