'Broken Arrow': When the First U.S. Atomic Bomb Went MissingBreaking News
tags: Cold War, military history, nuclear history, aviation history
In 1950, an American B-36 bomber on a peace-time training mission crashed over British Columbia, Canada carrying a Mark IV atomic bomb, a weapon comparable in size to the nuke dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. According to testimonies from the surviving crew members, they had safely jettisoned the bomb, and detonated it in mid-air before the plane went down.
The crash became famous as the very first “broken arrow,” the U.S. military’s term for an accident involving a nuclear weapon. But questions swirled for decades about whether the bomb was really detonated over the ocean—or whether it went missing somewhere in the Canadian wilderness.
Five years after using the first atomic weapons to force the surrender of Japan in World War II, the United States military was preparing for a new era of nuclear warfare with its Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union. The Convair B-36 “Peacemaker” was the first true intercontinental bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons to any part of the world, and the U.S. Strategic Air Command (SAC) was eager to test the new planes with a real payload.
A test bombing run goes awry
After months of lobbying, SAC leaders were able to convince the Atomic Energy Commission to lend them a Mark IV atomic bomb without its plutonium core. The bomb still contained large amounts of uranium and conventional explosives—but it couldn’t trigger a devastating nuclear blast.
comments powered by Disqus
- Chair of Florida Charter School Board on Firing of Principal: About Policy, Not David Statue
- Graduate Student Strikes Fight Back Against Decades of Austerity, Seek to Revive Opportunity
- When Right Wingers Struggle with Defining "Woke" it Shows they Oppose Pursuing Equality
- Strangelove on the Square: Secret USAF Films Showed Airmen What to Expect if Nuclear War Broke Out
- The Women of the Montgomery Bus Boycott
- New Books Force Consideration of Reconstruction's End from Black Perspective
- Excerpt: How Apartheid South Africa Tried to Create a Libertarian Utopia
- Historian's Book on 1970s NBA Shows Racial Politics around Basketball Have Always Been Ugly
- Kendi: "Anti-woke" Part of Backlash Against Antiracist Protest Movements
- Monica Muñoz Martinez Honored for Truth-Telling in Texas History