Monday, 21 September 2009

And a bomb was dropped

Written in April 1966 and now declassified, the following letter from then Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, W. J. Howard, to Chairman of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, Chet Holifield, lists four separate incidents which resulted in nuclear weapons being lost and never recovered. According to Howard, the first two incidents listed in the testimony involved complete weapons, both of which are still missing today.

Weapon 1. Weapon 2.



22 APR. 1966

Honorable Chet Holifield
Joint Committee on Atomic Energy
Congress of the United States
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. Chairman:

During my testimony of April 19th I was asked to furnish for the record a list of accidents in which nuclear weapons have been lost and never recovered.

There have been two such incidents involving complete weapons:

1. On 8 February 1958 near Savannah, Georgia, a B-47 carrying a (redacted) weapon collided with an F-86. The weapon was jettisoned in 100 feet of water in the Savannah River. The weapon was never recovered. This accident, including the weapon loss, was released to the press.

2. On 9 December 1965 in the western Pacific an A4 aircraft with a (redacted) weapon on board was lost over the side of the aircraft carrier USS TICONDEROGA in 2700 fathoms of water. The aircraft, pilot and weapon were not recovered. No public announcement of this incident has been made, nor is any intended. This subject is considered sensitive because of its potential impact upon visits of the TICONDEROGA and other warships to foreign ports. 

There have been two additional incidents resulting in the loss of weapons less capsules:

1. On 29 July 1957 at sea off the New Jerseay coast a C-124 lost power on two engines and was forced to jettison two (redacted) without capsules into the Atlantic Ocean. This accident was not released to the press.

2. On 25 September 1958 near Whidbey Island, Washington, a Navy P5M with its engine afire was forced to ditch. It carried a (redacted) weapon without capsule. Immediately after ditching the weapon was jettisoned in 1430 fathoms. This accident was not released to the press.

Sincerely yours,


W. J. Howard
Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Atomic Energy)