is a Missing A-Bomb off the Georgia Coast
from: The world of James Donahue
I recently noted a scary story about a
missing nuclear bomb that has been lying in shallow water, just off Savannah,
Georgia, since it was dropped there in February, 1958.
It seems that a B-47 bomber was carrying this bomb on a training mission when it
collided with a fighter jet. The bomber was severely damaged, but still flying.
To assure a better chance at a safe landing, the crew elected to drop the bomb
somewhere near the Tybee islands. Without its plutonium-filled warhead attached,
the bomb did not explode. The military spent a few weeks searching for that
deadly piece of hardware, but then gave up.
The 12-foot-long, 7,600-pound device has been lying out there ever since, a
deadly pile of rusting debris filled with uranium and explosives that may
someday raise havoc with the local real estate if something is not done.
While some of the older natives in the Savannah area recall the incident, the
story fell among the many interesting legends of the area until recently, when
former Air Force pilot Derek Duke researched the incident and began publicly
calling for a new search.
Duke believes the radioactive uranium containing the explosive power of 400
pounds of TNT should be found and removed before the bomb either explodes or
releases its contents on the local environment.
"It needs to be found so it moves from the dark, scary realm of lost and
unknown and we know where and how it is," Duke said in an AP report.
The Air Force isn't in a rush to locate the bomb, however. Military officials
insist the device is no danger, even to the nearby beach community of about
4,000 people now living on Tybee Island. And they are reluctant to spend an
estimated $1 million needed to locate and recover it.
"The bomb off the coast of Savannah is not capable of a nuclear
explosion," Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Cheryl Law told the Associated
Press. Law said that even the uranium still inside the bomb would not be
dangerous if released in the water. "To have that hurt you, you would
actually have to ingest it," she was quoted as saying.
Why do I find Major Law's remarks so disconcerting? Is it because we have been
lied to before by our military? Can we convince all of the military men who
fought in the recent conflict in Yugoslavia, now dying of various forms of
cancer, that the used uranium enhanced bombs our Air Force exploded there were
as harmless as they were originally told? Have we convinced the Gulf War
Syndrome victims that the chemicals they were exposed to in that conflict did
not cause their illness? And how about the Vietnam veterans whose lives were
ruined because of their exposure to Agent Orange? Don't we recall how our
military insisted that the chemical we used to destroy the foliage in that
jungle area was perfectly safe? And how about the GI's who died of various
illnesses after they were purposefully exposed to radioactive fallout during
A-bomb testing during World War II?
What is even more frightening about the lost bomb at Tybee Island is that Duke
uncovered a letter written in 1966 by W. J. Howard, then assistant to the
secretary of defense, to the chairman of the congressional Joint Committee on
Howard's letter listed four nuclear weapons that had been lost and never
recovered at that time. Two of these weapons were described as
"weapons-less capsules" and incapable of causing a nuclear blast. The
Tybee Island bomb, however, was not one of them. This bomb, and a second one
lost in the deep Western Pacific in 1965, were described by Howard as
While the military appears complacent about the dangers of this bomb, Duke has
been alarmed enough to devote two years of personal research. He has even
proposed using a team of former military experts and sonar scanning devices to
conduct his own private search.
With some financial help, (certainly less than $1 million) Duke might just
succeed in locating the bomb, even if it is buried under several feet of silt.
Modern sonar equipment, which can be attached to the sides of small pleasure
craft, is being used to locate sunken ships, aircraft and a variety of other
long lost treasures on the floors of lakes and oceans all over the world. Other
technology exists that can find buried metallic objects. It would take time and
a careful mapping of the ocean floor so that every square foot of the area is
scanned. But a small private group, if given enough financial backing, might
just succeed in finding the lost Tybee bomb.
The fact that small, private exploratory teams might succeed in locating such a
device, ought to make the FBI, the NSA, the CIA and any other government agency
devoted to protecting the United States against terrorist attack, sit up and
take notice. Why have we been so complacent about a nuclear bomb lost in
something like 20 feet of water on our Atlantic coast for more than 40 years?
While we are publicly going to great lengths to prevent Iraq from developing
so-called "weapons of mass destruction," we have carelessly written
off one of our nuclear bombs, lost in shallow water off our Atlantic coast. What
would prevent terrorist groups, equipped with sophisticated search equipment,
from finding that bomb before Duke does? And who is to say that the bomb hasn't
already been recovered?
If the bomb is as dangerous as Howard's letter implies, Duke should be heard on
this matter. An attempt to recover that old relic, even if only to assure
ourselves that it is still out there, might be money well spent.