Broken Arrow - The Path to Nuclear Annihilation
During the Cold War lasting nearly fifty years, and in the 1960’s when bitter tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States brewed at a fevered pitch, the fear of nuclear annihilation ran rampant. Society lived with the unpleasant threat of thermonuclear war and destruction of the planet. In schools all across the country children were taught to “duck and cover.” Drills were conducted where children crawled under their desks, covered their heads with their hands, and closed their eyes against the potential flash of nuclear detonation. Of course the fallacy with that was if you were that close to a nuclear event “duck and cover” would do nothing to save your life.
What most of America did not know, or had minimal exposure to by design, was the far greater danger posed by “broken arrow” events. These potentially devastating dramas offered a considerably more serious chance of a nuclear event than tensions with the Soviet “Bear.”
One of the most infamous episodes occurred in 1961, and came to be known as the Goldsboro event in eastern North Carolina. Near Seymour Johnson Air Force base a B-52 Stratofortress bomber broke apart in midair due to a structural failure. The aircraft’s vertical stabilizer (the upright section of the tail) separated from the plane. This led to a loss of stability which brought about the release of the bombs and the ensuing crash killing five of the eight crewmembers onboard.
Within the bomb bay of the doomed aircraft were two nuclear weapons. One of the bomb’s parachutes deployed and it landed relatively unharmed. This weapon of mass destruction was easily recovered. The second bomb’s parachute failed to open causing the weapon to break apart on impact. The portion containing uranium buried itself into swampy farmland somewhere around fifty feet deep. To this day the nuclear material has not been retrieved despite a massive undertaking by the military. Had this bomb detonated the entire eastern seaboard including our nation’s capital would have reeled under the deadly effects.
Unfortunately, this is not the only such incident to have occurred. Worse, nuclear warheads still remain unrecoverable decades after the fact not only in this country but around the world. One amazing story persisting to this day is the Tybee Island affair. After a failed extensive search by the navy, a retired Air Force officer believes he has found the warhead. And as seems to be the case with most of these scenarios, are the claims of the warhead not being armed. It is known this bomb would be 100 times more powerful than the Hiroshima explosion of 1945. In addtion, potable water supplies for the entire east coast would be rendered undrinkable.
Nuclear armament – is it worth the risk to mankind’s existence? Unfortunately, the genie escaped from the bottle and still threatens our existence as a species. Would we be better off without the destructive forces waiting to be unleashed in the event of a catastrophe? I will leave you wrestling with that question. The truth is out there.