Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How Many Broken Arrows?

Nuclear Weapons Accidents- The Maggelet/Oskins Broken Arrow Blog

by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins.

 Over the past few decades, the Department of Defense has made several changes to the "narrative summaries of nuclear weapons accidents". 
  In 1968, DOD released the first list which contained 17 accidents. 
  By 1977, the list had changed to 27 accidents.
  In 1980, the most recently updated list, the accident tally remained at 32, and did not include the  four Thor launch accidents which occurred at Johnston Island in 1962. At least two of these accidents were released to the media by DOD at the time, and published in Time magazine. Why they weren't included in the accident tally is unknown.
  Background on the Johnston Island accidents was declassified by Field Command, Defense Nuclear Agency in 1983, and DOD has declassified films, messages, and other papers on the accidents and cleanup. FC DNA also issued a press release in 1983 which the media ignored (I read about the JI accidents in Chuck Hansen's 1988 book "US Nuclear Weapons, The Secret History"- remember, this is long before the internet as we know it existed, and FOIA material was not readily accessible).
  The problem identifying past accidents is the change over the years defining what is an "incident versus an "accident". Jim Oskins and I use the original DOD definition from 1957 which states in part-
"(6) Public Hazard, Actual or Implied. (Note: Accidents that involve  major mechanical damage  to the weapon without burning, explosion, or contamination are listed in this category)." 
Thus, while many weapons have been accidentally salvoed or dropped, the event may, or may not have damaged internal components (which require the weapon to be returned to the production agency for disassembly and repair, or retirement). The key phrase is "major mechanical damage", and is dependent on the weapon involved (for example, early large diameter bombs involved in accidents suffered internal damage from salvoes to include damage to the IFI mechanism, or extensive damage to the HE sphere, or a displaced secondary).

  Therefore, we have concluded after reviewing hundreds of incident reports (published in "Broken Arrow, Volume II- A Disclosure of Significant US, Soviet, and British Nuclear Weapon Incidents and Accidents, 1945-2008") that the accident list is near 66 for the US. The UK accident list is zero (counting UK weapons), and six accidents in the former Soviet Union (to include the four known submarine accidents).  Two US weapons, which were test duds, sat underground for years at the Nevada Test Site, and were not included in the DOD accident list (apparently since they were not DOD weapons). The Soviets also abandoned in place at least one unexploded warhead at the Semipalatinsk test site (the US and Soviet weapons were later destroyed). More information on these accidents is forthcoming.  
   In 1993, the US Navy declassified some aspects on the loss of the USS Scorpion, which sank on May 22, 1968 about 400 miles southwest of the Azores with two nuclear torpedoes. It should also be noted that weapons lost at sea pose no nuclear detonation hazard, since nuclear components exposed to saltwater deteriorate (in the case of plutonium, dissolve into a localized gelatinous sludge).
  In 1995, the Department of Energy released its list of "Unrecovered Nuclear Weapons and Classifed Components" which corrected some early discrepancies in the DOD accident list. Among these was a change in the location of the loss of a Mark 7 Betty bomb from a P-5 ASW aircraft in the Pacific, instead of Puget Sound. Also included was a narrative for the Scorpion accident. However, some discrepancies remain from the early accidents, for example, the statement that a B-36 crashed on Vancouver Island where the aircraft actually flew on another 200 miles after it's crew bailed out and crashed on Mt. Kologet in British Columbia. One of the reasons we published our first book was to correct these errors and dispel myths about purported accidents.   
  We have several unresolved dates for other Broken Arrows, and if the FOIA process is any indication, we will be waiting years for a response.

Excerpt from "Broken Arrow, Volume II" by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins
Table I
Additional U.S. Broken Arrows, 1945 to 1989
Accident/ Date              Event
 1.  1949-1953               Mk 4 bomb/Beta Crate/40 foot trailer
 2.  1951-1962               Mk 6 Beta Crate/40 foot trailer
 3.  1951-1962               Mk 6/C -124, weapon dropped
 4.  1951-1962               Mk 6/C-124, weapon dropped
 5.  Unknown date         Unknown bomb, accidentally salvoed
 6.  1952- Unknown location    Unknown bomb, accidentally salvoed
 7.  Mar 1956- Loring AFB, ME    Mark 17, accidentally salvoed
 8.  1956-1963               Mk 1 BOAR W7, impact damage
 9.  1957-1966               Mk 39 bomb/B-52, accidentally salvoed
10. 1957-1964               T-4 ADM, fire damage
11. July 19, 1957           Mk 15/A3D, weapon jettisoned
12. Feb 8, 1958              Mk 15/B-52, weapon salvoed
13. May 1958                 Mk 21/B-52 or B-47, weapon dropped
14. Apr 1960                  W-31/Honest John, warhead dropped
15. Jul 31, 1958             Possibly W7/AF Missile Dev Center
16. 1958-1967               Mk 28 bombs/At Sea, flood
17. Dec 13, 1960           Unknown weapon(s)/location
18. Oct 27, 1961 Italy   W49/Jupiter, tritium leak, Gioia del Colle
19. Nov 6, 1961             Plutonium Release/Pantex Plant
20. Jul 19, 1962             W49/Jupiter, lightning strike
21. Dec 15, 1962           Mk25/AIR-2A Genie/F-106
22. Mar 28, 1964           Mk 34 & Mk 57, flood
23. Nov 17, 1964           W28/Hound Dog/B-52G, frag damage
24. Jul 15, 1965             W28/Mace Missile, lightning strike
25. Jan 19, 1966            W45/Terrier, missile dropped
26. Feb 7, 1966              Mk 28FI, weapon dropped
27. Mar 25, 1967- DMZ Viet Nam    W44 ASROC/USS Ozbourn, fire
28. May 17, 1989           Unknown weapon + 9 pits, Pantex Plant, Amarillo, TX, tritium leak
Copyright 2008-2014 by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

How to Become a Media Expert on Nuclear Weapons, Policy, and History!

by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins

  The internet and media swarms with nuclear weapons “experts”, many of whom don’t know the first thing about nuclear weapons, history, deployment, nor safety. Therefore, we've created a simple guide for investigative journalists, prospective authors, and other clueless individuals on how to become a media nuclear weapons expert in a few short months-

1. Have absolutely no background in the nuclear weapons field (this is an obvious first step in being anointed by the press as a nuclear weapons expert).

2. Create a Wikipedia entry promoting yourself as an expert on fast food, the porn industry, and yes, nuclear weapons.

3. Plaster your face all over the internet (see number 2).

4. Issue press releases announcing “shocking” new FOIA documents which have been uncovered through your “exclusive research” (even though they’ve been in the public domain for decades and printed in previous publications or books).

5. Distort the facts from declassified documents, stating the exact opposite of what is actually in the documents.  For example, claim that the B53 bomb was “unsafe”, or that the Mark 39 accident weapons at Goldsboro were “one step away from detonation” (knowledge of past accident history, weapons safety features, nuclear safety concepts, and the facts do not apply).

6. Claim that your “exhaustive research” shows beyond any reasonable doubt that nuclear weapons are unsafe, and could detonate from “stray voltage” and at any time (and could “incinerate” the state of Arkansas).

7. Maintain a blog, and delete posts or keep posts “awaiting moderation” for weeks or months if subject matter experts dispute your more enlightened claims of nuclear expertise and impending nuclear doom.

8. Use Left wing media and family connections to promote your new found expertise among celebrities and political activists (Hanoi Jane Fonda included). Demand that the US disarm now, since all nukes could explode near our major cities…

9. Team up with other newly crowned nuclear weapon history and policy experts and, with your vast knowledge and new found celebrity status and literary accolades, proclaim how much you “admire” those in the US military (while in Leftist media interviews bash them incessantly with absurd conspiracy theories about the "national security state" keeping nuclear weapons accidents and incidents "secret").

10. Ignore criticism by uneducated neo-Con revisionists and right wing pundits who conduct personal attacks against your enlightened and educated progressive colleagues (they are obviously war criminals, not to mention Yankee Air Pirates!).

11. And remember it is all about the money, not the facts.

Anti-US North Korean poster
"Citizens! Surrender your weapons" (USSR 1920)

Offensive and slanderous anti-Soviet propaganda-

Even more offensive and exceedingly slanderous anti-Soviet propaganda!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Goldsboro- 19 Steps Away from Detonation

Nuclear Weapons Accidents- The Maggelet/Oskins Broken Arrow Blog

by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins.

  The B-52G accident on 24 January 1961 near Goldsboro, North Carolina is another example of unfounded hysteria over a nuclear weapons accident. For decades, claims abounded that one bomb, a Mark 39 Mod 2, "went through five of it's six interlocking safety devices" and was only "one step" away from a nuclear detonation. This is not true.
  The following material has been declassified from various documents obtained from DOE and NNSA.

  First and foremost, B-52G aircraft power must be applied to the weapon via two crew members using the Aircraft Monitoring and Control System and a specific voltage and amperage (and for a specific amount of time) before the Ready/Safe Switch could be rotated to the "Arm" position.

  The pilot of the bomber aircraft controlled power via his T-380 Readiness Switch, which was safety wired and sealed near his seat in the aircraft. The Radar Navigator could monitor the bomb's circuits via the DCU-9, but he could not arm it without electrical input via AMAC nor consent from the pilot. The aircrew, in two physically separate positions in the aircraft, had to perform at least 19 steps from their checklist before nuclear weapons could be pre-armed and dropped.

  Bomb 2, the object of the Goldsboro controversy, was not "one step" away from detonation (nor was Bomb 1). The Mark 39 Mod 2 had two additional safety switches, the Trajectory Arm Switch and Rotary Safing Switch. It should be noted that aircraft power to monitor and pre-arm the bomb is separate from power supplied by the bomb's short life thermal batteries.

  In Bomb 2, the High Voltage Thermal Battery was not activated, so no electrical power could reach any components necessary to fire the weapon and produce a nuclear explosion. In any regard, the R/S Switch, Trajectory Arm, and Rotary Safing Switch prevented any current from reaching the X-Unit.

  While the Ready/Safe Switch in Bomb 2 showed "armed" after recovery, it was actually safe, and post mortem examination by the AEC proved it to be electronically open (the housing having been destroyed during impact). Most importantly, the high voltage necessary to fire bomb components was not present for bomb 2.

  In Bomb 1, the HVTB did activate, however the three safety switches, the MC-772 Ready/Safe Switch, the MC-732 Trajectory Arm, and the MC-788 Rotary Safing Switch prevented any voltage to reach components necessary to arm and fire the bomb. The arming and firing sequence is quite complex, and much more was required to produce a nuclear explosion. 

  It should be noted that in several other accidents, thermal batteries were activated due to severe ground impacts. In all cases, from lightning strikes to accidental jettisonings to crashes, the safety features, although not as advanced as today's nuclear safety concepts, were well designed, tested, and robust.
  Documentaton obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, including copies of the original AEC and EOD reports, are available in "Broken Arrow, The Declassified History of Nuclear Weapons Accidents" by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins. It should also be noted that Bomb 2's secondary, containing uranium and lithium, was not recovered and poses no detonation hazard.

  How close was the Goldsboro bomb to producing a nuclear explosion? Not at all.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

U.S. Navy Jettisoned Nuclear Bomb Off Jacksonville, Florida in 1957

Nuclear Weapons Accidents- The Maggelet/Oskins Broken Arrow Blog

by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins.
  Our exclusive research into early weapons accidents and incidents reveals the US Navy jettisoned a 7000 pound weapon off Jacksonville, Florida on June 19th, 1957.
  Since many of these early reports dealt with inert training units or operational suitability test weapons (OST) minus nuclear components, we had to verify this information through additional documentation.
U.S. Navy A-3D Skywarrior (James Mulligan/Wikipedia)
  On June 19th, 1957, a Navy A-3D Skywarrior was launched from the USS Roosevelt cruising off Jacksonville, Florida. The aircraft attempted to land at Naval Air Station Sanford (near Orlando, Florida). Landing lights were not operational at the base, and the aircraft was diverted to NAS Jacksonville.
  An in-flight emergency was declared due to landing gear failure, and after several attempts to bring down the gear, the aircraft was diverted off NAS Mayport (Jacksonville, Florida) with an escort to jettison the bomb. We believe the bomb was a Mark 15 Mod 0, which did not have a nuclear capsule installed on the in-flight insertion (IFI) mechanism. Additional documentation from the Eisenhower papers shows that the Navy was searching for the weapon, and that it did not have a nuclear capsule. 
  During this time frame, live caps were never installed in weapons and instead stored in M-102 "birdcages" kept in the crew compartment. Training capsules containing lead were carried by the crew for handling and custodial purposes. However, the crew had no means to install the cap on the IFI, since the Mk 15 tail subassembly could only be removed on the ground by a certified crew (in this case, US Navy Nuclear Weapons Men). 
  The A-3D crew successfully bailed out and the aircraft crashed a few miles off NAS Mayport. To the best of our knowledge, and statements published by the late Navy EOD officer Art Arsenault, the Jacksonville bomb was never retrieved.

 The Mark 15 Mod 0 lost off Jacksonville, in addition to the Tybee bomb lost on February 5, 1958 near Wassaw Sound, Georgia, do not contain capsules and cannot produce a nuclear explosion. 
  More details on the history of flight, and search for the missing weapon can be found in our second book on nuclear weapons accidents, "Broken Arrow, Volume II- A Disclosure of Significant U.S., Soviet, and British Nuclear Weapon Incidents and Accidents, 1945-2008" by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins (ISBN 978-0-557-65593-9).
  Our books are available through, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, and

Thursday, September 27, 2012

RAF Lakenheath- Fact vs. Fiction

Nuclear Weapons Accidents- The Maggelet/Oskins Broken Arrow Blog

by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins.

July 27, 1956/B-47/Overseas Base

  The July 27th, 1956 crash of a B-47 into a storage igloo at RAF Lakenheath continues to be the source of disinformation (along with several other Broken Arrows we will discuss in the future).

  One of the most common myths is that the weapons, if they had detonated, would have "turned southeast England into a desert". Well, not quite.

  The three Mark 6 bombs were in storage, and therefore no nuclear capsules were installed, nor stored in the building (the nuclear capsule was manually installed in the Mk 6, and only when airborne and just prior to strike) . Each Mk 6 did contain at least 5,000 pounds of high explosives, and depleted uranium. Even if the weapons  detonated due to fire, there would not have been a nuclear reaction (U-238 is not fissionable through high explosive compression or fire). 

Declassified "Top Secret" message describing accident (source- U.S. Air Force)

  The former Atomic Energy Commission site at Medina, Texas is a prime example of such an accident. On November 13th, 1963, a forklift driver accidentally scraped a load of weapon components which subsequently caught fire. The resulting detonation of 123,000 pounds of HE vaporized the storage igloo and disassembled weapon components. No fatalities resulted, and the area around the Medina complex, Lackland Air Force Base, and San Antonio, Texas are not radioactive wastelands.

  Mark 6 fission bombs in storage did not contain material capable of a nuclear explosion. The nuclear capsules were stored in "birdcages" in a separate secure facility inside the storage area.

  Details on the 36 known Broken Arrows can be read in "Broken Arrow, The Declassified History of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Accidents" by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins (ISBN 978-1-4357-0361-20). Our book contains copies of declassified accident reports, explosive ordnance disposal reports, and photos and drawings of accident scenes. Our books are available through, Books A Million, Barnes & Noble, and other fine booksellers.
  James C. Oskins is a U.S. Air Force retiree, and was a Nuclear Specialist, a Nuclear Weapons Arming and Fusing Technician, a Nuclear Weapons Technician, and Team Chief from May 1955 to June 1975. He had assignments with the 35th Munitions Maintenance Squadron (MMS), Biggs AFB, Texas, 702nd Strategic Missile Wing, Presque Isle AFB, Maine, 11th MMS RAF Upper Heyford, England, 28th MMS Carswell AFB, Texas, 381st Strategic Missile Wing, McConnell AFB, Kansas, and 320th MMS RAF Upper Heyford, England, and 3096th Aviation Depot Squadron, Nellis AFB, Nevada. During these assignment Jim worked on the Mark 6, Mk 15, Mk 17, Mk 21, W39, Mk 15 Mod 2, Mk 28, B53, W53, B57, and B61.
  Michael H. Maggelet is a U.S. Air Force retiree and was a Nuclear Weapons Specialist and Team Chief from December 1980 to June 1995, He had assignments with the 509th MMS, Pease AFB, New Hampshire, 380th MMS, Plattsburgh AFB, New York, in Rheinland Pfalz, Germany, and with the 28th Maintenance Squadron at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. During his time in service Mike worked on the B43, B57, several mods of the B61, the B83, and the AGM-69A Short Range Attack Missile.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Nuclear Weapons Accidents- The Maggelet/Oskins Broken Arrow Blog

by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins.

  This blog was created to inform the public on facts surrounding nuclear weapons accidents (Broken Arrows) and incidents (Bent Spears) that have been declassified by various government agencies.

 In 1980, the U.S. Department of Defense released a list of 32 accidents. In 1983, Field Command, Defense Nuclear Agency released details on four additional accidents on Johnston Island in the Pacific in 1962.

  It's our opinion, after reviewing thousands of declassified documents, that there are nearly 60 accidents which resulted in severe damage to US nuclear weapons. This would have involved return of the weapon or warhead to a production facility for disassembly and replacement. Despite the severe stress on weapon components, there was no possibility of a nuclear explosion.

  After a four year effort through the Freedom of Information Act, we published our second book on nuclear weapons accidents and incidents, "Broken Arrow, Volume II". We believe it is the definitive source on US nuclear weapons accidents, and includes information on Soviet accidents, and incidents in the United Kingdom. Some of the Broken Arrows we cover include never before released details on the Thule, Greenland, and Palomares, Spain accidents, and details on the loss of the USS Scorpion in 1968 (which do not point to any hostile act, despite the claims of conspiracy theorists).

  We were also fortunate to include several first hand accounts by individuals present during several accidents and incidents. These include the Cunningham incident at RAF Sculthorpe in 1958, the 1965 USS Ticonderoga accident, the 1967 USS Ozbourn incident off Viet Nam, and a 1974 confrontation at an overseas base.

  Our books are available on, Books A Million, Barnes & Noble, and other fine booksellers.

"Broken Arrow, Volume II- A Disclosure of Significant U.S., Soviet, and British Nuclear Weapons Incidents and Accidents, 1945-2008" by Michael H. Maggelet and James C. Oskins. ISBN 978-0-557-65593-9, 348 pages, black and white photographs. Lulu Press.