Missing A-Bomb Off the Georgia Coast
By James Donahue
There is 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 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.
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
Why do we 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 Afghanistan and Iraq, and all of the natives
of these countries now suffering from various forms of radiation poisoning because of the spent plutonium tipped bombs and
shells fired there, that this stuff is harmless? 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 Atomic Energy.
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 "complete" weapons.
While the military appears complacent about
the dangers of this bomb, Duke has been alarmed enough to devote 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 one day 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 50 years?
While we are publicly going to great lengths to prevent Iran from developing
so-called "weapons of mass destruction," we have carelessly written off one of our own 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.