On this day in 1968 a B-52 crashed in Greenland with 4 hydrogen bombs

On Jan. 21, 1968, a B-52G Stratofortress belonging to the 380th Strategic Bomb Wing from Plattsburgh Air Force Base, New York, crashed in in Greenland in what is remembered as the second “Broken Arrow” incident (yes, that codeword is not only used in movies).

The bomber, using radio callsign “Hobo 28” was flying an armed peacetime airborne alert mission known under the codename of “Hard Head”:  its purpose was to maintain a visual surveillance of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS), which provided early warning of Soviet missile launches, at Thule Air Base.

During the mission, the Stratofortress experienced a cockpit fire, failed to make an emergency landing at Thule and eventually crashed on sea ice in North Star Bay.

Six of the seven crew members were able to eject the aircraft but the four hydrogen bombs carried by the B-52 (that did not detonate because of “Weak Links” safety mechanisms) released radioactive material.

In spite of an attempt to restrict the leaks, the high winds, the cold temperatures and the fire caused by the burning Stratofortress caused the dispersion of some other radioactive material into the sea.

Btw, one of the four B-28 Thermonuclear remains unaccounted for, after 46 years.

The crash, which followed the other Broken Arrow incident occurred in Spain two years earlier, highlighted the safety (and diplomatic) risks those kind of airborne alert missions, which were immediately ended.

Image credit: Wiki


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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Similar to the War On Terror, the Cold War was a contrived hoax founded on baseless propaganda. As a 3rd world country which had been devastated by defeating Germany and winning WW 2 (which the US took credit for) the Soviet Union posed not the slightest threat to the US or anyone else. In fact, the Soviet Union could barely feed itself and probably would not have survived if not for regular financial support provided to it by Wall Street bankers. Following WW 2, the Cold War was dreamed up by the US and England as a way of creating an enemy where none actually existed at the time. With an enemy (real or imaginary) being necessary to justify and expand a military industrial complex that had come into being as a result of WW 2. When the Cold War came to an unexpected end following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, and the US again found itself without an enemy to justify a huge defense budget, the War On Terror was created (as a result of 9/11) to replace it. So now we have another contrived war to replace the Cold War with the War On Terror being the perfect war because it can theoretically last forever since terrorism is an undefined term that can be applied to anyone including Americans who object to it.

    • Yeah, that’s just not true. There were very serious talks by the US to join forces with the Wehrmacht after the war and roll all the way to Moscow.

      To say that the USSR posed no risk to anyone else is foolish. They defeated the Germans, their army was massive and was a huge threat to the worlds freedom. Stalin was hands down worse than Hitler, and the Soviets utterly destroyed Eastern Europe.

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