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 3632 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance 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 four books.