Telex from General Walsh, Commander 7th Air Division, South Ruislip, England, to General Curtis Le May, Commander, Strategic Air Command, classified TOP SECRET OPERATIONAL IMMEDIATE, concerning accident July 27 1956
|PERSONAL FOR CINC LEMAY FROM WALSH. MORE TO MY PHONE CALL. HAVE JUST COME FROM WRECKAGE OF B-47 WHICH PLOUGHED INTO AN IGLOO IN LAKENHEATH ADS. THE B-47 TORE APARE THE IGLOO AND KNOCKED ABOUT 3 MARK SIXES. A/C THEN EXPLODED SHOWERING BURNING FUEL OVER ALL. CREW PERISHED , MOST OF A/C WRECKAGE PIVOTED ON IGLOO AND CAME TO REST WITH A/C NOSE JUST BEYOND IGLOO BANK WHICH KEPT MAIN FUEL FIRE OUTSIDE SMASHED IGLOO. PRELIMINARY EXAM BY BOMB DISPOSAL OFFICER SAYS A MIRACLE THAT ONE MARK SIX WITH EXPOSED DETONATORS DIDN'T GO OFF. FIRE FIGHTERS EXTINGUISHED FIRE AROUND MARK SIXES FAST. PLAN INVESTIGATION TO WARRANT DECORATING FIREMEN.|
From Scottish CND news (18 Aug 96)
Nuclear Near-Disaster Reportedly Covered Up
OMAHA, Neb, (UPI) -- The Eisenhower administration and the government of British Prime Minister Anthony Eden covered up the crash of an American bomber that that nearly resulted in in a nuclear catastropge 23 years ago, the Omaha World Herald reports.
An Air Force officer said the near disaster was averted by "tremendous heroism, good fortune and the will of God", the newspaper reported in a copyright story.
The incident occurred at the Royal Air Force Station at Lakenheath, a village 78 miles northeast of London, the World-Herald said. It was covered up by the Eisenhower administration and Eden's conservative government, which had been plunged into the Suez Canal crisis only the day before.
The chain of events began when a B-47 bomber, rotated to England as a part of the Strategic Air Command's program to place medium-range bombers closer to targets in the Soviet Union, crashed while practicing takeoffs and landings.
Blazing jet fuel ran down a hill to a storage building containing the three Mark VI atomic bombs, which were considerably more powerful than the bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The newspaper said the possibility of a nuclear explosion was highly remote, but the possibility of an explosion of TNT, used as the arming mechanism, was very real.
The steel casing of the Mark VI was relatively thin and the resistance to heat was not especially great. Each bomb contained about 8,000 pounds of TNT, which had it exploded, would have produced a geyser of radioactive material, the newspaper said.
Air Force Master Sgt. L. H. Dunn, the base fire chief riding in the lead truck, moved as close as possible to the building containing the A-bombs and poured flame-suppressing foam on the fire.
Dunn, who ignored the four B-47 crew members trapped inside the wreckage on the presumption they were dead, utilized four foam trucks in extinguishing the fire around the storage building, the newspaper reported.
Had the TNT exploded, "it is possible that a part of Eastern England would have become a desert," a retired Air Force major general told the World-Herald.
Newspaper Article, Sun-News 11th June 1979
From REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS, SHERIFF COURT, GREENOCK, 1999, before SHERIFF M. GIMBLETT, and a Jury. H.M. ADVOCATE v. ANGELA CHRISTINA ZELTER, BODIL ULLA RODER and ELLEN MOXLEY.
Excerpt from examination of PROFESSOR PAUL FERDINAND ROGERS by Advocate Mr McLaughlin:
Are you professor of peace studies at Bradford University ?
--- I am.
Are you the author of "A Guide to nuclear weapons" ?
--- Yes, I wrote four editions of the guide to nuclear weapons during the 1980s, and in 1990 a colleague and I published what was effectively an encyclopaedia of nuclear or biological and chemical weapons and their control .
Have you lectured to members of the UK defence establishment ?
--- I was a lecturer at the Royal Air Force staff College through much of the 1980s, and of the joint Service Defence College at Greenwich more recently. I currently go every year to the combined Defence College, joint services combined staff College in Bracknell. I was only there about three weeks ago. I have also lectured to senior Nato audiences including the Nato planning conference. I think I am one of the few civilians invited to lecture to that, and I was an invited lecturer at the London seminar organised by the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic, one of the most senior Nato posts, two years ago .
You have in your article a reference to B47 bombers. If you could perhaps tell the ladies and gentlemen of the jury the situation about accidents on those planes ?
--- The B47 bomber was one of the major medium range nuclear bombers in the United States Air Force. It experienced a number of accidents -- in one case in March 1956 where a bomber which was en route to a base in southern Europe failed to rendezvous with its refuelling tanker aircraft and disappeared with its two nuclear weapons. It is believed to have crashed and the weapons were never recovered. In another incident only four months later a B47 crashed into a nuclear storage depot at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk. All four crew members were killed and the high explosive elements within the nuclear bombs in the heat were actually seriously damaged but fortunately did not explode. If they had, it was believed that it would have had radioactive fall-out over much of East Anglia.