The Broken Arrow Project: Visualizing the Dangers of Maintaining the U.S. Nuclear Arsenal

February 5, 1958 - Savannah River, Georgia

DOD: The B-47 was on a simulated combat mission that originated at Homestead Air Force Base, Florida. While near Savannah, Georgia, the B-47 had a mid-air collision at 3:30 a.m. with an F-86 aircraft. Following the collision the B-47 attempted three times to land at Hunter Air Force Base, Georgia, with a weapon aboard. Because of the condition of the aircraft, its airspeed could not be reduced enough to insure a safe landing. Therefore, the decision was made to jettison the weapon rather than expose Hunter Air Force Base to the possibility of a high explosive detonation. A nuclear detonation was not possible since the nuclear capsule was not aboard the aircraft. The weapon was jettisoned into the water several miles from the mouth of the Savannah River (Georgia) in Wassaw Sound off Tybee Beach. The precise weapon impact point is unknown. The weapon was dropped from an altitude of approximately 7,200 feet at an aircraft speed of 180-190 knots. No detonation occurred. After jettison the B-47 landed safely. A three square mile area was searched using a ship with divers and underwater demolition team technicians using Galvanic drag and hand-held sonar devices. The weapon was not found. The search was terminated April 16, 1958. The weapon was considered to be irretrievably lost.

CDI: Some accounts of nuclear weapons accidents list a February 12, 1958 accident involving a B-47 off Savannah, Georgia. An earlier DOD narrative was more precise on where it landed. "The best estimate," they say, "was determined to be 31 degrees 54' 15" North, 80 degrees 54' 54" West."


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