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

June 7, 1960 - McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey

DOD: A BOMARC air defense missile in ready storage condition (permitting launch in two minutes) was destroyed by explosion and fire after a high pressure helium tank exploded and ruptured the missile's fuel tanks. The warhead was also destroyed by the fire although the high explosive did not detonate. Nuclear safety devices acted as designed. Contamination was restricted to an area immediately beneath the weapon and an adjacent elongated area approximately 100 feet long, caused by drain-off of firefighting water.

CDI: The BOMARC missile was one of 56 housed at the 46th Air Defense Missile Squadron in Jackson Township, N.J., ten miles east of McGuire Air Force Base. Each missile was housed in a separate concrete and steel shelter. The BOMARC had earned a reputation as a dangerous weapon system. The New York Times reported the 4 7-foot missile "melted under an intense blaze fed by its 100-pound detonator of TNT ... The atomic warhead apparently dropped into the molten mass that was left of the missile, which burned for forty-five minutes." The radiation "had been caused when thoriated magnesium metal which forms part of the weapon, caught fire, ... the metal, already radioactive, becomes highly radioactive when it is burned."


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