The Cost of Kicking the Can Down the Road

Article by Guest Author: Jack Imber
Author of the book DEMINER available from Amazon

It is not often that a lot of information is available about a particular piece of unexploded ordnance (UXO). In the case of a Mark 15 Hydrogen Bomb lost just off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, there are plenty of details to talk about. Thanks to declassified US government documents, eyewitness accounts and expert interviews, we know what happened and why. We just do not know exactly where the bomb ended up when it was dropped intentionally on the 8th of February 1958.

Just before midnight a loaded B47 bomber had been seriously struck midair by an F86 fighter jet. The fighter pilot safely ejected as his plane spun off helplessly toward South Carolina lands below. With the bombers right wing nearly torn apart, the outboard jet engine dangling precariously and the tail section full of holes the pilot fought shaky controls while contemplating his next crucial move. He knew that he was unable to fly out to the required minimum of 25 miles from land. This was the protocol required to dump such a munition in case of emergency. Instead he decided to jettison his single 7600 pound payload as soon as he could reach the Atlantic Ocean. Options were few as dropping it over land would likely cause detonation. Equally dangerous would be to attempt a landing at an unfinished runway at nearby Hunter Army Airfield. A rough landing there with his crippled air craft would certainly result in the nuke being forced through the fuselage and detonating. The bomb bay doors opened and a bomb 100 times more powerful then Hiroshima dropped into the area known as Wassaw Sound. The pilot then flew back to Hunter and safely landed his aircraft.

Navy EOD scanned the waters south of Tybee Island for ten weeks afterward with no sign of the big bomb. Finally called "irretrievably lost" the search was discontinued.

In 2008 renewed interest in locating the Mark 15 bomb by a small independent group of experts was completed. Still this newer effort yielded nothing certain. To date there has been no concrete evidence to suggest the exact whereabouts of what is now known as "The Tybee Bomb".

Should we still look for "The Tybee Bomb" now? There are a number of serious possible complications that could occur if the bomb is not discovered and removed. The most serious initial scenario is an accidental detonation. Although it is unlikely a thermonuclear reaction could occur without the bomb being fully 'armed', if it succeeded in detonating there would be enough explosives to spread the plutonium and other on board radiation throughout the region. It is believed that the bomb is in the vicinity of the Florida Aquifer and would present disastrous results affecting the water supplies of Georgia, Florida, and parts of Alabama. The next most pressing possibility is that of degradation. With degradation the bomb would leak radiation over time presenting serious environmental repercussions. Finally, perhaps the most hazardous scenario would be the harvesting of the bomb by a foreign power for the purpose of creating a new thermonuclear weapon.

Given that radioactive material detection technology has been vastly improved in recent years, there is a renewed hope that the Tybee Bomb could be located. Even without its radioactive signature the same technology used to discover oil thousands of feet below the earth's surface could likely be employed to locate a nearly four ton bomb laying an estimated 15 to 30 feet below the ocean floor.

To ignore this problem and not employ our latest technologies would be to push its solution onto other generations. Prolonging the eventual work needed to rectify this big UXO issue only increases the dangers over time.

For more information please search the web for: TYBEE BOMB.


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Jack Imber's Gravatar Authors Note: Radioactive detection technology has been significantly improved within the last eight years. For example, Homeland Security protocols incorporate the ability to detect radioactivity aboard freighter ships from harbor master pilot craft
from great distances and through multiple types of materials and obstructions.
Your interest and comments about this are valued and greatly appreciated. Currently, there are two companies which are considering interest in this project. ---- Jack Imber
# Posted By Jack Imber | 2/4/16 11:28 AM

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