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The Day We Lost the H-Bomb: Cold War, Hot Nukes, and the Worst Nuclear Weapons Disaster in History

Barbara Moran.
Publisher Ballantine  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
ISBN 9780891419044
Pages/Publication Date 321/2009
Daedalus Item Code 22837
This item is not available.
A journalist for New Scientist and the Boston Globe as well as PBS television series like Frontline and NOVA, Barbara Moran unearths recently declassified documents to offer this thorough account of a major nuclear mishap in 1966, when an American B-52 exploded over Palomares, Spain, and its payload of four hydrogen bombs was lost. As Moran recounts in detail, three of the unarmed devices were recovered quickly (although two of them had spread dangerous radiation over miles of farmland) but the fourth became the object of an anxious 80-day search that finally found the H-bomb under half a mile of water in the Mediterranean.

"When mistakes are made with nuclear reactors and warheads, the consequences are often scary indeed. In her first book, journalist Barbara Moran exhibits dogged research and an eye for detail in reconstructing one such incident.... Moran, whose background is in television documentary production, takes a cinematic approach, describing everything from the Catalan shrimp fishermen who rescued the U.S. fliers parachuting from the massive plane to the contents of President Lyndon Johnson's breakfast (melon, chipped beef and hot tea) when he got news of the accident at 7:05 a.m. Moran spent years collecting this wealth of detail, interviewing the Air Force officers who survived the crash and exhuming every declassified document she could find on the topic. She even accompanied Air Force officials on a midair refueling (the proximate cause of the accident) so that she could explain that difficult maneuver. Her efforts yield an often riveting tale.... Moran captures some of the flavor of the Cold War, including the Air Force's determination to keep part of its nuclear arsenal perpetually airborne for fear of a surprise attack. She recounts with some humor how, in the midst of the recovery effort, Johnson went to the White House screening room to watch Thunderball, the latest James Bond film, in which the evil "Spectre" organization crashes a NATO plane loaded with two nuclear bombs into the ocean, retrieves the bombs underwater and holds them for ransom."Washington Post

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