50 Years Ago, A US Military Jet Crashed In Greenland - With 4 Nuclear Bombs On Board

Cleanup crew search for radioactive debris. U.S. Air Force

Rosie McCall 27 Jan 2018, 17:03

After the crash, the United States and Denmark had very different ideas about how to deal with HOBO 28’s wreckage and radioactivity. The U.S. wanted to just let the bomber wreckage sink into the fjord and remain there, but Denmark wouldn’t allow that. Denmark wanted all the wreckage gathered up immediately and moved, along with all of the radioactively contaminated ice, to the United States. Since the fate of the Thule Air Base hung in the balance, the U.S. agreed to Denmark’s demands.U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command film report on the Crested Ice project.

The clock was ticking on the cleanup, code named operation “Crested Ice,” because, as winter turned into spring, the fjord would begin to melt and any remaining debris would sink 800 feet to the seafloor. Initial weather conditions were horrible, with temperatures as low as minus 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and wind speeds as high as 80 miles per hour. In addition, there was little sunlight, because the sun was not due to rise again over the Arctic horizon until mid-February.

Groups of American airmen, walking 50 abreast, swept the frozen fjord looking for all the pieces of wreckage – some as large as plane wings and some as small as flashlight batteries. Patches of ice with radioactive contamination were identified with Geiger counters and other types of radiation survey meters. All wreckage pieces were picked up, and ice showing any contamination was loaded into sealed tanks. Most every piece of the plane was accounted for except, most notably, a secondary stage cylinder of uranium and lithium deuteride – the nuclear fuel components of one of the bombs. It was not found on the ice and a sweep of the seafloor with a minisub also found nothing. Its current location remains a mystery.

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