On April 10, 1963, the USS Thresher, the lead boat of her class of nuclear-powered submarines, went down with all hands 220-miles off the coast of Cape Cod. It was the deadliest submarine disaster in U.S. naval history. The loss of the Thresher was never fully explained and the Navy never released the report on its sinking. That is, until a retired submarine commander sued the Navy, forcing them to come clean! Now we know why she sank…at least what the Navy thinks because analysis of SOSUS data paints a different (and more plausible) picture of events. Still, one thing we do know is the sinking of the Thresher led to sweeping changes in the submarine force that has ensured the safe operating of these vessels ever since.
Seven and a half hours into their training mission, Major Howard Richardson and his Boeing B-47B Stratojet flight crew finally began to relax after an evening of deploying electronic counter-measures and chaff to evade prowling North American F-86 fighters. The sky was clear and the moon was full. Heading south at 35,000 feet and 495 mph over Hampton County, S.C., their next stop was home. Suddenly and without warning, a massive jolt yawed their aircraft to the left, accompanied by a bright flash and ball of fire off their starboard wing.
An F-86 Sabre fighter jet had collided with the bomber and the impact ripped the left wing off the F-86 and heavily damaged the fuel tanks of the B-47. For safety reasons, the crew of the B-47 jettisoned their payload, a 7,000-pound, 1.86 megaton nuclear bomb, which fell into the Savannah River.
Now, 65 years later, the bomb, which has unknown quantities of radioactive material, has never been found. And while the Air Force says the bomb, if left undisturbed, poses no threat, area residents aren’t so sure…
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