US Airforce Almost Nukes Spain, 1966

The time the US accidently dropped not one, but three nuclear bombs on Spanish soil.

The imagery of a nuclear fireball inspires awe and terror in equal doses; we all understand the capacity a massive ball of rising red flame, seen on the horizon, has to turn flesh to dust and obliterate anything in its proximity. The nuclear bomb’s destructive energy is a byword for the collapse of civilisation into Armageddon.

Thus handling nuclear weapons is delicately done with many safeguards …but accidents are inevitable.

It was January 1966 and the Cold War was at such an icy stage US B-52 strategic bombers were being kept constantly airborne, ready to rain death and destruction on the Soviet populace at a moment’s notice.

These big bombers were armed with four B-28 nuclear bombs with a total explosive force of 6,000,000 tonnes of TNT; if any airborne accident were to occur the result of those nukes being destroyed could potentially kill millions and make vast tracts of the earth below uninhabitable.

The day was the 17th of January and one of those massive, lumbering eight-engined birds vectored into rendezvous with a KC-135 air tanker at 9,450m (31,000ft).

They were currently over Spain as the B-52 took on its first of two refuels as part of a mammoth flight from its airbase in North Carolina, across the Atlantic and on to the Adriatic Sea, before returning.

The B-52 came in behind the tanker, but too fast and the two aircraft collided with the nozzle of the refuelling boom striking the top of the B-52 fuselage.

The airborne fuel tanker erupted into a massive fireball, killing all four of its crew and three of seven of the bomber’s crew, with the remaining three bailing out in time.

Yet, four nuclear bombs plummeted down with the plane wreckage. One of the highly lethal weapons plunged into the sea but the other three smashed into land.

Was Spain’s Andalusia province transformed into a radiated wasteland? Two of the bombs’ conventional explosives did detonate on impact, contaminating 1.0 sq mi (2.6 square kilometres) with radioactive material yet safeguards were in place to block a nuclear fusion reaction that would release the bombs’ destructive energy.

The Andalusians came very close to utter catastrophe and still had a serious incident on their hands.

The US Govt took responsibility for the recovery of the nukes and cleaned up the affected area by removing 6000 barrels of contaminated soil to the USA.

Soon after the Spanish government formally banned U.S. flights over its territory that carried such weapons, and such long-range B-52 sorties were ended two years later.

Where the bombs fell in Spain (

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