- It happened 42 years ago and 35,000 feet above the coast
of Tybee Island.
- But a Cold War-era crash between two Air Force planes
that ended up dumping a nuclear bomb in Wassaw Sound is still raising
- U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said a new report this
week verifies what Air Force documents have been saying for years -- that
the bomb dropped in the 1958 incident wasn't armed and poses no danger.
- But Derek Duke, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel,
says conflicting reports raise enough doubt that the government should
fund a new mission to locate the bomb.
- And, for about $1 million, Duke, president of an underwater
recovery company, said he'll be happy to conduct that search.
- Kingston asked the Air Force to look into the incident,
which will be part of a Sept. 17 documentary on The Learning Channel,
after being contacted by Duke in July.
- On Thursday, he said, "the Air Force finalized their
research and confirmed that the bomb is not nuclear-capable."
- "We now want to know if the Air Force thinks it's
still out there, if it's dangerous and if they need to search for it,"
Kingston said in a news release.
- On Feb. 8, 1958, a bomb was jettisoned after a B-47 bomber
and a F-86 jet fighter collided during a training exercise.
- After attempting to land several times, the bomber pilot
decided he couldn't land his plan while carrying the bomb and received
permission to drop it off the coast.
- The pilot was finally able to land the aircraft safely,
and was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts. The fighter
plane crashed near Sylvania after the pilot parachuted out.
- Navy and Air Force crews searched for the bomb for more
than a month, but finally abandoned their search that March.
- Tybee Councilman Jack Youmans, 73, remembers the crash.
- He said that fresh from a World War II era when German
subs camped out off the coast of Tybee, the bomb raised some eyebrows but
didn't cause too much concern.
- "Back during the war, a whole plane crashed right
out there in the marsh," Youmans said. "That was a bigger commotion.
- The councilman said he's not too concerned about any
danger the bomb poses now.
- "It's been there long enough now that I don't think
it's any worry," he said. "Why would they have been hauling
around an armed atom bomb, or whatever kind it was? They don't train with
- But Duke said there are enough questions about potential
danger from the bomb that a new search is in order.
- Even if the weapon wasn't set to detonate, it could still
contain plutonium, tritium and other "extremely bad stuff."
- He cites a 1966 report in which a Department of Defense
official included the bomb on a list of missing nuclear bombs.
- "That was a very serious error if he did make that
mistake," said Duke, in a telephone interview from Aruba, where the
Statesboro resident was working as a commercial airline pilot.
- "I've never seen a document that corrects that mistake."
- Duke said he's assembled a team under the business name
of American Sea Shore Underwater Recovery Expedition (ASSURE). He submitted
a plan to the federal government offering to conduct a 90-day search for
the bomb for just under $1 million.
- He said the technology available now, compared to the
hand-held grappling hooks used to trawl for the bomb in 1958, would have
a good chance of finding it if it's still in the area.
- "The smart thing to do is to find the weapon,"
said Duke, who served in Vietnam and retired after being called back to
active duty during Operation Desert Storm. "Either way, it needs
to be found."
- Kingston has asked the Air Force to review Duke's proposal.
- "We'll continue to work closely with the Air Force
to bring final resolution to any remaining questions, such as any environmental
impact or any potential danger the bomb's carcass might still have,"
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