This is about


America’s Secret Nuclear Accidents



If you want to read a Time synopsis about this book, then push through the DOOR.




The book: Command and Control by Eric Schlosser (Penguin, Sept. 2013, 640 pp.). The title: boring and hardly helpful¹, the content: riveting; others’ reviews: respectable and decent; previous book (apparently free now, online), Food Nation which was an exposé of McD’s where I regularly drink coffee and eat salads…


Rarely do I babble about books I haven’t read, but this synopsis caught me. It’s about something that happened or didn’t happen–you decide–when I was a senior in high school. I will quote the first two and the last part of the third paragraphs, penned by Lev Grossman, from Time. [The color meddling and shorter paras are ours…]

On March 11, 1958, a family in the small town of Mars Bluff, S.C., was understandably startled when an atomic bomb exploded in their yard.

What happened was this: A B-47 bomber was passing overhead when a pilot noticed that the locking pin of the Mark 6 atomic bomb in his hold wasn’t engaged. He sent the plane’s navigator to re-engage the pin by hand. The navigator, being a navigator, had no idea how to do this, and when he was climbing around the bomb bay trying to figure it out, he accidentally grabbed the manual release lever.

Bombs away.

That particular bomb hadn’t been equipped with its radioactive core yet; the blast was just the bomb’s conventional high explosives detonating.

That was fortunate, because the Mark 6 had a yield of up to 160 kilotons, almost a dozen times the strength of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

….Drawing on recently declassified documents, Schlosser shows us nuclear bombs being “burned, melted, sunk, blown apart, [and] smashed into the ground,” often in populated areas. Sometimes people just plain dropped them. One study found “That at least 1,200 nuclear weapons had been involved in ‘significant’ incidents and accidents between 1950 and March 1968.”

Another account of a near horrific disaster is when a workman doing routine maintenance dropped a tool down a Titan II missile silo in rural Kansas. If the 9-megaton warhead had exploded, it would have released “about three times the explosive force of all the bombs dropped during the Second Word War, including both atomic bombs.”

“…these accidents weren’t flukes,” says Grossman, they were inevitable. In other words, we got lucky. So far.”

Perhaps waiting 50 years to declassify certain information takes away the immediate sting of all this.

One thing to remember and carry away: IF any of these many accidents had occurred, and the obvious finger-pointing began, we would have to admit that this was something we did to ourselves.


¹ “Fission Impossible” is Lev Grossman’s title of his grim synopsis. His subtitle: “The stunning secret history of America’s nuclear arsenal.” This appeared in Sept. 30, 2013 issue of Time.