Design Con 2015

Tybee Bomb is lost by the US Air Force, February 5, 1958

-February 05, 2014

A 7,600-pound Mark 15 hydrogen bomb was lost in the waters off Tybee Island near Savannah, GA, on February 5, 1958, by the US Air Force. (See photo to right of a similar Mark 15 bomb)

The Air Force had been running practice exercises at about 2 AM that morning when the B-47 bomber carrying the bomb collided in midair with an F-86 fighter plane.

The F-86 pilot ejected before the collision but the B-47 remained airborne. Struggling, the pilot requested permission to jettison the bomb to reduce weight and prevent the bomb from exploding during an emergency landing.

Permission was granted and the bomb was jettisoned at 7,200 feet while the bomber was traveling about 200 knots. When the bomb struck the sea, no explosion was seen. The B-47 safely landed at the nearby Hunter Air Force Base.

A recovery effort began on February 6, 1958, for what is now known as the Tybee Bomb. The Air Force 2700th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron and 100 Navy personnel equipped with hand held sonar and galvanic drag and cable sweeps mounted a search. On April 16, 1958, the military announced that the search efforts had been unsuccessful.

Based upon a hydrologic survey, the bomb was thought by the Department of Energy to lie buried under 5 to 15 feet of silt at the bottom of Wassaw Sound. The Tybee Bomb remaining buried would be a positive thing because if the bomb’s alloy casing were exposed to seawater by the shifting strata in which it is presumed to be buried, rapid corrosion could occur. That would allow the highly enriched uranium to leach out of the device and enter the aquifer that surrounds the continental shelf in this area.

The Air Force has since taken renewed interest in locating the bomb, but with no luck.

Several documentaries have been made about the Tybee Bomb, including the 1996 film “Lost Bombs” by Mickey Youmans. Talk show host Geraldo Rivera offered Youmans $150,000 to help him locate the bomb but Youmans turned down the offer, not convinced he would be able to locate it.

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For more moments in tech history, see this blog. EDN strives to be historically accurate with these postings. Should you see an error, please notify us.

Editor's note: This article was originally posted on February 5, 2013 and edited on February 5, 2014.

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