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"Disarming an Atomic Bomb Is the Worst Job in the World" Topic

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Action Log

10 Dec 2018 12:49 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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571 hits since 10 Dec 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2018 12:17 p.m. PST

"In the spring of 1952, the U.S. government tested tactical nuclear weapons at the Nevadoa Proving Ground as part of Operation Tumbler-Snapper. It was the third nuke test series in 18 months at the Nevada site in an era of breakneck atomic development.

At 4:00 in the morning on May 13, one of the Tumbler-Snapper bombs code name "Fox" was scheduled to go off. But the moment passed … and no atomic fireball curled into the sky.

Shot Fox had misfired. Locked in its cab atop a 300-foot tower rising over the Yucca Flat, the malfunctioning 15-kiloton device posed a serious danger to living things for many miles in all directions…"
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d88mm1940 Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2018 1:43 p.m. PST

A must read for anyone who complains about his job.

Lion in the Stars10 Dec 2018 4:35 p.m. PST


Though I was told by one USAF ordnance tech that the nukes were the safest things to load, pretty much impossible to accidentally go off.

The worst things to load were the little blue practice 'smurf bombs', which regularly went off if you looked at them funny.

pzivh43 Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2018 4:37 p.m. PST

"the malfunctioning 15-kiloton device posed a serious danger to living things for many miles in all directions…"

Well, duh…

TimeCast11 Dec 2018 2:38 a.m. PST

During the 1980s (at a civil defence planning meeting) I was told by a Royal Engineer officer that it was expected that up to 5% of nuclear warheads were expected to be duds…

…however, on the plus side the bomb disposal chaps would not need to bother wearing the heavy bomb disposal suits for protection in case they went off while being disarmed.



Legion 411 Dec 2018 3:09 a.m. PST

When I was with the US ARMY's 101 AA Div, '80-'83. I was selected to have the additional duty of an Atomic Demolitions Mission Officer. Basically leading a Plt of 101 Grunts with Satcom to the Joint Chiefs/POTUS. With an attached CE Section that would do the emplacing, setting detonator, etc., of a "back pack" Nuc. Along with an A Tm of US SF/Green Berets.

Obviously it was pretty much all classroom. And we never had to do it. But figured if we were given that mission… Well the Bleeped text would really have hit fan. Probably a one way trip … frown

skipper John Supporting Member of TMP11 Dec 2018 9:35 a.m. PST

I was once told… If YOU ordered the deployment of a US tactical nuclear weapon, YOU were required to personally inspect the impact area and repot. No exceptions.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP11 Dec 2018 11:33 a.m. PST



Lion in the Stars11 Dec 2018 12:26 p.m. PST

@Timecast: I don't know about the dud rate, but apparently detonator science does one of two things really well.

If the ordnance absolutely must go off every time it's commanded to, the detonator techs can make it do that.

If the ordnance must absolutely NOT go off anytime it's NOT been commanded to, the detonator techs can make it do that.

But if you want both, the detonator techs need to have a word with you.

As y'all might guess, we want nukes to absolutely NOT go off unless we tell them to, which significantly raises the dud rate.

Wolfhag13 Dec 2018 7:39 p.m. PST

I attended the Marines NBC school for my Company before we deployed. My job would be to plot the radioactive fallout path of a nuclear weapon when it went off. I think I was selected because they needed someone that was expendable.


Legion 414 Dec 2018 7:37 a.m. PST

I too went to Army NBC school. And was the Company NBC Ofc. I was a 2LT so yes, I would probably be considered expendable too … frown

I think I was selected to be one of the Bn Atomic Demo Mission Ofc for the same reason … I was a 1LT … frown

Of course in the Infantry, we could all be considered expendable … at times … frown

wardog16 Dec 2018 12:35 p.m. PST

legion what kind of time delay would one be able to set on the suitcase nukes?

Legion 416 Dec 2018 3:50 p.m. PST

That was a very long time ago and it was/may still be probably classified ? However, the back pack A-bombs, came in two types. Medium Atomic Demolition Munition MADM and SADM Small Atomic Demolition Munition. I forget the yields … old fart

The Combat Engineer Section attached to the unit would set up, arm, initiate timer, etc. Again, I can't remember the time delay, or much else about that. But I'm sure it would be long enough for us to get out of the blast radius and get extracted before is went off. However, like all nucs, there would be fall out, etc. And of course Bleeped text happens at times. And nothing goes as planned … frown

Even if/when we made it out/back, there would probably be other nuclear devises being tossed around. So we might still be dead eventually anyway … evil grin

Wolfhag16 Dec 2018 5:31 p.m. PST

This is my favorite nuke, fired from a recoilless rifle.


Legion 417 Dec 2018 7:34 a.m. PST

Yeah, the Davy Crockett … didn't stay in the inventory very long though ! For obvious reasons ! Brought a new meaning to the term "Fire & Forget" …

You fire it and forget … about … everything ! You and your crew are just dust in the wind in no time ! huh?

Tired Mammal18 Dec 2018 6:05 a.m. PST

You take one of the most complicated dangerous weapons ever designed that you really don't want to go off by accident, put it on a rocket and expect it to hit a 10 km target halfway round the world at a moments notice, then you bury it under ground in its own little bunker with only a few bored young men to look after it and check it maybe once a year, and you expect it to work 95% of the time?

This is why I assumed that we kept those dumb bombs in the arsenal as I expected and really hoped none of these missiles would really work properly.

By the way I heard a 2nd hand account of a Polaris missile (maybe trident) being "dropped" when it was being loaded into a sub due to a crane error in the Holy Loch. Definitely a sphincter clenching moment. It wouldn't need the warhead to go off to spoil many, many, peoples day/year/life.

Legion 418 Dec 2018 8:27 a.m. PST

Yeah … that is when Bleeped text happens ! huh? evil grin

Tired Mammal18 Dec 2018 9:58 a.m. PST

Just wondering.
Do or perhaps that should be did we put our best recruits on silo watch where they would be best in an emergency but would get bored and may do something stupid or rebellious like not press the button or use our least imaginative ones who would most likely do only what they were told and more likely to actually push the button?

I assume that they goy=t this decision reasonably correct as I only know of one major incident in a land silo which I seem to remember was due somebody using their initiative.

Legion 418 Dec 2018 3:54 p.m. PST

I don't know the exact qualifications a USAF missile crewman must have. But regardless, they are they. And ground based Nuc missiles are still part of the US Nuclear Triad.

Ground, Air, Sea … they can't get all of them …

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