How to lose a nuclear weapon

Somewhere over here.

Over the course of the Cold War, the United States lost nuclear materials and weapons all. the. time.

There’s even a term that refers to the loss of a nuclear weapon: “Broken Arrow.”

How, you might ask while you’re sipping your scalding morning coffee, does anyone lose something so important?

Well, chances are, that you’d find yourself lost, too.

The Aircraft

It was March 10, 1956 when aircraft commander Captain Hodgin (age 31), observer Captain Insley (32), and their pilot Kurtz (22) simply vanished on a flight over the Mediterranean sea.

On their aircraft were two nuclear weapon cores or a Mark 15 nuclear bomb (the exact weapon was never disclosed).

What happened? Did the plane just blow up? That’s unlikely. According to declassified reports, a nuclear detonation was not possible.

There are two refuelings scheduled before the aircraft, a B-47 bomber, reaches its final destination, Morocco.

The first in-flight refueling went well. It was noted that the temperature was cold.

For the second in-flight refueling, the crew needed to descend the plane to the refueling level of 14,000 where visibility was poor due to the high, layered clouds.

Then, silence.

Ships from the Royal Navy, and troops in French and Spanish Morocco, abandoned their exercises in the Mediterranean and searched for wreckage of the place. Despite an extensive search, not a single trace of the crew nor the plane nor the cores has ever been found.