Published On: Sat, Aug 31st, 2019

World War 3: How US bomber detonated nuclear missile in Greenland | World | News

Greenland, situated halfway between Washington and Moscow, has strategic importance to the US military – so much so that Donald Trump wants to buy it, after Harry Truman also tried to purchase the landmass in 1946. Still an autonomous region of Denmark, the US has a long-established airbase there as an important Arctic circle outpost. The US Air Force began Operation Chrome Dome in the Sixties, which required 12 nuclear-armed B-52 bombers to monitor the Soviet border at all times.

However, on January 21, 1968, the Cold War grew significantly colder.

One of the bombers, callsign “HOBO 28”, was assigned to a mission to the nearby Baffin Bay, with five crew members on board, including third pilot Major Alfred D’Mario.

Before take-off, D’Mario placed three cloth-covered foam cushions on top of a heating vent under the instructor navigator’s seat and later opened an engine bleed valve to warm up the cockpit.

During the flight, the cabin’s temperature became uncomfortably hot, and the stowed cushions ignited, forcing the crew to declare an emergency, and, as the situation worsened, the captain told the crew to prepare to abandon it. 

As soon as they saw the lights of Thule Air Base, the crew bailed, except the co-pilot who had no ejection seat.

The jet continued north and crashed into the sea ice of North Star Bay, with four-megaton thermonuclear bombs detonating on impact.

Weak links in the weapon ensured a nuclear explosion was not triggered, but radioactive material spread over a large manner like a dirty bomb.

American and Danish officials immediately launched “Project Crested Ice” – a clean-up operation in -60C conditions to remove the debris and contain environmental damage.

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They implemented a Moscow-Washington hotline, which was upgraded at the same time, for any communications.

The true details of the Thule Air Base incident did not come to light until the US declassified documents in the Nineties.

It resulted in the 1995 political scandal that the press dubbed “Thulegate”.

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