Secrecy is one of the best currencies in war, so it’s sometimes best for commanders to keep their best assets hidden from the enemy and the public. While the military has admitted that most of the units on this list existed at some point, a lot of their missions were classified for decades before being disclosed to the public. For the units that are still operating, America still only gets glimpses into their secret activities.
1. Task Force 88/Task Force Black
They may or may not be the same group and they may or may not still be in operation. Task Force Black and Task Force 88 are names floating around the media for the unit that conducted raids against terror organizations in Iraq and Afghanistan during the height of the wars. The unit was commonly described as being a joint U.S.-U.K. force made up of the best that SEAL Team 6, Delta Force, and the British SAS had to offer. Controversy erupted when they were blamed for a cross-border raid into Syria. There is speculation that Task Force Black may be back in operation to destroy ISIS, if it ever stopped.
2. 6493rd Test Squadron/6594th Test Group
These Air Force units existed from 1958 to 1986 and were tasked with catching “falling stars.” They would fly out of Hawaii and catch film canisters falling from America’s first spy satellites. The satellites, part of the Corona program, orbited the Earth and took photos of Soviet Russia. Then, the satellites would drop their film canisters over the Pacific ocean where these Airmen would try to snatch the canisters out of the air.
The recovery process was surprisingly low-tech. A plane with a large hook beneath its tail would try to catch the canister’s parachute as it fell. When the planes failed to make the grab or the weather was too bad to attempt it, Coast Guard rescue swimmers in the unit would fish the film out of the water. The unit boasted a perfect record with more than 40,000 recoveries in 27 years. When its airmen weren’t snatching film from the air, the unit supported rescue missions near Hawaii. It was credited with 60 saves.
3. Delta Force/Combat Applications Group/Army Compartmented Elements is more well known, but still pretty secret
Like many of the units on the list, Delta has gone through a few name changes over the years. Formation of an elite counter-terrorism unit had been proposed multiple times in the 1970s and Delta Force is widely believed to have been formed in late 1977. Its operational history got off to a horrible start with the failed Operation Eagle Claw in 1980. Since then, Delta has distinguished itself in combat from the invasion of Panama to the Gulf War to hunting Osama Bin Laden in the Tora Bora Mountains. Since the unit is still operational, many of their missions remain classified.
5. 7781 Army Unit/39th Special Forces Operational Detachment
Operating in Berlin from 1956 to 1984, this team of green berets went through a few names during their history. They worked to keep West Berlin safe from communist incursions but also prepared to foment resistance if the city was taken over. Trained in classic spy craft skills, they were equipped with Bond-like gadgets such as cigarette-lighter guns and C-4 filled coal.
The Office of Strategic Services was formed in 1942 with the very broad mission of collecting and analyzing strategic information and conducting “special operations not assigned to other agencies.” Since few agencies had special operators in World War II, this gave the OSS a lot of room to run. Under Col. William “Wild Bill” Donovan, the tiny agency conducted raids, smuggled weapons and spies, supported resistance groups in Axis territory, and collected intelligence. The OSS even employed the first “sea, air, and land” commando in U.S. history.
So check out five reasons why military personnel hate on civilians (we still love you guys, though):
5. They don’t get our humor
We have dark freakin’ humor, and we can’t hide it — nor do we want to. We go through some rough experiences and manage to joke about them as a coping mechanism.
What we think is funny, most civilians consider f*cked up absurd, but we’re not going to change, so get used to it!
This guy gets it. (Image via GIPHY)
4. Most civilians lolly gaggle and fiddle f*ck around
The military teaches us to get sh*t done — oftentimes under great stress or over long hours. Sure, everyone has to sleep at the end of the day, but breaks aren’t guaranteed, there’s no overtime, and we don’t get reimbursed for weekend duty. We can spend all day at work and not see an extra dime.
3. We do more before 0500 than they will do all day
Our command can tell us to be ready for work whenever they want us to without advanced notice. Typically we PT hardcore first thing in the morning or draw weapons before hiking miles out to the field — then eat a cold breakfast.
Why are we awake if there’s no sun? (Image via GIPHY)
2. Most civies don’t know the meaning of a “hard days work.”
Many military jobs require the service member to be in constant danger, and we rarely hear them complain about it — since they did volunteer, afterall. Nowadays, we hear people say how stressful their office job is even though they have breezy air conditioning and hot chow when they want it.
At a cost of $70 billion a year, Russia has the world’s third-largest defense budget. For that, the state boasts 845,000 troops, 22,550 tanks and 1,399 combat aircraft.
Though perhaps not considered the superpower that it once was, since President Vladimir Putin’s re-election in 2012 Russia’s armed forces have gone through a significant transformation. The army is being split into smaller, more dynamic brigades. The focus is on new technologies rather than brute manpower. (For instance, this Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft system is basically a tank with a load of extra cannons sticking out of it.)
Here’s a review of some of Russia’s more menacing military machines:
Bora-class guided missile hovercraft: This ship is actually a catamaran with a skirt that turns it into a hovercraft. Armed with 8 Mosquito missiles and 20 anti-aircraft missiles, the ships have a crew of up to 68 sailors each. It has a cruising speed of 100km an hour.
The Pantsir-S1: A combined short-to-medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft missile system. The system consists of 12 surface-to-air guided missiles and two 30-mm automatic guns effective against planes, helicopters, ballistic and cruise missiles.
The Mig-35 multirole jet fighter: Effective both in air-to-air combat and precision ground strikes. Capable of reaching speeds of up to 2,400 km per hour despite being 30% larger than its predecessor, the Mig-35 is able both to dogfight and destroy sea and surface targets from long range, as well as conducting air reconnaissance missions.
The BUK-2 missile system: This is the battery that allegedly brought down that Malaysian airliner over Ukraine. Its 9M317 missiles can reach 46,000 feet at Mach 3, carrying 154-pound warheads.
The RS-24 Yars: A thermonuclear intercontinental ballistic missile system that can carry multiple independently targetable nuclear warheads with a range of 10,000 miles. Designed to replace Topol-M ballistic missiles it has been operationally deployed since 2010. Each missile has the power of 100 “Little Boys” — the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945.
“The Russian Concorde”: The Tupolev Tu-160 is the world’s largest supersonic combat aircraft. It was designed by the Soviet Union in the 1980s. It boasts the most powerful engines ever on a combat aircraft and has can hold 40,000kg of weaponry. There are currently 16 in service.
The T-90: The most advanced battle tank currently in use in the Russian armed forces. Its main weapon is a 125 mm smoothbore gun with anti-tank capabilities but it also boasts a remote-controlled anti-aircraft heavy machine gun.
At 14,700 tonnes, Borei-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines are slightly smaller than their predecessors, the massive Typhoon-class. But with a capacity of 16 Bulava ballistic missiles, each carrying 6-10 warheads with a range of 8,300km, they are still a force to be reckoned with.
The Russian Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopter: This is the go-to attack helicopter for the Russian Air Force and Army. Its basic armament is a 30mm Shipunov underslung auto-cannon and wingstubs that can carry up to four anti-tank missiles, rocket pods or gun pods.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
An F-15C Eagle from the 142nd Fighter Wing, Portland, Ore., lands at Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands.
Members of the 437th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., conduct a multi-ship C-17 Globemaster III formation during Crescent Reach 15.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG82), front, conducts a trilateral naval exercise with the Turkish frigate FTCD Gediz (F-495) and Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) destroyers Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong (DDG 993) and Gang Gam-chan (DDH 979) in support of theater security operations.
NEW YORK (May 24, 2015) Sailors assigned to USS San Antonio (LPD 17) march in the Greenpoint Veterans Memorial Parade in the borough of Brooklyn as a part of Fleet Week New York (FWNY) event, May 24. FWNY, now in its 27th year, is the city’s time-honored celebration of the sea services.
Soldiers, assigned to 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, unload their Stryker vehicles during joint readiness exercise, Culebra Koa 15, May 21, 2015, at Bellows Air Force Station in Waimanalo, Hawaii.
Paratroopers, assigned 173rd Airborne Brigade, conduct airborne operations off the coast of Athens, Greece, with the 2nd Para Battalion of the Greek Army.
Protect the Bird. A Marine with Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, establishes security aboard Bellows Air Force Station, Hawaii.
Night Flight. An F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter taxies to be refueled on the flight deck of USS Wasp during night operations, a part of Operational Testing 1, May, 22, 2015.
Later this week we will take a look at what it’s like on an International Ice Patrol deployment! Here is a small sample of what is to come.
The United States Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard Silent Drill Team was caught performing at the Statue of Liberty this past Saturday.
As violence in Mexico raged with intense competition between rival drug cartels and the Mexican government, the cartels came up with a radical solution for improving their capabilities in the street.
Through ingenious engineering, and by taking a page out of “Mad Max,” cartels created so-called narco tanks.
These home-made armored vehicles, also known in Spanish as “monstruo” for their hulking size, reached peak popularity in 2011 as the Mexican military seized a garage from the Los Zetas that was being used to construct the vehicles. Four narco tanks were seized in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas in addition to an additional 23 trucks that were awaiting modification.
The Mexican military’s subsequent crack-down on the creation of monstrous forced the practice to go underground. Narco tanks are still produced, but today’s versions have their armored paneling on the inside so as to not draw unwanted attention from rival cartels and the military.
Below are some of the most impressive narco tanks from the vehicles heyday.
The behemoth versions of narco tanks were created from modified semi trucks.
Dump trucks were also modified into massive steel-plated monsters.
Even smaller narco tanks were armored almost completely with steel plates that could be upwards of 2 inches thick.
As part of further defensive measures, the tanks were usually equipped with double wheels.
Offensively, narco tanks had armored turrets and weapon bays on the side, out of which cartel members could point assault rifles.
Some vehicles were equipped with battering rams to plow through traffic and any potential roadblocks.
The world was not black and white until the 1950s. We know this, of course, but sometimes, it’s difficult to put the images that shape our perceptions in this context. The history of war photography can take us all the way back to see Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, the architect of Napoleon Bonaparte’s downfall. Most of us can only imagine seeing the people of this era in the form of a painting, but paintings are meant to be dramatized, to be surreal, not true to life.
Of all the sections available on reddit, few are more engaging and interesting than r/ColorizedHistory (also, now available via Twitter).
The contributors are both amateur and professional artists, taking historical photos — both famous and lesser known — and adding true color to them, using a mixture of natural talent for color and historical research. their work is not limited to military photos, but there are many to be found there. Here are some of their best, in color as vibrant as human history itself.
1. Civil war veterans at Gettysburg anniversary. A Union veteran and a Confederate veteran shake hands at the Assembly Tent, 1913.
2. This is Nashville from the Capital building during the Civil War in 1864. Colorized by Sanna Dullaway.
3. Here is a group of boot-blacks surrounding an old Civil War veteran in 1935 Pennsylvania. Colorized by Sanna Dullaway.
4. This portrait of President Abraham Lincoln was taken toward the end of the Civil War, in Feb. 1865. Even without color, one could see the toll the war took on the president. In color, the hardship seems drastic. Color by Redditor zuzahin.
5. This 1899 photo of shipmates boxing on the deck of the USS New York was brought to life by Ryan Urban.
6. British troops on their way to the Western Front, 1939.
7. This photo was originally taken in San Francisco the day after the Bombing of Pearl Harbor. Also colorized by Sanna Dullaway.
8. These British soldiers are wearing gas masks to protect their eyes while peeling onions at Tobruk, Oct. 15 1941. Color by Jared Enos.
9. “Here lies an unknown English Lieutenant killed in air combat.” Western Desert, Egypt, 1941. Color by Lalz Kuczynski.
10. Below is the crew of the USS Hornet manning their 40mm guns in 1945.
11. A Stuart light tank, fitted with a hedge cute and heavily sandbagged against ‘panzerfausts,’ supports U.S. infantry in the bocage, July, 1944.
12. An American medic treats a badly wounded German soldier.
13. Russian children watch the Luftwaffe bomb their city during Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
14. A typical Marine aid station on Saipan, during the Pacific War in 1944. Color by Jared Enos.
15. The face of an 18-year-old Russian girl after she was liberated from the Dachau Concentration Camp in April 1945.
16. “A Yank in Versailles” Pvt. Gordon Conrey of Milford, N.H., one of the first Americans to visit Versailles after its liberation from the Germans in 1944, standing in the Hall of Mirrors.
17. Soldiers with the 2nd Armored Division sing “Go to Town” in Barento, France, 1944. Color by Jared Enos.
18. Two Sikhs man a Bren Gun in Italy, 1944.
19. Two U.S. soldiers of 3rd Infantry Division seek shelter behind a M-4 Sherman tank near Düren, Germany, December 1944. Color by Jared Enos.
20. Times Square on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Color by Jared Enos.
21. Members of the Tuskegee Airmen.
22. Stalin and Churchill in Livadia Palace during the Yalta Conference, February 1945. Color by Redditor zuzahin.
23. Russian women and children recently liberated from a German concentration camp lay flowers at the bodies of four dead American soldiers.
24. Nazi General Anton Dostler facing the Firing Squad in 1945 after being found guilty of war crimes. Color by Mads Madsen.
(If you colored any of the photos shown, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add your credit.)
Every “Movember,” dudes worldwide grow mustaches (and more) to support the foundation dedicated to fighting prostate cancer. But in the history of military grooming standards, few cohorts can hang with that of the Civil War. Check out these looks that would make a modern-day hipster weep:
Although the perfect movie doesn’t exist, 1994’s Forrest Gump gets pretty damn close. Directed by legendary filmmaker, Robert Zemeckis, the film chronicles the fictional life of a man who lacks social intelligence but makes up for it with an incredible amount of heart.
Out of all the outstanding characters the film showcases, outside of Forrest, many moviegoers wanted to see “Lt. Dan” overcome his demons and succeed at life, but we only catch a glimpse of it.
Although the movie does feature his character arch, seeing his unique journey, start to finish, would have been awesome.
These are four reasons why we think Lt. Dan should have gotten his own freakin’ sequel.
4. He knew his sh*t
We first meet Lt. Dan as Forrest and Bubba wrongfully salute him in the field. He quickly corrects their saluting and just as quickly explains why.
To other veterans, this is an excellent detail. We’ve seen many films where enlisted troops salute an officer in a war zone, and they don’t get briefed on why they shouldn’t do that.
Lt. Dan knows his sh*t, plus, he told them to take care of their feet, which is huge in the infantry and often left out of movies.
Lt. Dan Taylor informs Forrest and Bubba of a few of the “what-nots” to surviving in Vietnam. (Image from Paramount Pictures’ Forrest Gump)
3. Focus on Lt. Dan before Forrest shows up
We get a pretty comedic backstory of Lt. Dan’s family members fighting and dying in previous wars. However, we don’t know too much of what he’s done in Vietnam other than he’s probably been “in-country” for a while when we meet him.
We think it would be pretty awesome to see him when he was just a boot.
Maybe he looked a lot like this? (Image from Columbia Tristar Home Video’s A Midnight Clear)
2. What happened to Lt. Dan after he left the war?
We were all a little surprised when Forrest tried to give Lt. Dan some ice cream, only to find out he was transported back to the States. For the most part, we know how sh*tty Vietnam vets were treated after they returned from the war, which f*cking sucks.
“Lt. Dan, ice cream.” (Image from Paramount Pictures’ Forrest Gump)
Personally, we would love to have seen Lt. Dan bark back at some of the Vietnam protestors when he encounters them on the street… or something like that.
Lt. Dan was a yeller — we all know that. He yelled at Forrest when he had legs, and even more after he’d lost them. But, toward the end of the film, we see a cleaned up version of Lt. Dan, married, and sporting new, magic legs.
As veterans, we all know the struggle of overcoming adversity, and to see Lt. Dan clean up his life up — that’s impressive. But, we’d like to see how it all happened in a sequel.
Lt. Dan all cleaned up with his new magic legs at his best friend’s wedding. (Image from Paramount Pictures’ Forrest Gump)
Goose didn’t have to die in “Top Gun,” and there are six more military movie casualties that we are still bummed about.
Sure, taking out a character throws a curveball to others in the film and creates tension and emotion in an audience, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.
1. Goose from “Top Gun”
While Maverick was a brash cowboy often pushing limits and making enemies, Goose was the likable family man that everyone loved. He was a nice guy, funny, an awesome aerial photographer, and he could sing a mean rendition of “Great Balls of Fire.” And the man even had a wonderful family.
But the worst part: He totally didn’t have to die. As our own ex-naval aviator Ward Carroll pointed out, the proper procedure is to jettison the canopy before ejecting. Damn you, Goose. WHY?????
2. Sgt. Apone from “Aliens”
From the moment the Colonial Marines wake up, Sgt. Apone is there to deliver whatever amazing line pops into his head. From asking Hudson whether he’d like him to fetch his slippers to describing what it’s like as “another glorious day in the Corps,” the character of Apone excels at bringing to life the crusty old-timer of a platoon sergeant that real troops are used to seeing.
Which makes sense, since the guy who played him was actually a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam. While Hudson fiddled around with the motion sensor that is a piece of crap, Apone asks him where the aliens are. Then moments later, his famous last words are “Aaaargggghhh!” It was a total bummer for the next 60 minutes, since we had to endure more of Hudson and Newt.
Newt: Worst character in a movie ever, until George Lucas dumped Jar Jar Binks on all of us.
3. Pvt. Jackson from “Saving Private Ryan”
There’s something really compelling about a character dropping Bible quotes as he’s whacking bad guys. “I just thought it was some cold-blooded sh– to say to a motherf–ker before I popped a cap in his ass,” as Jules from “Pulp Fiction” famously said. But Pvt. Jackson, a left-handed sniper from Tennessee, seems to always have the right Bible quote for the appropriate kill.
“Let not mine enemies triumph over me,” he says moments before he takes out a German sniper with a bullet through his own scope. Then as he’s dropping Germans like flies from a bell tower, he recites Psalm 144. But sadly, our favorite sniper hillbilly gets taken out by a tank.
We know you were really busy aiming in on German soldiers but why couldn’t you notice that tank a little bit sooner?
4. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket”
Gunny Hartman is arguably the most quotable military movie character of all-time, and for good reason. His drill instructor quips are legendary, and the oft-improvised character elevated R. Lee Ermey to god-like status among Marines. But “Full Metal Jacket” is really two movies in one, and most people only like the first half.
He spent most of the movie berating Pvt. Pyle, which included one of the most awesome freak-outs on the obstacle course. “I’m going to rip your balls off, so you cannot contaminate the rest of the world! I will motivate you, Pvt. Pyle, EVEN IF IT SHORT-D-CKS EVERY CANNIBAL ON THE CONGO!”
No one really understands what that even means, but it sounded really bad. Sadly, Hartman’s persistent fat-shaming turned Pyle into a psychopath, and after his death, the movie transitioned to Vietnam. It should’ve just stayed at boot camp.
4. Sgt. Elias from “Platoon”
In the Vietnam-version of the “good cop/bad cop” routine, “Platoon” had the gruff authoritarian Sgt. Barnes and the much nicer Sgt. Elias. Guess which one died first?
Above much of the B.S. and intent on actually helping out new guys to the unit, Sgt. Elias shows his leadership abilities right from the start, and earns the trust of his men. Meanwhile, Barnes just orders people around and ends up committing war crimes. When him and Elias get into a brawl, the audience knows how this will likely end.
Though we’re bummed he didn’t survive, his death scene — having been shot three times by Barnes and who-knows-how-many times by the Vietcong as he runs to the helicopters — is perhaps one of the best in military movie history.
5. Capt. Jimmy Wilder from “Independence Day”
He was friendly, funny, and instantly lovable. But he wasn’t Will Smith, so you pretty much knew his fate was sealed the minute he appeared onscreen.
Jimmy Wilder was that smart-ass in your unit making you crack up during briefings, and the guy who lightened the mood even when aliens were destroying everything in their path. But when he’s in a dogfight with E.T., he inexplicably takes off his oxygen mask — you know, that thing delivering oxygen to you — and then complains over the radio that he can’t breathe.
Someone please explain this.
6. Pvt. Trip from “Glory”
Yes, we know “Glory” was based on a true story, but the death of one of the most complex characters of the movie was a big letdown. The ex-slave-turned-soldier played by Denzel Washington is the source of conflict with many other characters throughout the movie: He chastises other black soldiers, butts heads with his leaders, and is at the center of one of the most emotional scenes of the movie.
While he begins the film as a bitter man very much against the army he is fighting with, he eventually morphs into a heroic figure during the final assault of the film, picking up the American flag and inspiring his fellow soldiers.
7. Bubba from “Forrest Gump”
Benjamin Buford Blue was a great American. He loved and knew everything there was to know about the shrimping business. He was taken from us way too soon. And that’s all we’d like to say about that.
We’ve all heard the term “boot” blurted out at one point or another during our military career. It means that guy who graduated boot camp, completed all their courses in their speciality school, and is now headed off to their very first unit.
In the naïve mind of a boot, the majority think they know everything, what with all that intense training and all.
The truth is, you probably don’t know your elbow from your a-hole, and you’re going to make plenty of dumb mistakes between now and forever.
The term “Broken Arrow” refers to more than a bad John Travolta movie. In military terminology, a Broken Arrow refers to a significant nuclear event — one that won’t trigger a nuclear war — but is a danger to the public through an accidental or unexplained nuclear detonation, a non-nuclear detonation or burning of a nuclear weapon, radioactive contamination from a nuclear weapon, the loss in transit of a nuclear asset (but not from theft), and/or the jettisoning of a nuclear weapon.
In 1980, the Department of Defense issued a report titled “Narrative Summaries of Accidents Involving U.S. Nuclear Weapons.” Keep in mind, this details eventsonly before 1980. There have been other incidents and scandals since then, not covered here.
The DoD report was released after public outcry following the 1980 Damascus Incident, covered in detail by Eric Schlosser’s 2014 book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety. In this instance, DoD defined an “accident involving nuclear weapons” as:
An unexpected event involving nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons components that results in any of the following:
•Accidental or unauthorized launching or firing, or use by U.S. forces or supported allied forces of a nuclear-capable weapon system which could create the risk of an outbreak of war
• Nuclear detonation
• Non-nuclear detonation or burning of a nuclear weapon or radioactive weapon component, including a fully-assembled nuclear weapon, an unassembled nuclear weapon component, or a radioactive nuclear weapon component
• Radioactive contamination
• Seizure, theft, or loss of a nuclear weapon or radioactive nuclear weapon component, including jettisoning
• Public hazard, actual or implied
If the event occurred overseas, the location was not disclosed, except for the Thule, Greenland and Palomares, Spain incidents. There were no unintended nuclear explosions. The report included incidents from the Air Force and Navy, but not the Marine Corps, as they didn’t have nuclear weapons in peace time and not from the Army because they “never experienced an event serious enough to warrant inclusion.”
Somehow, the Army — of all branches — was the only branch not to lose a nuclear weapon over the course of 30 years.
1. February 13, 1950 – Pacific Ocean off the coast of British Columbia, Canada
A B-36 en route from Eielson AFB (near Moose Creek, Alaska) to Carswell AFB (Fort Worth, Texas) on a simulated combat profile mission developed serious mechanical difficulties six hours into the flight, forcing the crew to shut down three engines at 12,000 feet. Level flight could not be maintained due to icing, so the crew dumped the weapon from 8,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean. A bright flash occurred on impact, followed by the sound and shock wave. Only the high explosives on the weapon detonated. The crew flew over Princess Royal Island, where they bailed out. The plane’s wreckage was later found on Vancouver Island.
2. April 11, 1950 – Manzano Base, New Mexico
After leaving Kirtland AFB (Albuquerque, New Mexico) at 9:38 pm, a B-29 bomber crashed into a mountain three minutes later on Manzano Base, killing the crew. The bomb case for the weapon was demolished and some of the high explosive (HE) burned in the subsequent gasoline fire. Other HE was recovered undamaged, as well as four detonators for the nuclear asset. There was no contamination and the recovered components of the nuclear weapon were returned to the Atomic Energy Commission. The nuclear capsule was on board the aircraft, but was not inserted, as per Strategic Air Command (SAC) regulations, so a nuclear detonation was not possible.
3. July 13, 1950 – Lebanon, Ohio
A B-50 on a training mission from Biggs AFB, Texas flying at 7,000 feet on a clear day suddenly nosed down and flew into the ground near Mrs. Martha Bishop’s farm on Old Hamilton Road, killing four officers and twelve Airmen. The HE detonated on impact, but there was no nuclear capsule aboard the aircraft.
4. August 5, 1950 – Fairfield Suisun AFB, California
A B-29 carrying a weapon but no capsule experienced two runway propellers and landing gear retraction difficulties on takeoff from the base. The crew attempted an emergency landing and crashed an burned. The fire was fought for 12-15 minutes before the weapon’s high explosive detonated, killing 19 crew members and rescue personnel — including Brig. Gen. Robert F. Travis — who was flying the weapon to Guam at the request of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The base was renamed Travis AFB in his honor.
5. November 10, 1950 – “Over Water, outside United States”
Because of an in-flight emergency, a weapon with no capsule of nuclear material was jettisoned over water from an altitude of 10,500 feet. A high explosive detonation was observed.
6. March 10, 1956 – Mediterranean Sea
A B-47 was one of four scheduled non-stop deployment aircraft sent from MacDill AFB, Florida to an overseas air base. Take off and its first refueling went as expected. The second refueling point was over the Mediterranean at 14,000 feet. Visibility was poor at 14,500 but the aircraft — carrying two nuclear capsules — never made contact with the tanker. An extensive search was mounted but no trace of the missing aircraft or its crew were ever found.
7. July 27, 1956 – “Overseas Base”
A B-47 with no weapons aboard was making “touch and go” landings during a training exercise when it suddenly lost control and slid off the runway, crashing into a storage igloo containing several nuclear weapons. No bombs burned or detonated and there was no contamination.
8. May 22, 1957 – Kirtland AFB, New Mexico
A B-36 ferrying a weapon from Biggs AFB, Texas to Kirtland AFB approached Kirtland at 1,700 feet when a weapon dropped from the bomb bay, taking the bomb bay doors with it. The weapon’s parachutes deployed but did not fully stop the fall because of the plane’s low altitude. The bomb hit 4.5 miles South of the Kirtland AFB control tower, detonating the high explosive on the weapon, making a crater 25 feet in diameter and 12 feet deep. Debris from the explosion scattered up to a mile away. Radiological surveys found no radiation except at the crater’s lip, where it was .5 milliroentgens (normal cosmic background radiation humans are exposed to every year is 200 milliroentgens).
9. July 28, 1957 – Atlantic Ocean
Two weapons were jettisoned off the East coast of the U.S. from a C-124 en route to Dover AFB, Delaware. Though three weapons and one nuclear capsule were aboard at the time, nuclear components were not installed on board. The craft experienced a loss of power from engines one and two and could not maintain level flight. The weapons were jettisoned at 4,500 feet and 2,500 feet – both are presumed to have hit the ocean and to have sunk immediately. The plane landed near Atlantic City, New Jersey with its remaining cargo. The two lost weapons were never recovered.
10. October 11, 1957 – Homestead AFB, Florida
A B-47 leaving Homestead AFB blew its tires during takeoff, crashing the plane into an uninhabited area only 3,800 feet from the end of the runway. The B-47 was ferrying a weapon and nuclear capsule. The weapon burned for five hours before it was cooled with water, but the weapon was intact. Even after two low intensity explosions, half the weapon was still intact. Everything was recovered and accounted for.
11. January 31, 1958 – “Overseas Base”
A B-47 with a weapon in strike configuration was making a simulated takeoff during an exercise when its rear wheel casting failed, causing the tail to hit the runway and a rupture to the fuel tank. The resulting fire burned for seven hours. Firemen fought the fire for ten minutes, then had to evacuate the area. There was no high explosive detonation but the area was contaminated after the crash, which was cleared after the wreckage was cleared.
12. February 5, 1958 – Savannah River, Georgia
A B-47 on a simulated combat mission out of Homestead AFB, Florida collided in mid-air with an F-86 Sabre near Savannah, Georgia at 3:30 am. The bomber tried three times to land at Hunter AFB, Georgia with the weapon on board but could not slow down enough to land safely. A nuclear detonation wasn’t possible because the nuclear capsule wasn’t on board the aircraft, but the high explosive detonation would still have done a lot of damage to the base. The weapon was instead jettisoned into nearby Wassaw Sound from 7,200 feet. it didn’t detonate and the weapon was never found.
13. March 11, 1958 – Florence, South Carolina
In late afternoon, four B-47s took off from Hunter AFB, GA en route to an overseas base. When they leveled off at 15,000 feet, one of them accidentally dropped its nuclear weapon into a field 6.5 miles from Florence, South Carolina — detonating the high explosive on impact — then returned to base. The nuclear capsule was not aboard the aircraft.
14. November 4, 1958 – Dyess AFB, Texas
A B-47 caught fire on takeoff, with three crew members successfully ejecting and one killed on impact from 1,500 feet. The high explosive detonated on impact, creating a crater 35 feet in diameter and six feet deep. Nuclear material was recovered near the crash site.
15. November 26, 1958 – Chennault AFB, Louisiana
A B-47 caught fire on the ground with a nuclear weapon on board. The fire destroyed the weapon and contaminated the aircraft wreckage.
16. January 18, 1959 – “Pacific Base”
An F-100 Super Sabre carrying a nuclear weapon in ground alert configuration caught fire after an explosion rocked its external fuel tanks on startup. A fire team put the fire out in seven minutes, with no contamination or cleanup problems.
17. July 6, 1959 – Barksdale AFB, Louisiana
A C-124 on a nuclear logistics mission crashed on take-off and it destroyed by a fire which also destroys the nuclear weapon. No detonation occurred but the ground beneath the weapon was contaminated with radioactivity.
18. September 25, 1959 – Off Whidbey Island, Washington
A U.S. Naby P-5M was abandoned in Puget Sound, Washington carrying an unarmed nuclear antisubmarine weapon, but the weapon was not carrying nuclear material. The weapon was not recovered.
19. October 15, 1959 – Hardinsberg, Kentucky
A B-52 left Columbus AFB, Mississippi and 2:30 pm CST as the the second position in a flight of two. A KC-135 tanker left Columbus AFB at 5:33 pn CST as the second tanker in flight of two, scheduled to refuel the B-52s. On a clear night near Hardinsberg, Kentucky at 32,000 feet, the two aircraft collided. Four crewmen on the B-52 were killed and the two nuclear weapons were recovered intact.
20. June 7, 1960 – McGuire AFB, New Jersey
A BOMARC supersonic ramjet missile in ready storage condition was destroyed after a high pressure helium tank exploded and ruptured the missile’s fuel tanks. The warhead was destroyed by the fire but the high explosive did not detonate and contamination was limited to the area beneath the weapon and the area where firefighting water drained off.
21. January 24, 1961 – Goldsboro, North Carolina
A B-52 on an airborne alert mission experienced structural failure of its right wing, resulting in two weapons separating from the aircraft during breakup between 2,000 and 10,000 feet and the deaths of three crewmembers. The parachute of the first bomb deployed successfully, and it was lightly damaged when it hit the ground. They hit the ground full force and broke apart. One of the weapons fell into “waterlogged farmland to a depth of 50 feet” and was not recovered. The Air Force later purchased land in this area and requires permission before digging nearby.
22. March 14, 1961 – Yuba City, California
A suddenly depressurized B-52 forced to descend to 10,000 feet and caused the bomber to run out of fuel. The crew bailed out, except for the aircraft commander, who steered it away from populated areas and bailed out at 4,000 feet. The two weapons aboard were torn from the aircraft upon ground impact with no explosive or nuclear detonation or contamination.
23. November 16, 1963 – Medina Base, Texas
123,000 pounds of high explosives from disassembled obsolete nuclear assets exploded at an Atomic Energy Commission storage facility. Since the nuclear components were elsewhere, there was no contamination and, amazingly, only three employees were injured.
24. January 13, 1964 – Cumberland, Maryland
A B-52 flying from Massachusetts to Turner AFB, Georgia crashed 17 miles southwest of Cumberland, Maryland carrying two nuclear weapons in tactical ferry configuration, but without electrical connections to the aircraft and the safeties turned on. Trying to climb to 33,000 feet to avoid severe turbulence, the bomber hit more turbulence, destroying the aircraft. Only the pilot and co-pilot survived the event, as the gunner and navigator ejected but were killed by exposure to sub-zero temperatures on the ground. The radar navigator went down with the bird. The weapons were found intact, but under inches of snow.
25. December 5, 1964 – Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota
Two Airmen respond to a security repair issue on a Minuteman I missile on strategic alert. During their work, a retrorocket below the missile’s re-entry vehicle fired, causing the vehicle to fall 75 feet to the floor of the silo, causing considerable damage to the vehicle structure and ripping it from the electronics on the missile. There was no detonation or contamination.
26. December 8, 1964 – Bunker Hill (now Grissom Air Reserve Base), Indiana
An SAC B-58 taxiing during an alert exercise lost control because of the jet blast from the aircraft in front of it combined with an icy runway. The B-58 slid off the runway, hitting runway fixtures, and caught fire as all three crew members began to abandon the aircraft. The navigator ejected but didn’t survive, and five nuclear weapons on board burned and the crash site was contaminated.
27. October 11, 1965 – Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
A C-124 being refueled caught fire, damaging the fuselage and the nuclear components the aircraft was hauling, contaminating the aircraft and the disaster response crews.
28. December 5, 1965 – “At Sea – Pacific”
An A-4 loaded with one nuclear weapon rolled off the elevator of an aircraft carrier and rolled into the sea. The pilot, aircraft and nuclear weapon were all lost more than 500 miles from land.
29. January 17, 1966 – Palomares, Spain
A B-52 bomber and KC-135 tanker collided during a routine high altitude air refueling operation, killing seven of the eleven crew members. The bomber carried four nuclear assets. One was recovered on land, another at sea, while the high explosive on other two exploded on impact with the ground, spreading radioactive material. 1400 tons of contaminated soil and vegetation were moved to the U.S. for storage as Spanish authorities monitored the cleanup operation. Palomares is still the most radioactive town in Europe.
30. January 21, 1968 – Thule, Greenland
A B-52 from Plattsburgh AFB, New York crashed and burned seven miles southwest of the runway while on approach to Thule AB, Greenland, killing one of its crew members. All four nuclear weapons carried by the bomber were destroyed by fire, contaminating the sea ice. 237,000 cubic feet of contaminated snow, ice, water, and crash debris were moved to the U.S. for storage over a four month cleanup operation as Danish authorities monitored the effort.
31. “Spring, 1968” – “At Sea, Atlantic”
“Details remain classified.”
32. September 19, 1980 – Damascus, Arkansas
During routine maintenance of a Titan II missile silo, an Airman dropped a tool, which fell and struck the missile, causing a leak in a pressurized fuel tank. The entire missile complex and surrounding area were evacuated with a team of specialists from Little Rock AFB called in for assessment. 8 1/2 hours after the initial damage, the fuel vapors exploded, killing one member of the team and injuring 21 other Air Force personnel. Somehow, the missile’s re-entry vehicle (and the warhead) was found intact, with no contamination.
Stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the global “Nuclear Club” of the U.S., Russia, the UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea number 15,600.
Below is a video detailing every nuclear blast ever detonated on Earth:
The US-led annual multinational military exercise Cobra Gold kicked off in Thailand on Monday, despite a faltering relationship between the two countries following Thailand’s military coup in May 2014.
Cobra Gold 2015 is scaled down due compared to past years because of the frosty relations between Thailand’s ruling military junta and the US. But it’s still a massive military exercise even in a reduced form. This year 13,000 personnel from 7 participating nations have joined in the exercises, the AP reports.
The participant countries are Thailand, the United States, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Malaysia, while India and China are taking part in humanitarian training missions. Even though the exercise is smaller than in the past, the scope of Cobra Gold has grown since the first one was held in 1982 and involved only the US and Thailand.
Exercises in Cobra Gold 2015 include jungle survival training and civic assistance programs in underdeveloped regions of Thailand.
Survival training is a big part of Cobra Gold. Thai Marines demonstrate how to capture a cobra in the wild.
US Marines then help decapitate the cobra and take turns drinking its blood. Cobra blood is surprisingly hydrating and can be used as a temporary replacement for water if a Marine is lost without supplies.
Thai Marines also teach their counterparts how to recognize edible jungle fruits.
Like cobra blood, several of the fruits can serve as an improvised source of hydration.
Marines are also instructed in the proper way to eat scorpions and spiders. Spiders are eaten after their fangs are ripped off, while scorpions are edible once the stinger is removed.
Aside from survival lessons, participant countries also take part in construction projects to build greater regional cooperation in the event of disasters like typhoons or plane crashes. Here, Chinese and US soldiers work together to build a school as part of Cobra Gold 2015.