The US government plotted to hide the fact that they were constantly flying nuclear-armed B-52 bombers over Greenland during the 1960s, the BBC has discovered in a recent investigation. The operation, called Chrome Dome, was designed to instantly respond to the Soviet Union if the latter launched a nuclear missile attack against Thule, a US Air Force base strategically placed near the North Pole. The Pentagon believed that this could potentially start a full-scale thermonuclear war, so they kept the birds in the sky at all times as a deterrent against Moscow. It was a "good" plan, until one of them crashed on January 21 1968.
It happened in a frozen bay a few miles near the base. The rescue job was extremely difficult, as the documentation and video obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act shows. It took months for the government to collect thousands of pieces from the B-52—scattered all around the bay—plus 500 million gallons of ice, some of it radioactive.
For a while it was just a giant recovery operation, but then the real problems started. After trying to make sense of all the pieces they were able to gather, they discovered that something was missing. The new documents reveal that they were only able to find three out of the four nuclear bombs on board the plane. The possible reason: "Something melted through ice such as burning primary or secondary".
Nevertheless, the government said all four weapons were destroyed and everything was ok. Meanwhile, in April the US government sent a Star III submarine to find the bomb, making the Danish government believe it was a "survey of bottom under the impact point":
Fact that this operation includes search for object or missing weapon part is to be treated as confidential NOFORN [not to be disclosed to any foreign country] . For discussion with Danes, this operation should be referred to as a survey repeat survey of bottom under impact point.
The search was finally abandoned. According to William H Chambers, a former nuclear weapons designer at Los Alamos: "There was disappointment in what you might call a failure to return all of the components. It would be very difficult for anyone else to recover classified pieces if we couldn't find them." There you go, people. If you are ever attacked by a 45-foot high shrimp, remember to call Mr. Chambers and tell him that, apparently, our new crustacean overlords didn't find it so difficult. [BBC News]