In April 2018, a suspicious package was noted at the home of a gentleman in Gulfport, MS. The homeowner wasn’t terribly concerned, put the package in his truck and went to work at a local car dealership. When he arrived at work he called a friend in the police department, and the response was astonishing. Officers and bomb squad specialists arrived in force, firefighters blocked the front entrance to the parking lot and a bomb-detecting dog began his survey of the package. All potential explosive device calls are taken very seriously by law enforcement everywhere. After nearly two hours of investigation, the bomb squad opened the package to find that a relative had sent a wooden sign to the homeowner in question that simply said “Relax.”
It is better to be safe than sorry, especially considering the fact that nuclear weapons can be misplaced. Of course there are some things that regularly get lost: socks in a dryer, umbrellas in a cab, gloves in multiple settings and charging cords for any number of necessary electronic items. But in 1956 a B-47 bomber was flying from Florida to an overseas base with two nuclear cores on board, when it disappeared. The US military launched an investigation, but no trace of the plane, its crew or the nuclear materials were ever found. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident of missing nuclear weapons. Another B-47 was flying a simulated combat mission two years later on the coast of Georgia when it collided with a fighter plane. Both planes were damaged, and before landing the crew of the B-47 dropped the nuclear device they were carrying into the water. The military searched a 3-mile area around the presumed location of the bomb, but did not locate it. The weapon is alleged to remain buried still, somewhere in the sands near Tybee Island, a popular vacation spot.
By 1960, teams at Cape Canaveral had run several successful tests of missiles that resembled giant rockets, designed to fly long distances while carrying nuclear weapons. In December a new facility was ready to begin testing, with the intent of readying a missile for launch, but without actually guiding it out of the silo. All the steps were precisely followed, but the elevator that should have returned the rocket safely to its dock malfunctioned. The equipment plunged to the bottom of the silo, the tanks that held the fuel broke open, and there was a resulting explosion. The team ran for cover, and although the test facility was completely destroyed, no one was hurt in the accident. The military continued to use Titan rockets as part of the intercontinental ballistic missile program through the 1980s, even in the face of other injury-causing accidents.
In 1961 Cold War tensions were running high and the military had planes armed with nuclear weapons constantly in the air. After all, if the planes were already in the air it would be nearly impossible for a foreign assault to take them down and they would be ready to respond at any moment. However, a jet carrying two hydrogen bombs met up with a refueling plane, and the pilot noticed fuel leaking from the jet’s right wing. Before the aircraft could make an emergency landing, the wing and part of the tail broke off. During the sudden descent the bomb bay doors opened, and both bombs fell to the ground in North Carolina. The bombs apparently attempted to arm themselves, acting as if they had been deliberately deployed. But neither weapon detonated; one bomb parachute caught in a tree and the second bomb broke apart on impact.
There was no intent to lose bombs, drop missiles or attack North Carolina, but ICD-10-CM has several sub-categories codes that may apply to nuclear weapon injuries, should they be needed:
Y36.5- War operations involving nuclear weapons
Y37.5- Military operations involving nuclear weapons
Y38.5- Terrorism involving nuclear weapons
And sometimes it may be a safer course to simply avoid being in the proximity of nuclear weapons. According to Sir Terence David John Pratchett, an English author of fantasy novels, “Eight years involved with the nuclear industry have taught me that when nothing can possibly go wrong and every avenue has been covered, then is the time to buy a house on the next continent."