Wednesday, May 26, 2010

EOD Book Review: The Day We Lost the H-Bomb by Barbara Moran

During much of the Cold War, the United States Strategic Air Command (SAC) constantly maintained nuclear laden bombers near Soviet airspace as a form of deterrence. On January 17, 1966, one of SAC’s B-52s rendezvoused with a KC-135 tanker over Palomares, Spain to conduct a final mid-air refueling before returning home. An accident occurred during the refueling and both aircraft collided. In the debris that rained down on the Mediterranean coast were chunks of burning aircraft, chuffing jet fuel, parachuting aircrew, and four nuclear bombs.

Barbara Moran describes this accident vividly in The Day We Lost the H-Bomb. She then delves into the exhaustive efforts recover the weapons and rid the town of any deadly radiation. Fortunately, the first three bombs were discovered in Palomares within days. Based on the accounts of Spanish fishermen who witnesses the accident, it was determined that the fourth bomb plunged into the Med, miles offshore.

Much of Moran’s book follows the efforts of Navy Divers, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technicians, and mini-subs like Alvin and Aluminaut, to find and recover the fourth bomb. Her account includes intimate details of many of the key players that she obtained through exhaustive research and interviews. Navy veterans especially will be able to identify with men like Admiral Guest, the Task Force Commander; Commander Red Moody, the EOD Officer in Charge; and Mac McCamis, the irascible Alvin pilot.

Moran’s writing flows very comfortably, drawing the reader into the story and then keeping them engaged with both politics and recovery operations. This books is a must read for those interested in Cold War history, diving, salvage, EOD, and mini-sub operations.

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