Q&A on the News

Q: With all the publicity about the dredging of the Savannah River, as well as the ongoing recovery of a Civil War ship, I seem to recall a story about a bomber having to jettison an atomic bomb over the marshes or the Savannah River. They say it’s never been found. Is there any truth to that? Are they taking certain precautions during the dredging?

—George Cannon, Cumming

A: Searches haven’t located the 7,600-pound Mark 15 thermonuclear bomb dropped by the pilot of a Cold War-era B-47 bomber on Feb. 5, 1958.

Maj. Howard Richardson was piloting the B-47 during a simulated combat mission when it collided with a smaller F-86 jet.

The F-86 pilot ejected, but the B-47 was carrying a nuclear bomb, so Maj. Richardson didn’t want it to explode if he was forced to crash land.

He dropped it around what is thought to be the Wassaw Sound area off the coast of Tybee Island before making an emergency landing at Hunter Air Force Base near Savannah.

Divers searched the waters, but found nothing and the military said the bomb was “irretrievably lost” on April 16, 1958.

Subsequent searches also haven’t located the bomb.

A 2001 report from the Air Force Nuclear Weapons and Counterproliferation Agency stated that there is “no current or future possibility of a nuclear explosion.”

The current Savannah Harbor Expansion Project is on the north side of Tybee Island and Wassaw Sound is off the south end of the island, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman told Q&A on the News.

The river also was dredged in 1972 and 1994.

Andy Johnston with Fast Copy News Service wrote this column. Do you have a question about the news? We’ll try to get the answer. Call 404-222-2002 or email q&a@ajc.com (include name, phone and city).

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