Yuba City B52 Crash with two Hydrogen Bombs on board 14 March 1961

B-52 Crash, Yuba City CA “Broken Arrow” (1961) 12:40

Editor’s Note: This is the correspondence of officials for the crash of a B-52 bomber just outside of Yuba City California with two hydrogen bombs on board. Note that in the beginning of this they did not know if the bombs had detonated on the crash site. Directly below is the link to a video of the crash site which shows that the destruction of the airplane was complete and that all the hopeful thinking and initial reporting by news agencies was just speculation. You will see that as the information came in you see panic on the part of the local fire department where they had a wreck on the way to the crash site resulting in the death of a fireman. As with any disaster people hope for the best but they really cannot determine what happened until they get to the scene.
Also this shows you the documentation of each of these events. The military writes down everything even when they are covering up information such as the plutonium injections in San Francisco, Chicago, Rochester, Oak Ridge and New York. It is all written down even when they are conspiring to keep the information classified so it will not get out to the public. All of it is written down, you just have to know where to look.

Note there is no information on whether the area was decontaminated. No superfund site, no state site, nothing. This is symptomatic of the disconnect between the DOD and the EPA.

B-52 Crash, Yuba City CA “Broken Arrow” (1961) Video of the crash site.

Joint Nuclear Accident Coordinating Center Record of Events:

“1150 MST 15 March 1961. Lt Col Sweenam, SAC Liaison Officer, to Lt Col Schuyler, Chief JNACC
Col S: This is Col Sweetnam, SAC. We had another North Carolina type incident. It’s B-52F on a cover all mission, carrying two (redacted) (redacted) And it went in 15 miles SW of Yuba City, California Time was 1807Z on the 14th. Just about an hour ago. And the aircraft was out of the 5134 Strategic Wing, Mather AFB. They come under our 15th AF. And the only other information we have is that they sent a airplane for refueling. Somehow the B-52 went out of control. The Aircraft commander notified control room that they were bailing out and there has been a report that the aircraft was burning, but there been no evidence of detonation of any type. And that was the information that was phoned in from the SAC control room. They’ll keep us posted and we’ll let you know if there are further developments.”

1310 MST, 14 March 1961. Lt Col Schuyler, Chief JNACC, to Mr White, ALO
Mr. W: David R. Smith, from Los Alamos; William O. Nobles, from Los Alamos; H.D. Bickelman, from Sandia Corp; David J. Hart, from our office. Now, Smith and Nobles are going commercial. They’re leaving on TWA 263 and they arrive in Sacramento at 1040 tonight. I think the C-47 will beat them this time. The other two are going to take advantage of Col Stewart’s airplane. We also have our resident representative at Fairfield Air Force Station going up there by car to render whatever help he can. His name is William K. Kirk.

1405 MST. 14 March 1961. Lt Col Schuyler, Chief JNACC, to Lt Col Charlton, Operations Division, Chief DASA
Col C: Well, here are the two press releases that came out on this. AP put out one from Yuba City: “The huge eight jet B-52 heavy bomber crashed landed and burned near Yuba City. Four crewmen parachuted to safety. Two other survived the crash landing. The sheriff’s office checked reports there were two others aboard. A B-52 normally carries a crew of six. A Beale AFB, fire truck driver was killed hurrying to the scene when his truck overturned. Two of the crewmen had broken legs.”
And then there was another release by API from Yuba City California. “A B-52 jet bomber from Mather AFB, crashed today in a barley field 15 miles southwest of here in northern California. The County Sheriff’s office said six of the eight crew members parachuted to safety. Two of the six were to have reported had broken bones. Officers at nearby Beale AFB, did not disclose if the bomber was carrying nuclear weapons. But an EOD team went to the scene as a precautionary measure. An Air Force fire truck enroute to the scene from Beale, was involved in an accident on Highway 20 and one man was killed.” We also heard that the EOD people were on the scene. We got this from sort of unofficially from AFMSS-AE. They were under the impression that the weapons were intact and they were planning to move them to Beale AFB.

Col S: Well, that sounds pretty good.

Col C: yes , this would indicate that the fire must be out and that there was not a great scattering of wreckage.

Col S: Well, the fact that the two crew members survived the actual crash landing, that would indicate things didn’t break up too badly.

Col C:
Well, I just wonder if this is an accurate report. The first one may not be accurate. The second may be more accurate but stating that six of the eight crew members parachuted to safety. This is what the first report we got from the Air Force Command Post said,

Col S: Right. Well, thank you very much. That will help us out here. At least we have the press report.

Col C: They’ll give us our most information for a while, I guess.

Col S: The AEC will receive their first ungarbled data from their representative traveling overland. If there’s anything they’ll let us know and we’ll relay it on to you people.

Col C: We’d appreciate it. It appears tho that this won’t be too big of a mess.

1415 MST. 14 March 1961. CDR Youmans, FC DASA War Room, to Lt Col Schuyler, Chief JNACC.

CDR Y: I just talked to Major Rhodes at SAC headquarters. He still does not hold the serial numbers, however, he has assured me, both units have (retracted). That answers your big question. We will feed you the serials numbers as soon as we get them. He said they had not had direct contact as yet, however, their people are on the way out from Offutt now. Should arrive late this afternoon. they are to call in as soon as they get in place at Beale. He confirmed that Beal is the Command Post.

Col S: Ok that’s good. Thanks.

1421 MST. 14 March 1961. Lt. Col Schuyler, Chief JNACC. to Mr. Dickason. AEC-ALO.

Col S: SAC reports that they have ( redacted) performed on these items. They said that they were sure, but then they went on to say that they hadn’t had direct contact with the unit yet. So, since they could not tell us the serial numbers on these, they may be just giving us this from their general knowledge of operational requirements. So you see that puts a little doubt on their information when they couldn’t give the serial numbers and said they hadn’t had direct contact. But they assured us that (redacted) had been performed.

Mr. D: But they haven’t contacted Mather?

Col S: No. The Command Post out there is at Beale AFB. The aircraft came from Mather. The command Post is the nearest base at Beale.

Mr. D: You expect to get any up to date information soon from SAC?

Col S: Well, we hope to. However, your man that’s traveling over the road from Fairfield will no doubt give us our first informative bit of information. We are waiting on him.

Mr. D: Alright. We’ll zero you in as soon as we’re advised.

Col S: I’ll sure appreciate it.

Mr. D: Thanks for the information.

1430 MST. 14 March 1961. Lt Col Schuyler, Chief JNACC, to Major Williams, DNSR Command Post.

Informed DNSR of SAC report that (redacted) had been performed and that Beale AFB, was confirmed as the Command Post.

1440 MST. 14 March 1961. Lt. Col Schuyler, Chief JNACC, to Lt Col Kelly, Operations Division, Chief DASA.

Col S: Just a little bit more information. We understand from Major Rhodes of SAC headquarters, that these items had (redacted) accomplished.

Col K: (redacted) accomplished.

Col S: Right. That’s a help. He could not yet give us the serial numbers. He also said that he had not been in direct contact so his information with respect to the ALT must have been from what he knew of usage policy, if you follow me.

Col K: OK. Real fine. Thanks, Colonel.

1445 MST. 14 March 1961. Major Williams, DNSR Command Post, to Lt Col Schuyler, Chief JNACC

Maj W: Plane got off at 33.

Col S: at 1433/ Fine.

1715 MST, 14 March 1961. Mr White, ALO, to LCDR Pierce, JNACC Duty Officer.

Mr. W: I just had a call from our man Kirk out there. He has been out to the location and as usual in an instance of this nature you have to interpret a little bit and hope the information is as correct as possible. The State Police of the State of California are providing the security for the area. There are people from Beale AFB there. It is a mile south of Road 20 about 15 miles west of Yuba City. The country is flat farm land – plowed field sort of thing. the crash scene area is about 300 to 400 years in length where the aircraft plowed into the ground. It is a long, narrow strip about 25 yards in width and about 350 to 400 yards long. It just spread itself out. The units may be best described if you distinguish them as Unit 1 and Unit 2. They are about 40 yards apart in a directly line, north, south direction, on top of the ground in the midst of a lot of little pieces of B-52F. Unit 1. The significant things that I think that anyone would be interested in here, is that the Savanna River item is missing – they can’t find it. (redacted) By intact, we take that with a grain of salt. It has its general shape. The condition of the major component is there is problematical. They do not know, the tail is missing entirely. An item known as “CTK”, I do not know what they are talking about, is missing, but they make this point. The deformation crystals or switches in the nose are crushed in. There is a reading on the case (questionable) of 2mr, PDR 27 meter. This sounds low to me but in any event this is reported and I am just relaying what they tell me. Unit 2 is in worse shape in some respects. It is broken in two parts. The nose is crushed with a wide scattering of the HE. It is spread all over 10 by 20 yards – little pieces, chunks – this is an undesirable condition. the pit is bare about 10 feet from the unit. (redacted) The Bottle has been found in this case. Whether it is (redacted) is not known at this time. They found the “X” unit, or part of it, badly damaged. Col Hurley, who is Base Commander, Beale AFB, is in charge of the operation. He really had nothing much to dd. He does not have what we would call a trained EOD Team available, although one is enroute. The tail on this one is intact, there is no question involved here. That is about the size of it. They feel there that everyone got out of the aircraft OK. If we get anything else we will keep you advised. We will have a man on all night.

1800 MST. 14 march 1961. FCWR Duty Officer, to JNACC Duty Officer, Field Command, DASA,

Sgt Rowe, of SAC headquarters, informed Field Command DASA War Room that the serial numbers of the two units are 52011 amd 276513. amd they are on the temporary custody of Beale AFB. Sac will submit the 58 report.

0800 MST. 15 March 1961. Lt Col Schuyler, Chief, JNACC, to Mr. Walt White, ALC

Col S: Mr. White? I have some serial numbers for you: 52011 and 276513.

Mr. W: I have some other info here for you. I gather they have located both Savanna River items and they are (redacted) and that seems to be the most significant thing – incidentally. This was related to us by a non-technical observer. There Is Dave Smith here from LASL and he will go out there this morning and verify this. I don’t understand it myself.

Col S: How did you get this?

Mr. W: Bill Kirk called at 1:00 o’clock (this AM). They found the other one of course.

Col S: Well, maybe we had better wait a little while and see what develops.

Mr. W: I think so – yes let’s wait. They will be out there first thing this morning. It is daylight out there. We should be getting a call before 11:00. In fact we asked him to call before 12:00 o’clock our time. I’ll certainly relay it to you when I get something.

Col S: I just talked to Col Harrell, of DNSR, and they didn’t indicate anything like that. Perhaps your man was out there later in the night.

Mr. W: Let me check here. I have not been in this room here. Bill Cooper here may know something. There were no DNSR people there at the time, but it was called in by Kirk and all we can do is wait until they (DNSR people) get there and check them themselves. It sounds hard to believe. The man here asked him. He said: “You mean I had better say (redacted) “no:, he (Kirk) said: “Say they are (redacted) they are (redacted). He was so convinced, I guess he knows what he is talking about. They may have gotten a real healthy reading that we have not heard about too. (later information proved that the items (redacted). They have been having a lot of rain which doesn’t do any good for this stuff. I’ll call you as soon as we know anything.

Col S: thanks.

1233 MST. 15 March 1961. Mr Ross Spear, ALO, to Lt Col Schuyler, Chief, JNACC

Mr. S: This call came in from David J. Hart, came in at 1158 MST. Mr. Hart and party arrived at the accident scene at 0730. Were not able to closely determine particular damage since the HE is fairly widely scattered. The EOD teams are presently picking up and destroying locally the HE from both units. Col Hurley, the Base Commander, Beale AFB is in charge of the recovery operation. (Redacted) the Arming rods on both units were pulled. However, both have (redacted) These rods are thought to have been lost on impact, not before. The plane struck the ground at a flat angle and there is no evidence of any burial of parts. All eight crewmen survived. The apparent cause of the accident, an this is second hand, not official, was fuel starvation. The T 239 has been located and was locked in the safe position. Now the two items we are concerned about (bottles) have not yet been examined by members of our team and LASL people, who are members of the team, will not voice any opinion on the contents, present or otherwise, on these two items until they examine them, we hope, early this afternoon and we hope to have a definite determination on these two items one way or the other prior to 1630. That Is the substance of the thing, Phil. Do you have any specific questions? These boys have not been able to get in and run their hands over the debris yet because of the scattered HE.

Col S: The major question I had, was, of course, occasioned by the earlier estimate that these items were (redacted) The rather definite statement made by Mr. Kirk, to you people that these were (redacted).

Mr. S: Yes, this is correct. Now we understand that Mr. Kirk, in his conversation was repeating information that was given to him by the local military people there. He has not personally examined these things either. We are withholding any opinion until Smith and Nobles of LASA actually physically examine these things, which they intend to do right after lunch.

Col S: Well, that puts a little different light on this. We thought that your man Kirk had actually examined this himself.

Mr. S: Yes. We were under this impression also and this was a mistake that has been corrected in this phone call of Dave’s just now.

Col S: Fine – then we have hope that nothing happened.

Mr. S: Dave has promised to call again today before 1630, if he can. We will let you.

Col S: Thanks.

1266 MST. 15 March 1961. Lt Col Schuyler, Chief JNACC, to Lt col Charleton, Operations Division, Chief DASA.

We have some detailed information for you in connection with the event.

Col C: Before you start we got a written report this morning, and we are sending it to you in the mail, which gives a lot of detail on each of the two items.

Col S: Part of what I have may duplicate that, I do not know. This call was received at 1715, 14 march, our local time here: – essential details of the 1715. 14 march entry shown above provided at this point in the conversation. now at 0800 today 15 March entry above relayed at this point in the conversation. Now – the foregoing bottle status remains to be confirmed. This later information will provide a little light on this. Mr. Ross Spear provided the following information at 1233 MST today, 15 March. He received it from Mr. Hart at 1158 MST today: Essentials of 1233, 15 March entry above relayed at this point in conversation.

Col C: OK. This is not in conflict with what we have received but it is considerably more extensive than we have. Thanks.

Col S: We wanted to be sure and stop any unfounded rumors about these things until they were actually confirmed or denied.

Col C: Our tape recorder has been procured and will soon be hooked up. Thanks very much for the detail.

1315, 15 March 1961. Lt Col Schuyler, Chief JNACC, to Col Harrell, DNSR

The information contained in the 1233, 15 march entry above was provided Col Harrell.

1635, 15 March 1961 Mr Ross Pear, ALO, to Lt Col Butler, JNACC Duty Officer.

Mr. S: Reporting the call received 1609 15 Mar, from Dave Hart, the AEC-ALO Observer at Yuba City. The report is: “The LASL representatives have thoroughly examined the items that will go into the A100 type container and find that they are intact, full and in very good condition”. That is all for this afternoon. they are going to call tomorrow. Since they had not been out to the actual crash scene itself, there was no progress report from that end of it. However, we are of the opinion that we are on the downhill pull on this one now.

0808, 16 March 1961. Lt Col Schuyler, Chief JNACC, to Lt Col Charlton, Operations Division, Chief DASA.

Col S: We heard from the LASL Representative and , according to Mr. Dave hart, AEC-ALO Observer, the LASL representatives have thoroughly examined the items (bottles that were previously reported by a non-technical individual to have been (redacted) and that they were intact; full and in very good condition. Apparently, there is very little left to do there except pick up the bits and pieces. The DNSR personnel are returning today if weather permits. I supposed that the only people that will be left there for long will be the EOD crews being sure there is nothing left scattered around out there.

Col C: One question, Phil. on one of the items there was a report that the armed safe switch was badly damaged and semi-armed. Do they have enough to check the continuity or do you know?

Col S: I do not know. I understand the pull-out rods were out on both of them., as I previously reported to you. When it gets down to the fine points like that you almost have to wait until these people come home and give a briefing on it.

Col C: That was one question we were somewhat concerned about or would like to know if we have here the same thing we had in the other one. Curiosity more than anything else, we know there was no problem.

Col S: If we find out anything we will let you know.


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