Lost U.S. Nuke Off Greenland Base Site?

ByABC News

C O P E N H A G E N, Denmark, Aug. 13, 2000 -- A U.S. nuclear bomb lost morethan three decades ago probably lies on the seabed offGreenland’s Thule airbase, which the United States aims to usefor its controversial anti-missile shield, a Danish newspaperreported today.

Classified documents obtained by a group of former workersat Thule, an Arctic air and radar base built by the UnitedStates in 1951-52, suggest that one of four hydrogen bombs on aB-52 bomber that crashed there in 1968 was never found, thedaily Jyllands-Posten said.

“Detective work by a group of former Thule workersindicates that an unexploded nuclear bomb probably still lies onthe seabed off Thule,” the right-leaning mass-circulation dailysaid.

The crash on January 21, 1968 led to a crisis in relationsbetween the United States and NATO ally Denmark, which isresponsible for Greenland’s foreign, security and defense policyand at the time prohibited nuclear weapons on its territory,including Greenland.

Denmark was never informed about the lost bomb, which hasserial number 78252, the paper said.

Film Shows Bomb-Like Object

Footage filmed at the site by a U.S. submarine searching forremains of the B-52 wreckage in April 1968 contained images of abomb-like object, the Danish Ritzau news agency reported.

A U.S. state department document dated August 31, 1968 saidall weapons onboard the crashed aircraft had been accounted forbut did not spell out whether they had been recovered, Ritzausaid.

The United States assured the Danish government in spring1968 that clean-up work after the B-52 crash had been completedand gave up searching for the lost bomb in August that year,Jyllands-Posten said.

“We are not able to comment at this stage,” LawrenceButler, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassy inCopenhagen, told Reuters by telephone. Danish governmentofficials were not available for comment.

Niels-Joergen Nehring, head of the state-sponsored DanishInstitute of International Affairs (DUPI), which published areport named Greenland During the Cold War in 1997,including a chapter on the B-52 crash, said Jyllands-Posten’sclaim that a lost bomb remained off Thule was not surprising.

“It is not new information that there might be some stuffleft there,” Nehring told Reuters, adding the crash hadoccurred “some kilometers off the coast” where the water depthbeneath the ice was 250 to 300 meters, or 820 to 984 feet.

The U.S. investigation of the crash site had ended once ithad been confirmed that no radiation danger existed, he said.

Senior U.S. State Department officials are scheduled tovisit Greenland from August 21-24 for talks with Danish andGreenland officials on Thule’s role in the planned NationalMissile Defense initiative.

According to Senate testimony by U.S. Defense SecretaryWilliam Cohen in July, Washington needs a decision on upgradingthe Thule radar next year if the White House gives the politicalgo-ahead to deploy the missile defense by 2005.

Home to a ballistic missile early-warning radar station,Thule sits at the midpoint of a chain of similar sites betweenAlaska and the British Isles — a line along which the UnitedStates may build a shield against missiles from what it callsstates of concern such as North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Libya.

Greenland Politicians Oppose Plan

Leading politicians in Greenland, which has enjoyed limitedself-determination under the Danish crown since 1979, do notwant Thule to play any role in the missile defense.

Denmark has declined to speak out on the issue apart fromsaying that the missile defense should not go ahead if it breaches thestrategic missile treaty between the United States and Russia.Moscow opposes the U.S. missile shield plan, and says it doesbreach the treaty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Denmark andother U.S. NATO allies that their participation in the missile defense couldupset global strategic stability.

DUPI’s Nehring said the fresh nuclear bomb report wouldprobably raise an uproar in the domestic media but was unlikelyto seriously affect Denmark’s position on the missile defense.

“It will of course give rise to questions and debates … butI don’t think it will have any long-term impact,” he said.

The Danish government has said it will make a decision ifand when Washington submits a request to upgrade the Thule radar.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events