Off the seacoast of Savannah, Georgia, among the among the sea stars, tiger sharks, and brightly-colored whelks lives a larger and much more dangerous inhabitant–a 7,600 ton nuclear bomb. More than fifty years ago in 1958, a B-47 bomber making a practice run from a Homestead Air Force Base in Florida collided with an F-86 fighter jet that had gone off course 38,000 feet over North Carolina. Spectacular piloting on the part of Colonel Howard Richardson prevented the bomber from crashing to earth with its terrible payload (indeed, he managed to land the plane safely and all on board walked away unscathed), but as part of his emergency maneuvers he was forced to dump the heavy weapon into the shallow waters off the Georgia’s Tybee island. Subsequent efforts to locate the bomb have proved futile, though the air force insists that the weapon poses no threat, lacking an essential plutonium trigger.
The US now has more than 5,000 immediately deployable nuclear warheads, a figure which does not include several thousand warheads now retired and awaiting dismantlement. Russia, India, Pakistan, Britain, France, China, and probably also North Korea and Israel possess nuclear arsenals. Each of these countries has been known to make occasional mistakes.