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2000 Personal Accounts
The Darwin Awards salutes the spirit portrayed in the following personal accounts, submitted by loyal (and sometimes reluctant) readers. Next


Instant Sunrise  
2000 Personal Account

(1980, Michigan) The worst case scenario was averted at the last second, but I'm sending it in anyway for your review. I was stationed at an air base in Michigan, from which we flew B-52 bombers. One of my jobs was to haul nuclear weapons for the planes to and from their storage location. We would tow them on a bolster, which is a spindly cart with four casters, one on each corner, on which were perched four 1-megaton nuclear bombs.

In order to tow these, one had to unlock either the front or rear casters, but never both, and hook the bolster to a truck. One morning, I was assigned to work with a man I couldn't stand, and he returned the compliment. While inspecting the bolster before towing, I unlocked the front set, not realizing that he had unlocked the rear set. We weren't speaking to each other, you see.

The bolster rolled out of the building easily enough, but as soon as we made a tight turn to the right, all four casters swiveled and I looked in the rear view mirror to see the bolster rolling majestically over to the left, the right hand casters now 8 inches off the ground. When my coworker heard my terrified gasp, he slammed on the brakes, which is the only thing that kept the bolster from rolling completely over.

He carefully put the vehicle into reverse, and eased the bolster back down.

Now, would those four bombs have created an 'instant sunrise' if they hit the ground? No, the safety precautions would prevent that. But each bomb carries several hundred pounds of high explosive in the trigger mechanism, and this certainly would have detonated, scattering radioactive material all over the Michigan countryside and turning me and my co-worker into unpleasant memories. Had the accident progressed to its logical conclusion, I believe we would have had the ultimate Darwin entry, or at least one with a half-life of several thousand years. © 1994 - 2020

Submitted by: Anonymous

What Readers Think

Ben says it's not true:
"My occupation gave me fairly specific information regarding the handling of aircraft delivering nuclear weapons. There are so many things about the sequence of events described in this story that couldn't possibly have occurred, it's ridiculous. The weapon handling described is even on the weak side for conventional weapons. Plus these weapons have been tested in accidental impact scenarios including truck-slams-wall, truck-hits-train, traiin-hits-truck, plane-hits-ground, and even lightning. This story must be made up."

Steffan says it's not true:
"I can tell you that this story is pure bulls**t. I am a nuclear technician. I help design neclear weapons. Specificaly, ones that go on bomber planes. Those nuclear weapons would not explode even if you shot them with guns, hit them with trucks, trains, or even planes. When a bomber plane releases a nuclear weapon, the plane sends a "message" to it that starts the arming sequence. The bomb will then calculate the amount of time it has until the target is reached. After this time is calculated, the bomb will only explode when hits that time. If the time to the target is too short, the bomb will not arm itself, and will simply hit the ground and stay there."

When I consider that the Military is always obsesseed with driving slowly, (FOB Fenty, Afghanistan is 3.5 miles around, and the speed limit is 15MPH) it seems extremely unlikely that any sort of trailer would ever be subjected to enough force to get wheels off the ground.
Jesse - Saturday, December 26 at 12:13:32 PST
It doesn't really matter if it couldn't happened. These two clearly did not know or forgot about the impossibility, and regardless, the mere thought is pretty frightening. Whenever you are handing high explosives, hearing a 'thunk' or seeing a container teetering on a corner is always a terrifying experence. And let's not forget the fact that we don't fully understand everything. There is always a chance that something 'foolproof' will be fooled. At least we can live fine knowing this is but a technicality, and the chances of a nuclear weapon detonating despite safeguards is a number too low to care about.
Engineer - Wednesday, April 28 at 08:33:41 PDT
While the nuclear warhead in the bombs requires four conventional explosions to happen within the bomb simultaeneously (timed by an electrical pulse as far as I know, since the speed of 300 million m/s travel down the wires doesn't give too much of a difference). To do this, more conventional explosives are required. These explosives cause an uncontrolled fission reaction in the nuclear fuel, usually plutonium in bombs (uranium is used for controlled fission reactions in power stations). While the timing has to be perfect for the chain reaction to happen, it is perfectly possible that a conventional explosive could be detonated via high speed impact. However, since the conventional explosives are behind the shell of the warhead, it is unlikely that falling off a bolster, which is unlikely to be more than a couple of feet off the ground, would cause detonation. On the other hand, since this event occured in 1980 and the nuclear scaremongers hadn't taken on yet, safety would be a lot less than it is 30 years on. As such, I am unsure of whether this could have happened or not.
- Tuesday, August 17 at 07:16:21 PDT
A good story and it could have happened but there was never any danger of explosion. The bombs would not have been fused until the plane was in flight and headed toward a target. So neither the nuclear nor the conventional explosives would have gone off if the cart dumped them. Bombs, of all kinds, are designed to take quite a bit of abuse without detonating. This has been standard with bombs since WWII where numerous planes fully loaded with bombs crashed without detonation.If you look at WWII footage Of bombs being dropped you will see a small propeller on the bombs. Air resistance spins these propellers and the bomb won't go off until they have spun a certain number of revolutions.
Borsia Novak - Friday, October 22 at 18:20:41 PDT
An important lesson to be learned here. Even if you can't stand your partner DON'T TAKE IT OUT ON THE BOMBS!
Nathan. - Wednesday, December 29 at 22:54:07 PST
not true because I said so
knowitall - Thursday, January 27 at 19:57:57 PST
I think it could be true. It is true that the bombs' safety mechanisms would have prevented a nuclear detonation, and it is also true that all nuclear weapons contain large amounts of high explosives. While it is also true that these high explosives are "insensitive high explosives", which will not detonate except if their detonator fires, it is very possible that a. the did not know this, or b. they took it out to make the story seem more incredible. Or both.
Bozkivane - Saturday, March 26 at 15:45:01 PST
Look, it doesn't matter whether these guys knew about the safeties or not. According to Murphy's law, "whatever can go wrong will go wrong at the most inoportune time." For all they (or we) know, the safety mechanisms might have failed and the bombs could have gone off. The fact of the matter is that these two WERE STILL HANDLING NUCLEAR MATERIAL!! It's not enough to say that "this couldn't happen." These two did something EXTREMELY stupid with EXTREMELY dangerous material. It still counts as an "At Risk Survivor" story.
Ian - Wednesday, March 30 at 20:55:22 PST
Also, the story does make sense. I've seen pictures of these nuclear weapons bolsters that go on B-52 Stratofortresses. Although they carry six bombs, not four, the ones in the story may only have had four bombs left to load, or else they may have simply forgotten. It's also possible that back in 1980 they could only carry four at a time, not six.
Bozkivane - Tuesday, June 21 at 14:06:08 PDT
Bozkivane - Saturday, July 30 at 21:23:05 PDT
True or not these guys probably worked over at the Selfridge Air Base over near where I live. They have real working choppers, one I actually saw in flight.
Nathan R. - Sunday, December 18 at 19:14:19 PST
octopus - Friday, September 07 at 17:13:44 PDT
Awful? 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Great?
Hate it! Love it!
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