Thule air base above

Thule Air Base in the foreground with North Star Bay, which was covered in sea ice at the time of the accident, in the background in 2006.


  1. Date- 21 January 1968.
  2. Cause of accident- An in-flight fire.
  3. Site- 7.5 miles (12.1 km) west of Thule Air Base (formerly Pituffik), Greenland: 76°31′40″N 69°16′55″.
  4. Passengers- 0.
  5. Crew- 7.
  6. Fatalities- 1.
  7. Survivors- 6.
  8. Aircraft type- B-52G Stratofortress.
  9. Operator- 380th Strategic Bomb Wing, Strategic Air Command, United States Airforce.
  10. Registration- 58-0188.
  11. Flight origin- Plattsburgh Air Force Base.
  12. Destination- Plattsburgh Air Force Base.
  13. Victim nation- Greenland dependency, Denmark.

The crashEdit

Usaf.Boeing B-52

A B-52H from Barksdale AFB flying over the desert.

It was a Cold War era B-52 Stratofortress bomber air crash in Greenland that caused a nuclear accident.

The aircraft involved in itEdit

The crew was uncomfortable because of the cold and the fact that the seats did not heat up properly, despite the fact that the heater's rheostat was turned up, so an engine bleed valve was opened up to draw additional hot air into the heater from the engine manifold. The cooling system on the engine air intakes was also faulty, thus over heating the aircraft's air-conditioning and cabin's heating ducts due to the cooling/heating malfunction. As the cock pit heated up uncontrollably and reached nearly the temperature of the engine manifold, the unofficially stowed cushions that were used on the seating that was known not to properly heat up fully, suddenly heated up in there storage box and then ignited. The navigator found the burning box in the lower compartment and tried attempted to fight it with 2 on board fire extinguishers, but could not put it out.

After about 6 hours at 15:22 EST and 90 miles (140 km) south of Thule Air Base, Captain Haug declared a fire related emergency and requested Thule air traffic control permission to perform an emergency landing at the air base. The bomber's fire extinguishers ran out with in 5 minuets, then the electrical power system failed and smoke filled the cockpit to the point that the pilots could not read their instruments. The crew then bailed out and the aircraft crashed, resulting in an explosion and fire destroyed many of the debris.

components from the crash were scattered in a 1-mile (1.6 km) by 3-mile (4.8 km) area and parts of the bomb bay were found 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the impact area, indicating the aircraft started to break up in-flight, before making it's impact with the Greenlandic ice cap.

The emergency responseEdit

The off-duty staff conducted search and rescue operations for the remaining crew members. Owing to the extreme weather conditions, Arctic darkness, and unnavigable ice, the base relied largely on the Thule representative of the Royal Greenland Trade Department; Ministry of Greenland, Jens Zinglersen, to raise and mount the search using native dog sled teams.

A political scandal resulted in Denmark during 1995, after a report revealed the government had given it's tacit permission for nuclear weapons to be located in Greenland's American bases and flown around in the American aircraft over there, in contravention of Denmark's 1957 nuclear-free zone.

In the USSREdit

Claims persist to this day that 3 similar incidents occurred in Orenburg Oblast during the late 1960s and 2 similar incidents in Arkhangelsk Oblast in the early 1970s. They have never been officially acknowledged, but dissident's reports and intelligence work suggest they did.

The aftermathEdit

Plutonium ring

A weapons-grade ring of electro-refined plutonium, typical of the rings refined at Los Alamos and sent to Rocky Flats for fabrication. The ring has a purity of 99.96%, weighs 5.3 kg, and is approx 11 cm in diameter. It is enough plutonium for one bomb core. The ring shape helps with criticality safety (less concentrated material).

The nuke did not go off and was smashed up either in the crash due to the impact of hitting the ice and/or the crashed aircraft blowing up when it also hit the ice.

A mixture of JP-4 aviation fuel and radioactive elements that included plutonium, uranium, americium and tritium polluted the area. Plutonium levels as high as 380 mg/m2 were registered in the area. Contaminated ice was loaded into steel tanks at Thule during Project Crested Ice, that were firmly sealed shut before being shipped to a nuclear research and disposal centre at Savannah River in South Carolina.

JP-4, or JP4 (for "Jet Propellant"), also called avtag, was a 50-50 kerosene-gasoline blend. It had a lower flash point than JP-1, but was more widely available than JP-1 since it's creation in 1951.

Plutonium-239 emits Alpha radiation and has a half life of 24,000 years. That is for the time from now to the middle of the Upper Palaeolithic (or Upper Palaeolithic, Late Stone Age) era. As a heavy metal, plutonium is also toxic.

Also seeEdit

  1. Atomic accidents and disasters
  2. 1966 Palomares B-52 crash
  3. 1961 Goldsboro B-52 crash
  4. Operation Chrome Dome
  5. Thule Air Base, Greenland
  6. A nuclear\atomic holocaust or nuclear apocalypse
  7. 1961 Yuba City B-52 crash
  8. 1964 Savage Mountain B-52 crash


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