"A most unusual and regrettable visit." Palomares by basstbn

Palomares Travel Guide: 0 reviews and 1 photos

My "role" in a Cold War episode

January, 1966. A US Air Force B-52 carrying four hydrogen bombs collides with a KC-135 refueling plane over the Mediterranean Sea near Palomares, Spain. Three bombs land on Spanish soil and are soon found. The fourth is lost. For two and a half months, US sailors, soldiers, and airmen "search*" for the lost bomb, until it is found in the sea, exactly where a Spanish shepherd had said it had fallen. Due to the threat of radiation, acres and acres of fine topsoil used to grow tomatoes was bulldozed, loaded into sealed barrels, and shipped to South Carolina for disposal.

I was one of those airmen selected to partake in the "search" as were several other members of my AF Band. We were usually sent to more mountainous regions inland from Palomares. Even at that, several of us discovered pieces of aircraft, I found a piece of seat belt with what appeared to be skin melted into it. I have heard that several members of the US forces were exposed to radiation, including a Colonel Frazier who was highly admired and respected by all of us under his command.

I have made special emphasis of the word "search." It is my belief that most of what we were doing was a public relations scheme, meant to show the world how much the US cared and how diligantly it was attempting to find the bomb. It may possibly have been an effort to throw off the Soviets from knowing the bomb was in the sea where they might beat our Navy to it. From our camp on the Mediterranean beach, we frequently saw Russian ships patrolling the area. Much of the time, our efforts were low-key, but when word got around that the media was headed out, we put on a great show of organization and military efficiency.

Forty years later, in 2006, Reuters reported that higher levels of radiation than normal were still be measured in snails and other wildlife.

  • Last visit to Palomares: Feb 1966
  • Intro Updated Feb 20, 2007
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