The Goldsboro Broken Arrow, 2nd Ed. By Joel Dobson. Lulu Publishing Services, 2013. Maps. Diagrams. Illustrations. Photographs. Notes. Appendices. Bibliography. Pp. xxii, 425. $24.99 ISBN 978-1-4834-0132-4
In 1961, as the pressures of the Cold War heightened, John F. Kennedy was sworn in as President succeeding Dwight Eisenhower. Gen. Thomas Power was Commander-in-Chief, Strategic Air Command (SAC), and Gen. Curtis Lemay was USAF Chief of Staff. Concern was growing that a lack of warning of a missile attack on the U.S. by the USSR would catch the bombers of SAC on the ground. Therefore, Gen. Power devised a plan, eventually known as Chrome Dome, wherein a number of SAC's bomber aircraft would be kept on airborne alert. The airborne bombers flew designated routes around North America or over the Mediterranean and were, therefore, safe from any attack on their home bases. Missions lasted about 24 hours and required several mid-air refueling, The aircraft carried live nuclear weapons and appropriate release codes.
At 10:56 a.m., January 23, 1961, the crew of B-52G 58-0187 took off on the last sortie needed to qualify them to fly Chrome Dome missions. The flight was scheduled for 24 hours with two heavyweight refuelings. Although primarily flown around the southeast U.S. and Atlantic Ocean, the route was close to the actual time and distance the crew would fly if this were a real "go-to-war" mission.
Joel Dobson has done a credible job of retracing the accident and placing it in the context of the day. The story is divided into three parts: 1) pre-flight (close examination of the crew and plane) through the crash and bailout; 2) aftermath, that looks at the tensions of command, a worst case scenario of detonation of one or more of the weapons, and...