May 22, 1957- A B-36 aircraft (52-2816) of the 334th Bombardment Squadron, 95th Bombardment Wing, was transporting a Mark 17 ten-megaton hydrogen bomb from Biggs AFB, Texas to Kirkland AFB, New Mexico. As the aircraft was on approach to Kirkland and over Albuquerque, New Mexico, the thermonuclear device, weighing 42,000 pounds, dropped from the bomber just 4 miles south of Albuquerque.
Accounts of what caused the incident vary, but one version suggests that a crewmember in the bomb bay was jolted by sudden turbulence. He grabbed hold of the manual bomb release lever to steady himself, causing the weapon to crash through the closed bomb bay doors and plummet to earth.
Richard ″Dick″ Meyer, 62, a retired lieutenant colonel, told the El Paso (Texas) Times that a crewman between the wings and the tail of the aircraft saw what had happened.
″Simultaneously, he called, ‘Bombs away,’ and the plane lurched upward about 1,000 feet when it lost so much weight at once,″ Meyer said.
″And someone yelled, ‘Oh, SHIT.’ It might have been me,″ Meyer said.
The weapon plummeted 1700 feet to earth and exploded. The physics package which made the bomb nuclear was not installed for obvious safety reasons. However, the conventional explosives used to support the detonation of the package did explode. A crater 25 feet in diameter was formed and a cow was killed. Radioactive material remaining in the weapon showered down for a mile around the explosion. The Air Force reimbursed the farmer for his cow and the city of Albuquerque for the land and roads destroyed when the Air Force removed the contaminated soil.