189. Memorandum From the White House Situation Room to President Johnson 1

Information has been received that two of the nuclear devices which were carried on the B-52 which crashed in Southern Spain yes[Page 384]terday2 experienced a low order high explosive detonation. Although no nuclear reaction would result, such a detonation could cause a radiation hazard. However, if the detonation was minimal it is possible that no radiation hazard would occur.

There are sufficient qualified technical personnel now on the scene to properly take care of any situation which may exist in relation to these two weapons. Included among the personnel are Major General Wilson, Commander of the 16th Air Force (SAC) and Major General Beck for SAC headquarters.

Based on minimal information received, it is not possible to accurately estimate the situation. However, it is not believed that there is any basis for undue concern over the low order detonation of the two weapons.

White House Situation Room
Kenneth Rosen
Briefing Officer
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Spain, Vol. 1. Secret. A notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it.
  2. A B-52 aircraft from the 68th Bomb Squadron, based at Seymour AFB, North Carolina, and carrying four nuclear devices, collided in mid-air with a KC-135 aircraft of the 97th Air Refueling Squadron, based at Blytheville AFB, Arkansas, over the village of Palomares shortly after 10 a.m. local time. Both aircraft crashed. Seven crew members from the two aircraft died in the accident, and four members of the B-52 crew survived. Three of the nuclear devices landed on Spanish soil and one fell into the sea. The fourth device was recovered from the sea on April 7.