Did the U.S. Navy lose a hydrogen bomb in 16,200 feet of water in 1965, not far from the coast of Japan? Did it then stage a cover-up? Yes. says a report on postwar naval accidents compiled by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. According to the report, a manned A-4E Skyhawk strike aircraft carrying a B-43 bomb with a yield of up to one megaton accidentally rolled off the aircraft carrier Ticonderoga, then steaming to the Japanese port of Yokosuka after a tour of duty in Vietnam. Also lost at sea was the pilot, Lt. D. M. Webster, strapped into the cockpit for a spell on duty in the Navy's "quick reaction alert" (QRA) force, part of the Pentagon's massive nuclear-war plan.
The IPS report, to be release this week by the environment group Greenpeace, is likely to cause a storm of anger in nuclear-sensitive Japan. For years, the U.S. Navy refused to admit the Ticonderoga incident had even taken place. In a 1981 summary of accidents involving nuclear weapons, the Pentagon listed the incident, but claimed it occurred "500 miles from land." All other details were classified top secret. Using the Freedom of Information Act to get access to the Ticonderoga's logs, the IPS researchers determined that the Skyhawk actually went down 70 miles east of the nearest Japanese island, 200 miles from heavily populated Okinawa.
The Japanese have often been critical of their government for allowing U.S. Navy ships to dock in the nation's port. Japan prohibited nuclear weapons any where in the nation. But U.S. policy is to neither confirm nor deny whether a ship carries nuclear weapons when it enters foreign waters. Now, with the evidence that their government may have been playing Russian roulette, the Japanese public may demand Stricter controls no matter which ally is offended.