TUESDAY, MAY, 1989
THE WASHINGTON POST
The Pentagon said yesterday that a hydrogen bomb lost at sea by the Navy in 1966 lies l on the floor of the Pacific Ocean about 80 miles from Japan's Ryukyu Islands, much close to land than earlier disclosed.
But defense officials said the H-bomb, carried by an U.S. A4 attack jet that accidentally rolled off the deck of an aircraft carrier, came to rest in nearly 16,000 feet of water and posed no danger.
The Pentagon statement came in response to a story on the accident in the current issue of Newsweek magazine. The revelation quickly became the lead item in most newspapers in Japan and caused considered outrage around the country.
Private research also made public yesterday indicated that the bomb was much closer to land than earlier suggested and that the carrier had been on combat duty in the Vietnam War.
Loss of the aircraft arid bomb had been previously acknowledged by the Defense Department, which said only that the accident occurred about 500 miles from land. Officials said the weapon apparently presented no danger.
Greenpeace, an antinuclear environmental group, and William Arkin, a naval expert with the private Institute for Policy Studies, said at a news conference today they had obtained official Navy documents showing the aircraft carrier Ticonderoga was only 70 miles off the Ryukyus at the time of the accident.
According to a joint study of naval accidents prepared by Arkin and Greenpeace's Joshua Handler, the Pentagon acknowledged the Ticonderoga incident with three sentences in a 1981 nuclear weapons accident report.
While no one has claimed there is any danger of an underwater nuclear explosion from the long-submerged weapon, the Greenpeace-Arkin report suggests the details could prove embarrassing to the U.S. military for a number of reasons.
Besides the much greater proximity to Japanese territory, they say, the documents show the Ticonderoga was coming off Vietnam combat duty and was heading for a port call at a U.S. base in Japan. The authors say that shows the Navy was violating a ban on nuclear weapons within Japanese boundaries and that nuclear weapons were aboard U.S. ships on Vietnam war zone duty—something they say no U.S. government has ever admitted.