OPERATION MUTUM – JULY 9, 1975 – PALOMARES

     

(Episode 32)

On Wednesday, 09 July, the river had lowered level signaling that there was no danger of more flooding. A military convoy went to the region of envy, which would resume the search for bombs and heavy machinery that had arrived during the night were moved to where would the road to recovery work. Mutum stirred up.

The reprimand given by Manfred Kurt when my last link to the Journal of the People still sounded in my head. All of us, the newspaper of the People, know the results of their intuitions: it always get it right. So I decided to do an analysis of what had happened in Mutum and try to see something that had been overlooked. It was then that I decided to read again, the papers that were stored in my grandfather’s bookshelf . “Something is not right,” I thought. “Where’s the news of the bombs in the newspapers? Have no nowhere. ” Leafed one by one again. Anything. When I talked to my grandfather he told me that he was finding all that business of very strange bombs. He concluded by saying “Imagine if such a bomb was atomic.” There was my curiosity aroused once. I ran to the bookcase and began searching the newspaper that interested me. When found, I read the headline printed on the first page “BRAZIL BEGINS ITS NUCLEAR PROJECT”.

The news had been published in the Folha de São Paulo on 28 June, so the day before the bombs were “lost” on Mutum by a bomber of the Brazilian Air Force. “A lot of coincidence , ” I thought. And I remembered immediately Manfred Kurt. “There are things, certainly there are things” . I took scissors and cut out the text, which read:

“The Government announced yesterday the National Congress and the Brazilian people the full text of the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement signed at 6 h 45 (GMT, in Bonn, with the Federal Republic of Germany. The communication was read by Senator Virgilio Tavora.

Basically, the agreement involves understandings that will provide Brazil the installation of eight nuclear power plants, a uranium enrichment plant, a nuclear engineering company and a company of heavy components. Overall, the program will involve investment of ten billion dollars (more than eighty billion cruzeiros).

Although the official text of the agreement does not explicitly mention the fact, “subsidies on the Brazil-Germany Agreement”, released by the Presidential Palace, reveal that Brazil agreed to submit their nuclear activities to the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the body UN, with which our country must sign another agreement before receiving any equipment or German material.

The Secretary of State Henry Kissinger sent a letter – the contents of which will likely be released today – the Azeredo da Silveira Minister, explaining the official position of the United States. (P.15 “).

After reading and rereading several times what had been disclosed about the nuclear agreement signed between Brazil and Germany, I began to wonder what would have happened if it was as I said my grandfather. And if they were nuclear bombs?

I remembered what had happened something like that a few years earlier, in Spain. I called the Journal of the People in Belo Horizonte and asked Manfred Kurt to send me information about what had happened similar in Spain. He sent me via fax from City Hall.

The article received was published by Jonas Liasch in an aeronautical culture magazine. That happened in 1966, Palomares in the coastal region of Spain.

“During the 1950s and 1960s, the height of the Cold War, both the Soviet aircraft as US regularly carrying nuclear weapons on board, in order to enter in immediate combat to” retaliate aggression “. Of course, a constant fear was: What if an armed aircraft with nuclear bombs had an accident?

The scientists who planned and built the bombs had this concern and, as accidents with aircraft were seen as almost inevitable, they designed the artifacts in order to avoid, at any cost, an accidental nuclear explosion, which could be catastrophic. In fact, although there were accidents, no nuclear bomb accidentally exploded today. Still, it is clear that an accident involving nuclear bombs is a dramatic event, and what occurred on January 17, 1966 on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, near the town of Palomares, was one of the worst.

The accident involved a bomber Boeing B-52G, carrying four thermonuclear bombs B28, 1.5 megatons, and a KC-135 tanker, both of the United States Air Force, carrying 110,000 liters of fuel. The B-52 had taken off from Turkey, along with other airplanes of the same group, and flew to his base in North Carolina, USA.

The two aircraft were flying at about 31,000 feet above sea level of the Mediterranean Sea when they came to start the refueling operation, the second of the mission, at 10 hours and 30 minutes of January 17, 1966. The B-52 is He came too close, being achieved in full by the supply boom, already extended by the tanker operator, and crashed into the belly of the KC-135, which exploded then killing its four occupants. The B-52 also exploded, but 4 of the 7 crew members managed to escape by jumping from parachute before the explosion, and were not hurt.

Of the four nuclear bombs on board, three fell on the ground, in the fishing village of Palomares and one fell into the sea. conventional explosives in two of the bombs that fell on the ground exploded, spreading the plutonium fragments area, the most dangerous chemical known. Fortunately, and to the astonishment of the surviving crew of the B-52, there was no nuclear explosion.

The United States Air Force (USAF) quickly set up a war operation to rescue the nuclear bombs and clean the area. Three pumps were found in less than 24 hours after the accident. Two were destroyed and another was relatively intact. The fourth bomb was not found, and soon concluded that he had fallen into the sea.

Civilians in the area were all evacuated due to the danger of plutonium waste scattered by the blast. The bombs and debris on the ground were removed, as well as a lot of the next field. However, 15 percent of plutonium scattered by the explosion, by about 3 km, was never found. The biggest problem, however, was to locate the bomb that fell into the sea.

On January 22, the USAF asked for help to the Secretary of the Navy, and the Navy dispatched to the scene no less than 19 warships to locate the artifact. It was not easy to find the bomb.

Eighty days of searching took until it was found by a mini-submarine Alvin, to 869 meters deep and 5 nautical miles from the coast. The bomb was finally recovered, thanks to a device called “CURV” designed to retrieve torpedoes from the seabed. “

I finished reading the article with the impression that the two facts were very similar among themselves. It was too coincidental. There was something that was not quite hitting the whole story.

I started thinking about two things and some things seemed to become clearer. “If the plane came to be seen by some people that means it was lower than the Palomares accident. The there were 31,000 feet which is 9,448 meters or so. It is a lot of time to see the living eye. So here should be much lower. But it will be flying low is still so far from Victoria? “

At dusk the military convoy had not returned and learned, by a resident of the area where the military was, who had set up tents and spend the night camped near the envied, where they would resume the search in the morning.

The work was being hampered because of the gunk left by the rain and because some small streams, which were usually minimal, had become almost dangerous rivers with rapids, so much was the volume of water they had acquired.

With the fall of the barrier in Lajinha road, the crater that had been formed and streams of the region transformed into rivers, the trucks had to stay far from where the soldiers were. Thus, the search command decided it would be best to camp there, to continue to look the other day.

Near where they were camped soldiers, landfill work and road recovery that had been destroyed by the sliding of the huge stone, continued into the night. Huge reflectors have been installed to allow the work was not interrupted by the lack of illumination.

Trucks-buckets came and went carrying muddy red earth, which were taken by big backhoes and bulldozers, a site located about three kilometers down and dumped in the crater, where they worked a leveling bike and a roller compactor.

The road would not be long to be used again.

(To be continued next week)

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