Dr. Robert M. GatesHere's the BBC lowdown, with video, believe it or not.
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000
Mystery of lost US nuclear bomb
By Gordon Corera
BBC News security correspondent, northern Greenland
The United States abandoned a nuclear weapon beneath the ice in northern Greenland following a crash in 1968, a BBC investigation has found.
Its unique vantage point - perched at the top of the world - has meant that Thule Air Base has been of immense strategic importance to the US since it was built in the early 1950s, allowing a radar to scan the skies for missiles coming over the North Pole.
The Pentagon believed the Soviet Union would take out the base as a prelude to a nuclear strike against the US and so in 1960 began flying "Chrome Dome" missions. Nuclear-armed B52 bombers continuously circled over Thule - and could head straight to Moscow if they witnessed its destruction.
Greenland is a self-governing province of Denmark but the carrying of nuclear weapons over Danish territory was kept secret. . . .
But on 21 January 1968, one of those missions went wrong.
We reunited two of the pilots, John Haug and Joe D'Amario, 40 years on to tell the story of how their plane ended up crashing on the ice a few miles out from the base.
In the aftermath, military personnel, local Greenlanders and Danish workers rushed to the scene to help.
Eventually, a remarkable operation would unfold over the coming months to recover thousands of tiny pieces of debris scattered across the frozen bay, as well as to collect some 500 million gallons of ice, some of it containing radioactive debris.
A declassified US government video, obtained by the BBC, documents the clear-up and gives some ideas of the scale of the operation.
The high explosives surrounding the four nuclear weapons had detonated but without setting off the actual nuclear devices, which had not been armed by the crew.
The Pentagon maintained that all four weapons had been "destroyed".
This may be technically true, since the bombs were no longer complete, but declassified documents obtained by the BBC under the US Freedom of Information Act, parts of which remain classified, reveal a much darker story, which has been confirmed by individuals involved in the clear-up and those who have had access to details since.
The documents make clear that within weeks of the incident, investigators piecing together the fragments realised that only three of the weapons could be accounted for. . . .
MORE - Especially the BBC video >>