1965 Philippine Sea A-4 incident

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1965 Philippine Sea A-4 incident
A MK43 free-fall nuclear weapon on a handling dolly
Incident summary
Date December 5, 1965
Summary Pre-flight human error
Site Philippine Sea,[1] 80 mi (130 km)
E of Ryukyu Islands[2]
(U.S.-occupied Okinawa)
27°33.2′N 131°19.3′E / 27.5533°N 131.3217°E / 27.5533; 131.3217[1]Coordinates: 27°33.2′N 131°19.3′E / 27.5533°N 131.3217°E / 27.5533; 131.3217[1]
Fatalities Pilot (LTJG Douglas M. Webster)[3]
Aircraft type Douglas A-4E Skyhawk
Operator Attack Squadron 56 Insignia (US Navy).jpg Attack Squadron VA-56[4]
Carrier Air Wing Five
Registration BuNo 151022[4]

The 1965 Philippine Sea A-4 crash was a Broken Arrow incident in which a United States Navy Douglas A-4E Skyhawk attack aircraft carrying a nuclear weapon fell into the sea from the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga.[5]

The accident[edit]

On 5 December 1965, 31 days after Ticonderoga '​s departure from U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay in the Philippines,[5] the attack jet fell over the side during a training exercise while being rolled from the number 2 hangar bay to the number 2 elevator.[3] The pilot, Lieutenant (junior grade) Douglas M. Webster; the aircraft, Douglas A-4E BuNo 151022 of Attack Squadron 56; and the B43 nuclear bomb were never recovered[6] from the 16,000 ft (4,900 m) depth.[1] The accident occurred 80 miles (130 km) from Okinawa.[2][7]

Ticonderoga had aboard Carrier Air Wing Five during this cruise, with two squadrons of Skyhawks, the other being VA-144.[8]


It was not until 1989 that the Pentagon revealed the loss of the one-megaton bomb.[9] The revelation inspired a diplomatic inquiry from Japan requesting details.[10]


  1. ^ a b c (transcription in YouTube caption) USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) Deck Log (Report). "National Archives"(previously at Washington Navy Yard: Deck Log section). December 5, 1965. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lFHjcMf3s4&feature=related. Retrieved 2012-04-18. NOTE: The Joe Baugher aircraft listing for this A-4 mistakenly identifies different waters (South China Sea near Vietnam) from those specified by the Deck Log's coordinates (E of Ryukyu Islands).
  2. ^ a b Gibson, James N. Nuclear Weapons of the United States – An Illustrated History. Atglen, Pennsylvania.: Schiffer Publishing, 1996, LCCN 96-67282, ISBN 0-7643-0063-6, p. 130.
    Winchester, Jim, Douglas A-4 Skyhawk: Heineman's Hot Rod. Barnsley, Yorkshire, United Kingdom: Pen & Sword Books, 2005, ISBN 1-84415-085-2, page 199.
  3. ^ a b "LTJG Douglas M. Webster". A4skyhawk.org. 1965-12-05. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  4. ^ a b Oskins, James C; Maggelet, Michael H. (2007). Broken Arrow: The Declassified History of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Accidents. Lulu Publishing. p. 217, ch. 29. ISBN 1-4357-0361-8. 
  5. ^ a b "Ticonderoga Cruise Reports" (Navy.mil weblist of Aug 2003 compilation from cruise reports). Retrieved 2012-04-20. The National Archives hold[s] deck logs for aircraft carriers for the Vietnam Conflict. 
  6. ^ Broken Arrows at www.atomicarchive.com. Accessed Aug 24, 2007.
  7. ^ Winchester, Jim, Douglas A-4 Skyhawk: Heineman's Hot Rod. Barnsley, Yorkshire, United Kingdom: Pen & Sword Books, 2005, ISBN 1-84415-085-2, p. 199.
  8. ^ http://www.gonavy.jp/CV-CV14f.html
  9. ^ "U.S. Confirms '65 Loss of H-Bomb Near Japanese Islands". The Washington Post. Reuters. May 9, 1989. p. A-27. 
  10. ^ Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post, "Japan Asks Details On Lost H-Bomb", Wednesday, 10 May 1989, page A-35.