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Defense Department Orders Precautions

Nov. 28, 1962 - The Defense Department is ordering precautions in all the military services against the possibility that emotionally unstable persons may somehow get near nuclear weapons and set them off. A new regulation has been written that will require strict screening of military personnel who may be assigned to positions of control and handling of nuclear weapons or nuclear devices. Although it was not announced at the time, officials confirmed today that in 1958 a sergeant went berserk and threatened to fire a pistol at a nuclear bomb in a suicide attempt. The sergeant was a special weapons maintenance technician. A Pentagon official said today the man’s supervisors had talked him out of the threat. However, the official continued, even if the unbalanced sergeant had fired at the nuclear weapon, it would not have detonated. At most, the TNT associated with the nuclear device would have gone off and probably caused some damage. In accordance with the make-up of the nuclear bomb, a mere disturbance, including the impact of a bullet or some other type of explosion, would only set off the TNT and not the nuclear materials. This has been the experience in several accidents of nuclear armed bombers.


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