Praise for The Day We Lost the H-Bomb

The Day We Lost the H-BombMoran investigates the military’s absurd scramble for recovery and spin control, the helpful discoveries by local fishermen and shepherds and the rather incredible insouciance over the spilling of plutonium on land and at sea. Displaying a solid grasp of U.S. military maneuvers, she also provides the fascinating story of the Navy’s experimental mini-submarine “Alvin”, which was used for recovery of the elusive fourth bomb. An able exploration of one of the turning points in nuclear-arms awareness.
Kirkus Reviews

As more countries are ominously inching toward membership in the Nuclear Weapons Club, Barbara Moran’s compelling account of a Cold War disaster resonates today.

…The author uncovered new information and inspected newly declassified material in preparing a book that is both highly readable and well researched; there are 27 pages of bibliography and 55 pages of author notes.

She also artfully weaves in the history of SAC and its larger-than-life leader, Gen. Curtis LeMay, the Cold War tensions, the government’s hit-and-miss news blackout, public opinion in Spain, popular culture of the time (i.e. the 1966 James Bond film “Thunderball” and the 1964 film “Dr. Strangelove”), and the personalities and intertwining politics of other key players in the bomb recovery.
— Albuquerque Journal

If you think losing your keys or cell phone is stressful, try misplacing four hydrogen bombs. Barbara Moran recounts one of the biggest “my bad” moments in U.S. history with The Day We Lost the H-Bomb. A 1966 mid-air collision over the Spanish coast produced a PR nightmare for the U.S. military, as officials were forced to address difficult inquires from both the press and international community. (“No comment” doesn’t hold water once it’s been revealed you’re trying to figure out just where you left that instrument of mass devastation.) Moran does a fantastic job exploring a story that will hit home with fans of Dr. Strangelove (SPOILER: there is no bomb-riding Slim Pickens in this version) and RFK’s Thirteen Days.
Dave Callahan,

In her first book, journalist Barbara Moran exhibits dogged research and an eye for detail in reconstructing one such incident. “The Day We Lost the H-Bomb” revisits the 1966 explosion of a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber carrying four hydrogen bombs over the Spanish village of Palomares, a story the book’s subtitle trumpets as “the worst nuclear weapons disaster” ever. Moran, whose background is in television documentary production, takes a cinematic approach, describing everything from the Catalan shrimp fishermen who rescued the U.S. flyers parachuting from the massive plane to the contents of President Lyndon Johnson’s breakfast (melon, chipped beef and hot tea) when he got news of the accident at 7:05 a.m. Moran spent years collecting this wealth of detail, interviewing the Air Force officers who survived the crash and exhuming every declassified document she could find on the topic. She even accompanied Air Force officials on a mid-air refueling (the proximate cause of the accident) so she could explain that difficult maneuver.

Her efforts yield an often-riveting tale. Although the conventional explosives in some of the warheads blew up on impact, scattering debris and radiation, the nuclear charges (thankfully) did not detonate. The Air Force quickly recovered three of the four hydrogen bombs on land. But the fourth sank to the bottom of the Mediterranean, setting off a frantic scramble to find it before the Soviets did.

To her credit, Moran captures some of the flavor of the Cold War, including the Air Force’s determination to keep part of its nuclear arsenal perpetually airborne for fear of a surprise attack. She recounts with some humor how, in the midst of the recovery effort, Johnson went to the White House screening room to watch “Thunderball,” the latest James Bond film, in which the evil “Spectre” organization crashes a NATO plane loaded with two nuclear bombs into the ocean, retrieves the bombs underwater and holds them for ransom.
The Washington Post

A balanced and well documented history of a defining moment in the early nuclear age. The author has found all the pieces and people, and she writes about them marvelously well. This is the best Palomares book yet written.
– Thomas C. Reed, former Secretary of the Air Force, and author, The Nuclear Express

A concise and readable history of the Cold War, the events that led up to the accident, and the reaction to and handling of it…The research behind the narrative is impressive, relying heavily on primary sources and participant interviews. There have been three previous books on the accident, but two of these were published within a year of the event, depending of necessity on press reports and immediate reaction or impressions, and the third, published in 1997, was written by a participant. Moran had access to a wide range of now declassified sources, and the result reflects this in-depth research and independent approach.
– Wayne Pittman, founder, B-52 Stratofortress Association

This book is very enjoyable, informative, and, I believe, unbiased. I found it hard to put down once I started reading it… I highly recommend this book to anyone who would appreciate an unbiased snapshot on “the worst nuclear weapons disaster in history.”
Health Physics