Somewhere in Wassau Sound, near Tybee Island, Georgia, a Mark-15 bomb sits beneath the ocean floor. The bomb may be nuclear, or it may not be. It may be buried under five feet of sand, or it may be buried under forty. It is probably intact, but no one knows for sure, because the night it was dropped—February 5, 1958—was highly chaotic. The B-47 carrying the bomb, on a training mission that started in Florida, collided in midair sometime after midnight with an F-86 fighter plane on a simulated attack mission. The F-86 crashed after its pilot safely ejected. The B-47 caught fire, and its pilot jettisoned the bomb into the sea before landing. The Navy never found it, despite an intensive nine-week search.
"The Tybee bomb is a great mystery," says Derek Duke, a fifty-six-year-old former Air Force colonel who lives near Savannah. "And everyone is lured to a mystery." Absent a federal search for the weapon, Duke wants to conduct his own search. He just wants to locate it; he plans to leave excavation to the government. He is very determined. In a recent e-mail he told me that he intends to scour Wassau Sound in "a high-tech extremely visual search vessel exotic to the eyeballs" and has assembled a team "like the famous TV 'A-Team.'" It includes, he wrote, "the original US Navy search Commander"—the man who guided the 1958 hunt for the Tybee bomb—"plus a 30 year veteran CIA officer who has agency permission to be here. Nukes and counter terrorism was his bag, and maritime ops ... and the Navy Captain who launched Charles Lindbergh Jr. in 1966 off the coast of Spain in a Woods Hole deep dive sub to retrieve a live H bomb 2200 feet down in a canyon on the ocean floor, plus the man who supplied the 'General Lee' Hot Rod in the Hit TV show first filmed in Atlanta, 'The Dukes of Hazard.'"