Submarine crash in 1974 ‘could have started World War 3’ - but it was covered up

Rob Waugh
Contributor
Picture Rex

A treasure trove of documents released by the CIA last week have revealed a chilling Cold War incident – which could have led to global disaster.

An American nuclear submarine carrying 160 warheads collided with a Soviet craft near Holy Loch, then a US naval base, in November 1974.

A cable marked ‘secret eyes only’ addressed to US secretary of state Henry Kissinger detailed the collision between the American and Russian submarines .

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The memo, typed by Brent Scowcroft, reads: ‘Have just received word from the Pentagon that one of our Poseidon submarines has just collided with a Soviet submarine.

‘The SSBN James Madison was departing Holy Loch to take up station when it collided with a Soviet submarine waiting outside the port to take up trial.

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
(AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

‘Both submarines surfaced and the Soviet boat subsequently submerged again.

‘There is no report yet of the extent of the damage. Will keep you posted.’

Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert working for the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, said that the collision could have led to disaster ‘if the crew on one of the submarines had misinterpreted the collision as an attack and decided to defend itself and sink the other submarine’.

Kristensen said, ‘The James Madison was a ballistic missile submarine armed with 16 Poseidon missiles with 160 nuclear warheads.

‘The worst case scenario would probably have been if the collision had triggered explosions that ignited the ballistic missile fuel and ejected or destroyed the warheads.

No further details have been released on the Holy Loch incident, but the James Madison remained in service until 1992 when it was decommissioned.

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