The United States and India once lost nuclear devices on the “Roof of the World”

After the recent floods in northern India and the collapse of the dam, which resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of people missing, local residents believed that this was an explosion of a nuclear device buried under snow and rocks in the snow-capped mountains. “the result of. Behind these seemingly absurd remarks lies a dusty secret history: In the 1960s, the United States and India conspired to monitor China’s nuclear tests on the “roof of the world.”

Both the U.S. and India want to peek into China

On October 16, 1964, a huge mushroom cloud skyrocketed from Lop Nur, and China conducted its first atomic bomb test. The news shocked the world. The United States is eager to get the details of China’s nuclear test, but it is struggling to find no suitable intelligence means. At this time, not long after China’s self-defense counterattack against India, India is also eager to obtain information about China’s nuclear capabilities.

Driven by common needs, the United States and India signed a secret agreement to jointly collect intelligence on China’s nuclear tests. At that time, the imaging effect of the reconnaissance satellite was poor, and the high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft easily exposed the target. How can we obtain China’s nuclear test intelligence? The US and Indian intelligence agencies are all worried. In the end, intelligence personnel of the two countries decided to install monitoring equipment in the Himalayas on the Indian side to collect information on China’s nuclear tests.

According to U.S. intelligence expert Kenneth Cumberly, this idea came from Curtis Limay, then chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force. In 1964, when Li Mei chatted with a National Geographic photographer who had climbed Mount Everest, he learned that “standing on Mount Everest, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is unobstructed.” This sentence gave Li Mei an inspiration: Why not place monitoring equipment on the top of the snow-capped mountains and condescendingly monitor China’s nuclear base and missile tests for a long time?

In theory, this is a feasible method: China’s ground nuclear test at that time produced traces of radiation particles, which were blown to the south by the wind and could be automatically captured by the sensor on the top of the mountain. By studying these tiny particles, important data such as the equivalent of China’s nuclear weapons can be obtained. In addition, the Himalayas have an average altitude of more than 7,000 meters. As long as the power of electronic equipment is strong enough, remote test bases in China can be unobstructed.

The next question is-who is going to climb the steep Himalayas? You know, that is the highest mountain in the world. It is really not easy to pull up the heavy monitoring equipment.

“Under the great reward, there must be a brave man”

According to the memories of Mu Goli, a famous Indian mountaineer and former Navy Lieutenant Commander, in May 1965, when he led the Indian mountaineering team to triumph from Mount Everest, he was taken to a secluded place when he arrived at New Delhi Airport and informed him that he was going to the United States. Perform tasks. On June 19, 1965, Goley and his entourage flew to New York in secret, and met with CIA officer McLiffe. After that, they were sent to Alaska by the US for a three-week secret training. Only then did they know that the CIA wanted their help to install a secret nuclear test monitoring instrument on the Himalayas near the Chinese border to grasp the situation of China’s Lop Nur nuclear test base.

After Goli and his party returned to India, they began to prepare for mountain climbing with the help of the United States. The first thing to be sure is which mountain to climb? The highest Mount Everest was first eliminated-the equipment provided by the US is very heavy, and experts believe that it is impossible to carry them to Mount Everest. Therefore, I had to retreat and set the target at Nanda Devi, the second highest peak in India, which is close to the Sino-Indian border, at an altitude of 7,817 meters.

To be on the safe side, the CIA also hired a team of American mountaineers. They were paid $1,000 a month, which was a considerable income at the time. A total of 14 American climbers and the Indian mountaineering team led by Goli conducted targeted secret training in the United States. In the months of training, the American and Indian team members can skillfully jump off the helicopter and use plastic explosives to destroy the target, and also learn to use nuclear devices. During the training, they have to repeatedly drag these equipment up the steep cliffs of Alaska to prepare for the future climbing of the Himalayas.

First attempt to give up halfway

In the autumn of 1965, American and Indian mountaineers gathered under Nanda Devi. A total of 6 people have climbed this snow-capped mountain before, but only 3 people survived. Due to the need to carry heavy surveillance equipment, Goli predicts that this climb will be more difficult. After the start of the mountaineering, the first 12 climbers and local Sherpa guides began to climb slowly. Although it is difficult and inconvenient to carry nuclear equipment for mountain climbing, they can provide a little warmth to the climbers at night: these 18 kilograms of nuclear batteries (isotopic heat source) provide electricity to run surveillance equipment for 1,000 years, which is enough Let the United States and India continuously monitor China’s nuclear and intercontinental missile tests.

For several days, these climbers on secret missions, wearing spike boots and holding ice axes, climbed along the front of Nanda Devi Mountain. They crossed the glacial cranny and gradually moved towards the last one before the summit. Station-the high mountain camp is close, and the peak stands about 300 meters above them.

However, when the team reached the alpine camp, the sky was suddenly overcast, and the cold and humid air heralded the imminent blizzard. At this time, if they face the difficulties, they are likely to be swallowed by the bad weather, so Goli temporarily decided to descend and wait for the next spring to climb again.

In order to save the trouble of carrying surveillance equipment again when climbing the mountain next time, Goli ordered the team members to pack and fix the equipment on the mountainside. They tied an antenna, two signal transmitters and nuclear batteries to a protruding rock, and then they hurried down the mountain.

The nuclear battery is gone!

In the spring of the following year, the American-Indian mountaineering team refitted and climbed again, but when they arrived at the alpine camp looking for a place to store their packages, the rock was missing! After searching around, they speculated that the rock might have been chipped off by an avalanche, and that the nuclear battery and seven cigar-shaped plutonium fuel rods might also be buried deep under ice and snow.

Although no one can figure out what happened, the consequences of losing the nuclear battery are quite serious: if nuclear fuel falls into the hands of a malicious person, it is tantamount to opening Pandora’s box. If the moving ice smashes the plutonium fuel rods, the leaked radioactive material will flow into the Ganges with the snow melt, and this result is even more chilling.

The loss of nuclear batteries has caused the Indian government to panic. Between 1966 and 1968, at the urging of India, the CIA had to turn around to clean up the mess. The helicopter circulated in the thin air of the mountains, taking pictures of every inch of land it passed, and searching with Geiger counters. The team searched hard on the ground, but in the end there was no result.

After the nuclear battery was lost, the US finally accepted Goli’s proposal and abandoned the plan to install equipment at the summit and changed the location of the monitoring equipment to Nanda Devi, which is 7,300 meters above sea level. In 1967, after the third ascent, the U.S.-India mountaineering team installed an explosion observation and missile monitoring device in the Himalayas. According to the person’s recollection, soon after the equipment was successfully installed, relevant parties received the signal from the equipment. These monitoring equipment did not stop working until October 1997, after China suspended nuclear testing, and several repairs were carried out in the middle.

“God knows what will happen”

When the espionage tour in the Himalayas came to an end, the CIA strictly ordered the Americans involved in the matter to keep a secret, and all photos and logs were taken away by the CIA. India also kept this operation strictly confidential, and even the chief of staff of the Indian Armed Forces was kept in the dark.

But paper can’t hold fire after all. In April 1978, Indian Prime Minister Desai revealed that India and the United States had launched a “high-level” cooperation to install nuclear devices on Nanda Devi. On April 15, 1978, about 60 people protested outside the U.S. Embassy in India, opposing the “CIA’s activities in India.”

American climber McCarthy, who had participated in this exploration activity, later said, “The nuclear device should have been caught in an avalanche and got stuck in the glacier. God knows what will happen.” The American climber Shaler confirmed that the CIA has not found the missing. Nuclear device. The frightening thing is that plutonium 239 was detected in a water sample collected from the foot of the mountain in 2005, which is not an isotope in nature. But for these terrible prospects, the CIA’s attitude is still “neither certain nor negative.”