“The Last of the Big Dogs” has a new home after Pantex
workers Wednesday delivered one of the few remaining B53 nuclear weapons cases
to the Freedom Museum USA in Pampa, Texas.
The final B53, which received its “Big Dog” nickname from
dismantlement workers due to its massive size, was dismantled at Pantex on
October 25, 2011 in an historic ceremony. The B53 was a Cold War icon, and was
the oldest, the largest and the most destructive nuclear weapon in the U.S.
arsenal at the time it was retired.
Monica Graham, Pantex historian, was looking for a way to
preserve the legacy of the B53 and honor the workers who built, maintained and
dismantled it. The Freedom Museum, which is located about 45 minutes from
Pantex, volunteered to take the weapon on loan to add to its large collection
of historical military artifacts.
“This was an important effort to publicly display this
iconic weapon that served in secret for decades, helping to ensure the safety
of America,” Graham said.
The B53 was first put into service in 1962, a year when Cold
War tensions were at their highest during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It served a
critical role in the nation’s nuclear deterrent through the end of the Cold
War, retiring from the active stockpile in 1997.
The B53 weighed around 10,000 pounds and was about the size
of a minivan. Many B53s were dismantled in the 1980s, but a significant number
remained in the U.S. arsenal until they were retired in 1997.
The B53 which was delivered this week consisted only of the
outer casing of the weapon and is empty on the inside. It is one of only three
such museum artifacts in the country built from a stockpile weapon. The others
were assembled from training units or spare parts.