On January 17, 1966, two U.S. Air Force planes collided over Palomares, Spain. The collision dislodged four hydrogen bombs, which fell to the earth and released clouds of radioactive dust over the Spanish countryside. The Air Force sent approximately 1,600 airmen to Palomares to clean up the accident’s aftermath. The radiation at Palomares poisoned many of the airmen, and caused them to suffer a broad range of health defects in the ensuing decades. However, the Department of Defense (DoD) has refused to classify the Palomares cleanup operation as a radiation-risk activity, which prevents those airmen from securing service-connected disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The Veterans Legal Services Clinic (VLSC) requested DoD information related to the Palomares cleanup operation on behalf of a Palomares veteran, as well as Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) and VVA’s Connecticut State Council. VLSC submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on behalf of its clients in March and June 2017. DoD did not respond within the statutorily-mandated time period, and on October 3, 2017, VLSC filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Connecticut seeking to compel DoD to release the requested records in compliance with FOIA.

See a copy of the complaint.

Selected Media Clips

Vets Sue Defense Department over 1966 Spain H-bomb Mishap, Air Force Times, October 3, 2017.

Air Force Veterans Involved in 1966 Nuclear Cleanup Sue Pentagon, New London Day, October 3, 2017.