President Richard Nixon considered using nuclear weapons against North Korea after its fighter jets shot down an American spy plane in 1969, killing all 31 people on board, according to NPR. A former US pilot also reports that he was ordered to be prepared to drop a nuclear bomb on a North Korea airstrip just hours after the American EC-121 reconnaissance plane was shot down. "When I got to see the colonel, it was very simple. He described the shooting down of the EC-121, and he had a message, saying to prepare to strike my target," said pilot Bruce Charles.
Charles said his F-4 fighter jet was equipped with a B61 nuclear bomb, more than 20 times the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. But after several hours of waiting, he was ordered to stand down, and the mission was eventually scrapped, according to Charles. Nixon was again presented with a nuclear option by the military two months later, according to documents recently posted on the National Security Archive web site by George Washington historian Robert Wampler. Two days after the spy plane attack Nixon held a press conference and he was praised for his restraint. He eventually decided against retaliation.