Reader Post | By Theodore Colon
“Yet again at the height of the Cold War; with tensions poised One Step away from Armageddon; again saved by an act of Divine Providence”.
“The Day, the USAF Nuked North Carolina”
“A secret document published in declassified, reveals that the US Air Force came dramatically close to detonating an atom bomb over North Carolina that would have been 260 times more powerful than the device that devastated Hiroshima”.
The US Once Dropped Two four Megaton Nuclear Bombs on North Carolina by Accident.
In 1961, as John F. Kennedy was inaugurated, Cold War tensions were running high, and the military had planes armed with nuclear weapons in the air constantly. These planes were supposed to be ready to respond to a nuclear attack at any moment. If the planes were already in the air, the thinking went; they would survive a nuclear bomb hitting the United States.
In January, a B52 jet carrying two 12 ft Mark 39 hydrogen bombs, met up with a refueling plane, whose pilot noticed a problem. Fuel was leaking from the plane’s right wing. The wing was failing and the plane needed to make an emergency landing, soon. But before it could, its wing broke off, followed by part of the tail. The plane crash-landed, killing three of its crew. (Five other men made it safely out.) In the plane’s flailing descent, the bomb bays opened, and the two bombs it was carrying fell to the ground.
As it fell, one bomb deployed its parachute: a bad sign, as it meant the bomb was acting as if it had been deployed deliberately. It started flying through the sequence that would end in detonation. The last step involved a simple safety switch. When a military crew found the bomb, it was nose-down in the dirt, with its parachute caught in the tree, still whole. As the last switch, was still turned to SAFE. The first bomb that descended by parachute was found intact and standing upright as a result of its parachute being caught in a tree. Lt. Jack ReVelle, the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) officer responsible for disarming and securing the bombs from the crashed aircraft, stated that the arm/safe switch was still in the safe position, although it had completed the rest of the arming sequence
The second bomb had disappeared into a tobacco field. Only “a small dent in the earth,” the Register reports, revealed its location.
The Bomb, that fell into a Tobacco field.
The second bomb plunged into a muddy field at around 700 miles per hour and disintegrated without detonation of its conventional explosives. The tail was discovered about 20 feet (6.1 m) below ground. Pieces of the bomb were recovered. Although the bomb was partially armed when it left the aircraft, an unclosed high-voltage switch had prevented it from fully arming. In 2013, ReVelle recalled the moment the second bomb’s switch was found: Until my death I will never forget hearing my sergeant say, “Lieutenant, we found the arm/safe switch.” And I said, “Great.” He said, “Not great. It’s on arm.”
Excavation of the second bomb was eventually abandoned as a result of uncontrollable ground-water flooding. Most of the thermonuclear stage containing uranium and plutonium was left in place, but the “pit”, or core, of the bomb which is needed to trigger a nuclear explosion was removed. The United States Army Corps of Engineers purchased a 400-foot (120 m) diameter circular easement over the buried component. The site of the easement is clearly visible as a circle of trees in the middle of a plowed field on Google Earth.
It took a week for a crew to dig out the bomb; soon they had to start pumping water out of the site. Though the bomb had not exploded, it had broken up on impact, and the clean-up crew had to search the muddy ground for its parts. When they found that key switch, it had been turned to ARM. To this day, it’s unclear why the bomb did not go off.
The crew didn’t find every part of the bomb, though. The secondary core, made of uranium, never turned up. Today, the site where the bomb fell is safe enough to farm—but the military has made sure, using an easement, that no one will dig or erect a building on that site.
The 1961 Goldsboro B-52 crash was an accident that occurred near Goldsboro, North Carolina, on 23 January 1961. A Boeing B-52 carrying two 3–4-megaton bombs broke up in mid-air, dropping its nuclear payload in the process. The pilot in command, Walter Scott Tulloch, ordered the crew to eject at 9,000 ft (2,700 m). Five crewmen successfully ejected or bailed out of the aircraft and landed safely; another ejected, but did not survive the landing, and two died in the crash.[Information declassified in 2013 showed that one of the bombs came close to detonating, with three of the four required triggering mechanisms having activated.
In a now-declassified 1969 report, titled “Goldsboro Revisited”, written by Parker F. Jones, a supervisor of nuclear safety, Jones said that “one simple, dynamo-technology, low voltage switch stood between the United States and a major catastrophe”, and concluded that “[t]he MK 39 Mod 2 bomb did not possess adequate safety for the airborne alert role in the B-52”, and that it “seems credible” that a short circuit in the arm line during a mid-air breakup of the aircraft “could” have resulted in a nuclear explosion. The switch was set to “arm”, and that despite decades of debate “No one will ever know” why the bomb failed to explode.
The second bomb was only one step away from detonation, citing a declassified report. They point out that the arm-ready switch was in the safe position, the high-voltage battery was not activated (which would preclude the charging of the firing circuit and neutron generator necessary for detonation), and the rotary switch was destroyed, preventing initiation of the X-Unit (which controlled the firing capacitors). The tritium reservoir used for fusion boosting was also full and had not been injected into the weapons primary core. This would have resulted in a significantly reduced yield and would not have ignited the weapon’s main charge.
“The Navy tried to excavate the second bomb, but flooding prevented it from fully doing so. Some uranium and plutonium is still left in the ground”.
“Only God knows why the Second Bomb did not go off”. [“Thank you God”]
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