Nuclear bomb nearly detonated after falling on North Carolina – declassified report

Reuters / U.S. NavyRT News

In a scenario that could’ve been extremely devastating, the United States narrowly averted a nuclear disaster in 1961 when an atomic bomb nearly detonated after falling out of a B-52 bomber that broke up in the sky.

According to the Washington Post, the incident took place on January 21, 1961 – less than 20 years after nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – and is explained further in a recently declassified report published by the National Security Archives.  

When the US Air Force aircraft went into a tailspin and broke up, the two bombs fell towards Goldsboro, North Carolina. The parachute for one of the weapons failed to deploy, and the plane crash had actually pushed the bomb into “armed” mode by the time it hit the ground. Luckily for North Carolina, the plane’s destruction also damaged the switch necessary to trigger detonation

“The report implied that because Weapon 2 landed in a free-fall, without the parachute operating, the timer did not initiate the bomb’s high voltage battery (“trajectory arming”), a step in the arming sequence,” wrote Bill Burr of the National Security Archives.

“For Weapon 2, the Arm/Safe switch was in the “safe” position, yet it was virtually armed because the impact shock had rotated the indicator drum to the “armed” position. But the shock also damaged the switch contacts, which had to be intact for the weapon to detonate.”

Burr noted in his report just how fine the line was and is between safety and destruction.

“Perhaps this is what Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had in mind, a few years later, when he observed that, ‘by the slightest margin of chance, literally the failure of two wires to cross, a nuclear explosion was averted,” he wrote.

U.S. Air Force B-52.(Reuters / Bobbi Zapka)

U.S. Air Force B-52.(Reuters / Bobbi Zapka)

These details are just the latest to surface about the incident, which was first revealed by nuclear weapons expert Eric Schlosser last year in a book titled, “Command and Control.” Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Schlosser was able to obtain documentation regarding the incident for the first time, and helped shed light on just how close the Air Force came to witnessing an atomic bomb explode on US soil.

As RT reported last year, the documents revealed that three of the four safety switches on the other bomb failed to work properly, meaning, as Schlosser noted, that only “one simple, dynamo-technology, low voltage switch stood between the United States and a major catastrophe.” The parachute on this one deployed, but when the bomb struck the ground the final firing signal triggered, only to be halted by that fourth safety switch.

The bombs contained a payload of four megatons each and could have generated explosions 260 times more powerful than the one that occurred in Hiroshima.

Before the documents related to the Goldsboro incident surfaced, the US government had denied that its nuclear weapons stockpile had ever put the nation at risk.

“The US government has consistently tried to withhold information from the American people in order to prevent questions being asked about our nuclear weapons policy,” Schlosser told the Guardian. “We were told there was no possibility of these weapons accidentally detonating, yet here’s one that very nearly did.”

11 thoughts on “Nuclear bomb nearly detonated after falling on North Carolina – declassified report

  1. I wonder what it is going to take(accident) or (not) before people get enough resolve to do away for good, all nuclear, radio active devices of all kinds…..My recall, is this was reported in the MSM… some point in time in the past….nuclear power plants have come close to major disasters right here in the US…Russia had their’s already….Nuclear subs have gone down to the ocean bottom for good…I remember the Thresher, US Nuc sub going down…russia I think has one down….Japan has its….(I think Planned by someone) yet ongoing disaster. and people just go on lamenting of what might be lost both in military terms and good civilian uses. Yet refusing to see the demise or near so of life itself on planet earth….due to the nuclear issue of people fiddling with nature…….Oh It Might Blow UP!! Well, I’ll be.
    Get rid of the damn things for good…………..How about living rather than not living………….sounds good to me……….

  2. first, it was luck and bad luck.
    the impact would have smashed it open and it may have exploded.
    they contain regular explosive as part of the detonator.

    i would be very surprised if the impact-site wasnt contaminated!

    also, these things happen a lot – relativly speaking.
    they also dropped atleast one into the water off the beach in spain,
    and they dropped one onto a street just beyond the runway of a base just outside of London u.k.
    and they had a plane go up in flames with several onboard on the runway of another base just outside of London u.k.

    and that’s just the ones i know about!

    1. yes a guest! Believe also, there was one dropped, unintended, off the coast of the eastern seaboard of the US…into the ocean..some time in the past….as you mentioned……….many, such near’s………….
      In my opinion, seems people just don’t make sense……………..In all honesty? what the hell are the things good for…………….
      In all honesty! Nothing..,..

  3. There was also an H-bomb dropped in the Savannah River in Savannah, Ga
    that the gov was unable to locate. This bomb was headed to Moscow
    to incinerate the city.

    1. my knowledge of the make up and mechanisms of an atomic bomb are……..I have to go research. cause i don’t know…I do think though, some are still armed and it’s possible for a nuclear explosion to occur long after an armament is lost………to accident. unless you or I check it out closely, it’s likely the authorities will not tell the truth on such matters…I just won’t worry about it!…..I do know….creating these rag tag monsters for a laugh or two….makes no sense…the US did not have to use them on Japan either. Japan had already given up……….what did we do…………Oh Boy Toys………….go do it anyway….

      1. there are two primary bomb designs.

        “compression” and “gun”

        in a “compression” type bomb, you have a strong metal sphere lined with plastic explosive & evenly spaced detonators.
        inside that is a sphere of fuel.

        when you fire the detonators the explosive compresses the fuel and it goes critical.

        if a detnoator fails the explosive will just burn from one side to the other distorting the shape of the fuel and blowing the casing open.
        scattering fuel all over the area.
        it has to go from all sides simultaniously.

        the “gun” type device uses a sphere of fuel with a hole in it mounted in a casing with a tube over the hole.
        at the other end of the tube is a “plug” of fuel that will fill the hole and complete the sphere so it goes critical.
        the plug is pushed down the tube into the core by an exposive charge behind it like a cannon.

        the gun design is more reliable, but also more bulky and has a higher potential for a false-detonation!

        1. thank you… mention here, if factors, such as decay over time, can also cause the detonation…..or factors of matter, energy, not factored into a bomb sitting, ready to go off….
          I don’t worry about it….it is a curiosity of my mind, though, of what later happens to a nuclear device rigged to blow up………obviously, the time line may be…………………………….well, one hell of a long one..

          1. long term exposure to radiation makes metal go britle and porous.
            it’s why nuclear reactors have a limited lifespan.
            usually 30years design – but they run them for 50 with crossed fingers!!!

            so any “lost” bomb is a serious problem in that it could be as dangerous to move it as to leave it.

            i dont know about age in relation to detonators or regular explosives.
            an antique gun collector or armouror may be able to answer that question.

  4. then what happens, a guest, when………”long term exposure of metal to radiation makes metal go brittle……….” is there for certain a nuclear explosion or just radiation for who knows how long, beginning at that point?

    1. a nuclear explosion is almost impossible.

      but it would make one hell of a “dirty bomb”
      specially if it was Plutonium and not Uranium based.

      if the casing breaks the fuel is exposed to the enviroment and contaminates the area.
      if the explosives go off, the fuel will be blown all over the damned place!

      even if you did get a nuclear detonation, if it was under the water you would just get an earthquake and a huge sunami.
      there are a few in history that have a nuclear “signature”
      fuk-us-shima was one,
      there was one that hit the u.s. coastline in the 60’s i think it was.
      it was a test to see if they could create a sunami, but the stupid bastards underestimated the size & nearly destroyed the coastline!!

      btw, i’m sure this thread has been flagged by you-know-who by now! LOL
      to hell with them.

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