North Carolina January 11, 2017
This Is The Single Craziest Thing You Never Knew Happened In North Carolina
While today, we enjoy North Carolina for its beautiful mountains, great beaches, diverse culture, and historical landmarks – what if I told you some 55 years ago North Carolina and the southeast were almost completely obliterated? On a fated day in late January, Goldsboro, North Carolina was almost nuked in catastrophic destruction.
On January 24th 1961, a B-52 Stratofortress was carrying two 3-4 megaton Mark 39 nuclear bombs until something went wrong.
The aircraft was based in Goldsboro at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. During a refueling, the aircraft commander, Major Walter Scott Tulloch, was notified there was a fuel leak in the right wing. The refueling ended and the aircraft was directed a holding pattern off the coast until the majority of fuel was consumed.
When the B-52 reached its assigned position, the pilot reported the leak was becoming worse with 37,000 pounds of fuel lost in just three minutes. As directed, the B-52 and its crew headed back to Seymour Johnson. About 12 miles from Goldsboro, over cotton and tobacco farmland in Faro, the pilots were no longer able to keep the aircraft trim and lost control. All crew was ordered to eject at 9,000 ft. Five men were able to land safely while one died in the landing and two died in the crash. As the plane plummeted to the ground, it broke apart thus releasing the two nukes on board.
At around 1,000 - 2,000 ft. the two nukes broke apart from the aircraft. Three of four arming mechanisms activated on one of the bombs and a parachute was deployed for a smooth landing (luckily). The other bomb plummeted into a muddy field at 700 mph. The bomb was partially armed when being deployed but a high-voltage switch prevented it from fully arming.
The first bomb was recovered and found upright thanks to the parachute. The excavation of the second bomb was abandoned due to groundwater flooding. The "pit" (core) of the bomb had been dislodged while the thermonuclear stage, containing uranium and plutonium, was left in place.
While a possible nuclear detonation is terrifying, it wasn't until after that things really got interesting with unclear information presented to the public as recently as 2013. After the crash, the Pentagon claimed there was no chance of an explosion as safe switches were activated. A spokesperson for United States Department of Defense also claimed the bomb was unarmed and could not explode.
As the years went on, questions arose on the validity of these claims. It wasn't until 2013 that information released due to Freedom of Information Act stated the bomb did not detonate thanks to a single switch released out of six. This proved many right: North Carolina had been dangerously close to being completely decimated by a bomb that had 250 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb with a 8.5 mile radius of a 100% kill zone. In a now declassified document by Parker F. Jones, he states in "Goldsboro Revisited" that "One simple, dynamo-technology, low voltage switch stood between the United States and a major catastrophe."
Wow, how insane is that. Had you heard of this before?
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