Air Force H-bomb disaster averted in 1961, thanks to single switch
A newly declassified document confirms that the Air Force “inadvertently dropped” hydrogen bombs over North Carolina in 1961 and that a single switch prevented a nuclear disaster, Britain's the Guardian reported on Saturday.
Two bombs were on board a B-52 from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro on a patrol of the East Coast at the height of the Cold War. When the plane went into an uncontrolled spin, both bombs fell, and one began the detonation process.
If it had exploded, the blast would have been 260 times more powerful than the bomb that fell on Hiroshima with fallout reaching as far north as Pittsburgh or New York City.
“It would have been bad news — in spades,” Parker F. Jones, a government scientist at Sandia laboratories, wrote in the 1969 document, released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The unarmed bomb dropped in a meadow, but the second “assumed it was being deliberately released over an enemy target and went through all its arming mechanisms save one, and very nearly detonated over North Carolina,” journalist Eric Schlosser, who requested the document, told the BBC.
Out of four safety mechanisms, three malfunctioned. ”One simple, dynamo-technology, low voltage switch stood between the United States and a major catastrophe!” Jones wrote.
The bomb fell into a tree in a field near Faro.
Schlosser said he discovered that at least 700 “significant” accidents and incidents involving 1,250 nuclear weapons were recorded between 1950 and 1968.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Social media being used to help catch British terrorist who killed Foley
- Peruvian nurse cares for 175 terminally ill cats
- N. Korea aims for Kerry’s jaw as string of insults continues
- Neanderthals, humans may have mingled, study finds
- Hamas insists terrorist leader still alive despite Israeli barrage
- Landslide in Japan leaves dozens dead
- Ukrainian troops regaining control
- Liberian slum sealed off as Ebola deaths mount
- Bombed factories in Gaza raise ire
- U.S. comments critical of Israel
- Israel, Gaza militants trade fire after talks fail