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US very nearly nuked itself in the 1960s


Posted on Sunday, 22 September, 2013 | Comment icon 40 comments


The nukes were dropped by accident over North Carolina. Image Credit: US Air Force

A newly declassified document has revealed that the US came very close to a major nuclear disaster.

Two hydrogen bombs were being carried by a B-52 bomber in 1961 when it went in to an uncontrolled spin over the state of North Carolina, dropping both bombs which proceeded to plummet towards the ground.

One of the two bombs landed without incident, but the second became active after interpreting its motion as a sign that it had been dropped as part of a live bombing operation. The device went through all of its arming mechanisms except for one and would have detonated if it hadn't been for a single low-voltage switch.

While the disaster itself has been officially acknowledged, this is the first time information has been released detailing how close the bomb was to exploding over American soil. Over 260 times more powerful than the bombs that were dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, if it had gone off the resulting detonation would have been truly disastrous.

"One simple dynamo-technology low voltage switch stood between the United States and a major catastrophe," wrote US government scientist Parker Jones. "It would have been bad news in spades."

   
Source: BBC News | Comments (40)

Tags: Nuclear


 
Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #31 Posted by Finity on 24 September, 2013, 21:37
"What do you mean whoops?"
Comment icon #32 Posted by Uncle Sam on 27 September, 2013, 21:32
Everything we do is prone to human error, to be honest, I am surprised we haven't been blown up as of yet by our own nukes considering the fact there will always be human error. Let's be honest, the government is doing a remarkable job of keeping those nukes safe compared to other countries.
Comment icon #33 Posted by Sundew on 2 October, 2013, 1:00
Not to mention off the coast of Georgia/South Carolina: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=18587608
Comment icon #34 Posted by cyclopes500 on 26 October, 2013, 10:49
I wonder if something like this happened at Roswell. Like a bomber or two struck in mid air by lightening, armed nuclear bombs on board, undercarriage problem, or collision in mid air perhaps with a top secret radar focusing metallic covered balloon of some sort etc. Plane(s) belly landed near base no detonations thank god. But what if I ask, if the thing had gone off? Say on the runway or after sliding into a hanger or above a bunker? OK a Plutonium warhead might not manage to develop a critical mass due to unequal "heat generated" detonation of explosive lenses, but a gun type uran... [More]
Comment icon #35 Posted by Rafterman on 26 October, 2013, 11:57
Do wha?
Comment icon #36 Posted by Ginko on 27 October, 2013, 1:34
My response as well.
Comment icon #37 Posted by Babe Ruth on 27 October, 2013, 13:43
Maybe I missed it, but have other countries lost control of their nukes? Israel denies they even possess them, but most everybody knows that's a lie. Some years back there was an incident where several nuclear weapons were flown around the country on a B-52 without the necessary paperwork and authorizations, so I'm not sure how remarkable our job is? Given that missing weapon in the Georgia/South Carolina area as Sundew mentioned, it seems "remarkable" might be the wrong word...
Comment icon #38 Posted by DarkHunter on 27 October, 2013, 21:16
If I remember correctly when the USSR broke up a decent amount of nuclear weapons went unaccounted for along with a rather large amount of enriched uranium and plutonium. Since the break up till now the vast majority of the missing weapons or material has been found but not all of it.
Comment icon #39 Posted by aquatus1 on 28 October, 2013, 0:08
Roswell was too low-key to have been anything. There is little use in a feint so subtle no one notices it.
Comment icon #40 Posted by Vigilanis on 28 October, 2013, 12:13
Certainly a scary thought, your OWN nuclear weapons free falling over your homeland...how many other accidents are awaiting to chill us over the past 30 years that have yet to be declassified and released under the freedom of information act :/


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