A newly declassified document confirms that the U.S. Air Force “inadvertently dropped” atom bombs over Goldsboro, N.C., in 1961 when a B-52 broke apart in midair, The Guardian reports in an exclusive.
The 1969 document, released under the Freedom of Information Act, shows how close we came to disaster at the height of the Cold War. “It would have been bad news — in spades,” Parker F. Jones, the nuclear weapons safety supervisor at Sandia laboratories, notes in the document.
Nuclear fallout could easily have reached Pittsburgh or New York City.
The B-52 had taken off from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro on a routine flight up the East Coast, the Guardian says. The jet went into a tailspin, and the hydrogen bombs became separated: one fell into a tree in a field near Faro, the other dropped in a meadow.
Out of four safety mechanisms on the Faro bomb, three malfunctioned. “One simple, dynamo-technology, low voltage switch stood between the United States and a major catastrophe!” Jones writes.
Jones titled his secret report “Goldsboro Revisited or: How I learned to Mistrust the H-Bomb” after Stanley Kubrick’s movie. But the accident was no joke.
You can examine the document here.