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Not so fail-safe: Declassified documents confirm H-bomb close call

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Whew. That was a close one.

Declassified documents this week provide new details on the H-bombs that accidentally fell on Goldsboro, N.C., in January 1961, an incident that This Just In explored last year.

It was a scare that prompted Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to note that “by the slightest margin of chance, literally the failure of two wires to cross, a nuclear explosion was averted,” the National Security Archive reports.

If the two multi-megaton Mk 39 bombs had detonated, the fallout could have reached Pittsburgh or New York City.

When a B-52G broke up in mid-air near Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, according to a February 1961 report, the force of the impact started the fuzing sequence for both bombs.

Read more about the incident at the National Security Archives or here.

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