Wonderful Engineering

This Is The Story Of How US Airforce Almost Blew Up North Carolina Accidentally

It wasn’t a good time in terms of accidental state damages for the U.S and kept on for almost a whole decade. “Starting from the 1950s till the 1960s.” We are not talking about typical state damages, which could have barred easily; we are talking about mishaps that occurred with nuclear weapons and nuclear warheads during the period. Most of these incidents were not harmful compared to what we could expect of an atomic grade accident; however, some were close calls, this being one of them.

It was the night of 23rd January 1961, a B-52 Stratofortress bomber flying over the Atlantic Ocean leaked its fuel supply tank. After the communication with the ground, they told them to steer towards Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. “The luck not being in favor of the crew, the aircraft crashed a little short to the base.” The crew lost control of the aircraft, “luckily, five out of the eight members were able to save themselves through parachute landing.”

It was carrying two 3.8 megaton Mark 39 thermonuclear weapons at the time of the accident. The plane broke off mid-air, and the nuclear warheads separated from the crash. Both warheads fell off at a distance of 12 km’s from the crash scene, one found was stuck in the branches of a tree as it’s parachute system worked, the other one crashed making 18 feet deep hole in the ground. Officials announced the nuclear core of the weapon was safe despite the crash.

A contradiction came out on the comparative analysis of risk involved in the incident. Information from a highly classified document stated that only one out of the seven arming switches was off, the rest were armed, and it was all ready to detonate, later on, they said “One simple, dynamo-technology, low voltage switch stood between the United States and a major catastrophe,”

Interestingly these thermal nuclear weapons were nearly 250 times stronger than what turned Hiroshima to dust. Almost seven hundred nuclear accidents involving 1250 nuclear weapons were reported worldwide only from 1950 through 1968.

Luck has been in favor of humankind as history doesn’t even mark a single occasion where an atomic weapon got detonated accidentally.