Mar 7, 2014
When the Eastern Seaboard Nearly Became a Fallout Zone
Posted on Sep 20, 2013
A once-secret document published in The Guardian on Friday shows that the U.S. Air Force in the early 1960s came within inches of detonating an atomic bomb over North Carolina that would have exploded with 260 times the force of the device that destroyed Hiroshima.
The document, obtained by investigative journalist Eric Schlosser through a Freedom of Information Act request, conclusively shows that the U.S. narrowly escaped apocalypse-grade disaster when two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, N.C., on Jan. 23, 1961.
“The bombs fell to earth after a B-52 bomber broke up in mid-air, and one of the devices behaved precisely as a nuclear weapon was designed to behave in warfare: its parachute opened, its trigger mechanisms engaged, and only one low-voltage switch prevented untold carnage,” The Guardian reported.
“Each bomb carried a payload of 4 megatons—the equivalent of 4 million tons of TNT explosive,” the paper continued. “Had the device detonated, lethal fallout could have been deposited over Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and as far north as New York city—putting millions of lives at risk.”
Schlosser uncovered the document during research for his new book on the nuclear arms race, “Command and Control.” Through FOIA requests, he discovered at least 700 “significant” accidents and incidents involving 1,250 nuclear weapons recorded between 1950 and 1968 alone.
“The US government has consistently tried to withhold information from the American people in order to prevent questions being asked about our nuclear weapons policy,” The Guardian quotes the reporter as saying. “We were told there was no possibility of these weapons accidentally detonating, yet here’s one that very nearly did.”
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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