Two Atomic Bombs Were Dropped on North Carolina

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posted on Sep, 10 2008 @ 01:19 PM
Fortunately, no atomic bombs were dropped on the Moon, but the same can't be said of North Carolina. The Tar Heel State's brush with nuclear catastrophe came on January 24, 1961, about half past midnight. A B-52 with two nukes on-board was cruising the skies near Goldsboro and Faro when its right wing leaked fuel and exploded. The jet disintegrated. Five crewmen survived, while three died.

The two MARK 39 thermonuclear bombs disengaged from the jet. Each one had a yield of two to four megatons (reports vary), up to 250 times as powerful as the bomb that decimated Hiroshima. The parachute opened on one of them, and it drifted to earth relatively gently. But the parachute failed to open on the other, so it plowed into a marshy patch of land owned by a local farmer.

The nuke with the parachute was recovered easily. However, its twin proved much more difficult to retrieve. Because of the swampiness of the area, workers were able to drag out only part of the bomb. One of its most crucial components — the "secondary," which contains nuclear material — is still in the ground, probably around 150 feet down.

The federal government bought rights to this swatch of land to prevent any owners from digging more than five feet under the surface. To this day, state regulators test the radiation levels of the ground water in the area every year. The head of the North Carolina Division of Radiation
Protection has said that they've found only normal levels but that "there is still an open question as to whether a hazard exists."

The big question is whether or not North Carolina's own Fat Man and Little Boy could've actually detonated. Due to the technicalities of nuclear weapons — and the ambiguous nature of the terms "unarmed," "armed," and "partially armed" — it's hard to give a definitive answer. We do know this: The Defense Department said that the ill-fated B-52 was part of a program (since discontinued) that continuously kept nuclear bombs in the air, ready for dropping. So, the answer is yes, that jet was fully capable of unleashing its A-bombs in completely armed mode, with all
that this implies — mushroom clouds, vaporized people, dangerous radiation levels for decades, etc.

According to the late Chuck Hansen — one of the world's leading authorities on nuclear weapons — the pilot of the B-52 would've had to throw a switch to arm the bombs. Since he didn't, the bombs couldn't have gone off. Hansen mentions the possibility that the switch could've been activated while the jet was breaking apart and exploding. Luckily this didn't
happen, but it was a possibility.

That switch apparently was the only thing that stopped the bombs from turning part of North Carolina into toast. The government's own reports show that for both bombs, three of the four arming devices had activated. Former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara further corroborated this during a press conference, saying that the nukes "went through all but one" of the necessary steps.

Hansen told college students researching this near-miss:This was a very dangerous incident and I suspect that steps were taken afterwards toprevent any repetition of it. I do not now know of any other weapon accident that came thisclose to a full-scale nuclear detonation (which is not to say that any such incident did not occur later).

[edit on 10-9-2008 by Grock]

posted on Sep, 10 2008 @ 01:24 PM
Freaky. I can't begin to imagine how this would have changed history. I was born in Ohio in '81, but I live near Raleigh, NC now. This whole area could have been wasteland. And TWO of them potentially going off? That would have been really. really. bad.

posted on Sep, 11 2008 @ 02:46 AM
and thats not the only one, ive got plenty more where this comes from.

imagine this over YOUR neighborhood....

posted on Sep, 11 2008 @ 11:26 AM
Yes, there have been quite a few BROKEN ARROW incidents. My personal favorite occurred in New Mexico on 22 May 1957.

The crew of af Convair B-36J from Biggs Air Force Base, Texas, was transporting a Mk.17 H-bomb to Kirtland Air Force Base at Albuquerque. At 24.67 feet long, 5.11 feet in diameter and weighing 42,000 pounds the Mk.17 was the largest and most powerful bomb ever deployed by the U.S. Only the B-36 was capable of carrying the weapon, which could be fused for air or contact burst. Designed by Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory to use lithium hydride, the Mk.17 was a two-stage, solid-fueled thermonuclear bomb. The weapon had a design yield of between 10 and 15 megatons of TNT. For safety reasons, the nuclear capsule had been removed from the primary stage of the Mk.17 prior to transport. Without the capsule in place, no nuclear detonation could occur even if the high-explosives were to detonate. This Mk.17, one of 200 built, was being taken to Kirtland for modifications to the fusing mechanism.

Maj. Donald Heran was listed as the aircraft commander. Capt. Richard Meyer was the mission pilot. Maj. Heran requested that 1st Lt. Robert Karp look after the weapon. Karp’s primary responsibility was to lock and unlock the weapon shackle-release system as required during the mission. Heran determined that Karp was current and proficient in all duties he would have to perform in the bomb bay and was satisfied that he was up to the task.

After departure from Biggs, Karp entered the bomb bay and inserted the locking pin into the bomb-release mechanism. This safety device would prevent an accidental drop of the weapon, even if the release handle were pulled. Standard operating procedures called for removal and stowage of the pin prior to landing. With the pin removed, the weapon could then be jettisoned, if necessary, using an electrical or manual system. The manual release was available in the event of an electrical release system failure. If an emergency, such as engine failure or fire, made continued presence of the weapon onboard a hazard to the crew or local populace, the Mk.17 could be dropped (preferably over an unpopulated area). Karp, having installed the pin, returned to the aft cabin for the remainder of the short flight to Albuquerque.

As the B-36 climbed to altitude, its long fuselage twisted and groaned in response to turbulence. This “oil can” effect, a result of the flexible structure of the B-36 airframe, was quite common. Flexing of the fuselage may have taken up some of the slack in the Mk.17’s manual release cable.

Approaching Albuquerque, Maj. Heran received clearance to land on Runway 27 at Kirtland. The crew began descent procedures and completed the landing checklists. As Meyer maneuvered the B-36 into the downwind leg at an altitude of 1,700 feet, Karp opened his access hatch and entered the bomb bay. It was 11:50 a.m. when Karp reached out across the top of the Mk.17 and grasped the locking pin. It came out easily with no unusual pressure or stress.

Then approximately 20 seconds after the pin came free, the Mk.17 suddenly and without warning dropped from its sling through the closed bomb bay doors. Karp watched in shock and amazement as the bomb plummeted toward the desert floor. The great green monster wobbled for a few seconds before its 64-foot-diameter, yellow mesh deceleration chute deployed.

The Mk.17 fell nose first into a cow pasture several miles south of the Kirtland control tower. Its parachute, designed only to slow the weapon until the delivery aircraft had departed, did not provide for a soft landing. The weapon’s high-explosive components detonated on impact, shattering the Mk.17. Fragments of the bomb casing and components were ejected as the explosion excavated a 12-foot-deep, 25-foot-wide crater in the desert floor. Some shrapnel flew nearly a mile. Although the nuclear capsule from the primary was still safely aboard the B-36, fissionable materials from the other two stages (as well as contaminated non-nuclear components) were dispersed. According to one account, a cow grazing nearby was killed by flying debris.

Members of the 2700th Explosive Ordinance Disposal Squadron from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, inspected the impact site. A radiological survey of the impact area disclosed no radioactivity beyond the lip of the crater, at which point the level was 0.5 milliroentgens/hour. This is 25 times the natural background radiation. By comparison, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average person receives between 35 and 50 milliroentgens each year just from the sun. Cleanup crews removed most of the radioactive and other debris, concentrating on fissionable materials and sensitive components. Bulldozers pushed surrounding soil into the crater and graded the surface flat.

The Air Force was quick to allay the public’s fears. In spite of a civilian pilot’s eyewitness report that the explosion was “a damn good one,” an Air Force spokesman from Kirtland insisted that the bomb caused “only a small explosion and no property damage.” The spokesman added that it was a high explosive detonation of a “service bomb.” In fact, the Air Force “categorically denied that it was any type of nuclear weapon,” according to newspaper reports.

The accident investigation focused initially on whether Lt. Karp could have somehow activated the manual release mechanism. He was ultimately exonerated by the investigating board, which found that Karp had committed no procedural violations but may have inadvertently triggered the release due to a mechanical fault in the system. Flexing of the fuselage during flight, or inadvertent crew contact with the release, may have resulted in release of the weapon once the locking pin was removed.

I interviewed Meyer and Karp and visited the impact site on several occasions. Some years ago, I helped the Center For Land Use Interpretation place a historical marker at the site but the sign was later stolen.

posted on Sep, 11 2008 @ 12:24 PM
Wow that's some scary stuff. Thanks for the enlightment, amazing the things you dont know about sometimes.

posted on Sep, 11 2008 @ 01:06 PM
now THAT is one crazy story. id like to compile a list of every incident of this type, but i think i may scare myself witless if i do...

posted on Sep, 11 2008 @ 01:33 PM
When SAC (Strategic Air Command) was first up and running. The average tonnage of Nuclear Bombs carried in B-36 and B-47 and later B-52 was in the area of 2000 Megatons each and every day 24/7 till the late 60's. It was part of the NORAD plans in case the Soviet Bear decided to come over the top and play. Out of all those aircraft flying all that time, remarkable few accedents have taken place. Almost all have been rectified. A few haven't ! That part is not acceptable.


posted on Sep, 12 2008 @ 02:22 AM
Theres still some live bombs out there, ill mention them in the next thread i do on this subject.

posted on Sep, 14 2008 @ 07:52 AM
Savannah River, GA B-47

posted on Oct, 13 2008 @ 08:47 PM
Ive been talking to coworkers and students of mine lately and im very surprised at how little people know of these incidents, let alone just how 'commonplace' they seem to be...

posted on Oct, 13 2008 @ 08:51 PM
Boy that could be some kind of crazy Clancy-esque novel... some terroist group recovers an undetonated nuke before the military can recover it...

posted on Dec, 3 2008 @ 02:59 AM
one it takes more then flipping a switch to arm a nuke.
you have to have a code and it has to be entered into the weapon by two people.

this can be done from the cockpit of the aircraft.
on some nuke weapons there is a second part that must be done and that is one of the explosive lens must be moved into place in the weapon for it to be armed.
this also can be done from the cockpit with a special code.

all this is done so that the chance of a weapon going off by accident is below .0000001%

if i see a nuke mushroom i know it was not a accident.
From the very first nuclear weapons built, safety was a consideration. The two bombs used in the war drops on Hiroshima and Nagasaki posed significant risk of accidental detonation if the B-29 strike aircraft had crashed on takeoff. As a result, critical components were removed from each bomb and installed only after takeoff and initial climb to altitude were completed. Both weapons used similar arming and fuzing components. Arming could be accomplished by removing a safety connector plug and replacing it with a distinctively colored arming connector. Fuzing used redundant systems including a primitive radar and a barometric switch. No provision was incorporated in the weapons themselves to prevent unauthorized use or to protect against misappropriation or theft.

In later years, the United States developed mechanical safing devices. These were later replaced with weapons designed to a goal of less than a 1 in a 1 million chance of the weapon delivering more than 4 pounds of nuclear yield if the high explosives were detonated at the single most critical possible point. Other nations have adopted different safety criteria and have achieved their safety goals in other ways.

In the 1950’s, to prevent unauthorized use of U.S. weapons stored abroad, permissive action links (PALs) were developed. These began as simple combination locks and evolved into the modern systems which allow only a few tries to arm the weapon and before disabling the physics package should an intruder persist in attempts to defeat the PAL.

Safing To ensure that the nuclear warhead can be stored, handled, deployed, and employed in a wide spectrum of intended and unintended environmental and threat conditions, with assurance that it will not experience a nuclear detonation. In U.S. practice, safing generally involves multiple mechanical interruptions of both power sources and pyrotechnic/explosive firing trains. The nuclear components may be designed so that an accidental detonation of the high explosives is intrinsically unable to produce a significant (>4 pounds TNT equivalent) nuclear yield; it is simpler to insert mechanical devices into the pit to prevent the assembly of a critical mass into the pit or to remove a portion of the fissile material from inside the high explosives. Mechanical safing of a gun-assembled weapon is fairly straightforward; one can simply insert a hardened steel or tungsten rod across a diameter of the gun barrel, disrupting the projectile. All U.S. weapons have been designed to be intrinsically one-point safe in the event of accidental detonation of the high explosives, but it is not anticipated that a new proliferator would take such care.

Arming Placing the nuclear warhead in a ready operational state, such that it can be initiated under specified firing conditions. Arming generally involves mechanical restoration of the safing interrupts in response to conditions that are unique to the operational environment (launch or deployment) of the system. A further feature is that the environment typically provides the energy source to drive the arming action. If a weapon is safed by inserting mechanical devices into the pit (e.g., chains, coils of wire, bearing balls) to prevent complete implosion, arming involves removal of those devices. It may not always be possible to safe a mechanically armed device once the physical barrier to implosion has been removed.

Fuzing To ensure optimum weapon effectiveness by detecting that the desired conditions for warhead detonation have been met and to provide an appropriate command signal to the firing set to initiate nuclear detonation. Fuzing generally involves devices to detect the location of the warhead with respect to the target, signal processing and logic, and an output circuit to initiate firing.

Firing To ensure nuclear detonation by delivering a precise level of precisely timed electrical or pyrotechnic energy to one or more warhead detonating devices. A variety of techniques are used, depending on the warhead design and type of detonation devices.

Depending on the specific military operations to be carried out and the specific delivery system chosen, nuclear weapons pose special technological problems in terms of primary power and power-conditioning, overall weapon integration, and operational control and security.

Not all weapons possessors will face the same problems or opt for the same levels of confidence, particularly in the inherent security of their weapons. The operational objectives will in turn dictate the technological requirements for the SAFF subsystems. Minimal requirements could be met by surface burst (including impact fuzing of relatively slow moving warhead) or crude preset height of burst based on simple timer or barometric switch or simple radar altimeter. Modest requirements could be met by more precise HOB (height of burst) based on improved radar triggering or other methods of measuring distance above ground to maxmize radius of selected weapons effects, with point-contact salvage fuzing. Parachute delivery of bombs to allow deliberate laydown and surface burst. Substantial requirements could be met by variable HOB, including low-altitude for ensured destruction of protected strategic targets, along with possible underwater or exoatmospheric capabilities.

[edit on 3-12-2008 by ANNED]

posted on Dec, 3 2008 @ 03:22 AM
reply to post by ANNED

Yhea - everyone would love to believe it's all that complicated!

But check this out
right up till the 1990's all you needed to arm a (British) nuke was a single key - very similar to one you might lock your bicycle up with!

There are no codes,” former nuclear engineer Brian Burnell explains to a BBC reporter, as they stand around a “training version” of a WE.177 nuclear bomb. “You need access to the arming panel, and for that, just a strong fingernail or screwdriver would do.

Once you’ve opened the panel up, you only need “one key — rather similar to a bicycle lock key…Turn it 90 degrees to the right, and the bomb’s armed.”
link 1 link 2

Now I happen to know that if you can get hold of the same model of lock as the one on the nuke (store room any one?) it is fairly straight forward to re work it to make a kind of universal key for all similar locks (and yes I have seen this demonstrated by a vending machine company employee

I wonder how many nukes us Brits have misplaced over the years?? Mind you there are a couple of considerations, 1) we don't have nearly as many 2) we only deliver ours from subs (no land or air delivery) so that adds a lot of security... Still bloody thankful they've upgraded that one!

posted on Dec, 4 2008 @ 08:04 PM
That reminds me of another thread of mine -

During The Cold War, The Code To Unlock Nuclear Missiles Was "00000000" -

posted on Dec, 6 2008 @ 12:39 AM
Lots of nukes were detonated on/over/under Nevada. Maybe that explains that mutant Harry Reid. His childhood home was within the blast radius of Atomic Annie.

posted on Dec, 6 2008 @ 02:12 AM
Any NC ATS'ers wanna grab some shovels and roll out

posted on Dec, 24 2008 @ 12:11 PM
reply to post by Shadowhawk
Wow some serious nuclear accidents. I know that this is not funny but hahaha, only one cow killed by the largest nuclear bomb. It would not have been funny if it did explode as designed for war use.

posted on Jun, 12 2014 @ 07:02 PM
So the MSM just now is reporting about this?? LOL sure does take them awhile, I found this to be a great read and can't even fathom what would have happened in the Cold War if one had went off.

posted on Jun, 17 2014 @ 05:09 PM
....and I'd be worried if all safety protocols had failed...which they didn't. I can't even begin to describe my surprise that a reputable news company like Fox who has NEVER resorted to fear mongering would post something shocking like this

oh wait...Fox News

that's right the fear mongering and such IS real

look folks. I am not saying we shouldn't concern ourselves but two facts are apparent

1. They didn't detonate

2. The Mk39-2 had more safety systems then Schlosser will admit to because Fox or as I like to call the Shocks News like's their doom

so-called stray voltage, which does exist, is not enough to detonate a nuclear weapon. X-Units need a great deal of power to arm switches and solenoids to prepare for detonation. Beyond that, the safety setup in bombs post-WWII and post-1950 from Sandia were more complex. Triple redundancy turned into multiple redundancy. Simply dropping the bomb that passed "5 out of 6" measures doesn't equate to detonation danger

Beyond those "5 of 6 steps" were several more steps to arm, prepare and detonate a MK39 and other like weapons. These 'experts' are shock, doom and gloom

we were fine

again...let's not put words in my mouth. I am not saying it is impossible for a nuke to detonate through an accident but the probability is astronomically low and it takes more than a few steps to vaporize a city

Personally my job was W78, W87 and MK-12A but it's pretty easy in the appropriate circle to talk to MK39 technicians. The real danger here is if this would have landed on someone's head

THAT has actually happened. People have had trainer bombs dropped through their roof...yikes

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