Nearly Nuked 1 - Insane Luck and Nuclear Mishaps; Declassified with Source Links
1961: the phrase OMG coined near Goldsboro NC at this site.
I'm an 80's Child so I Knew that 100 ICBMS Were Pointed Opposite My Location-
...On both sides of Superman's icy lair. The very real threat was present. Growing up during the Cold War, it was a simple time with an uncertain future. Things weren't quite "black and white" but they were blue and red. The red Commie bastards were the Evil Empire of real life, and we had a Blessed Cowboy Hero of a President who knew it, and how to handle those Stalinist Imperials. The USSR were, as we were instructed, bad for many reasons, but very, very bad most of al for being dangerously ambitious about their ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation.
I was too young to be mindful of the threat the way it was when they had bomb shelters on every block and the oft-ridiculed school drill of hiding under your desk from a nuke to "duck and cover" (which is like closing your eyes to protect yourself from harm in a MMA title-bout). It's not gonna work, but dang if you aren't going to do it anyway!
Back then enough of us lived out in the country who didn't have cable which meant we all tended to watch the same shows at the same time. I remember the miniseries "the Day After" and the depiction of the initial blast wave of light. I was a horrified little kid, watching the people on TV see the bones of their hands before their face right through closed eyelids. Worse, people closer to the plast got incinerated to ash and blown away in an instant.
Little did I know... I could have been watching "History's Worst Disasters" or "The Mysterious Blast Beginning WW3". I'd also be dead, or unborn, or what have you. Anywho...
My Articles Are Free of Profanity...
Do realize the number of curse words I could use describing what almost went down? These were hydrogen bombs, ladies and gentlemen! Hiroshima was an atomic firecracker compared to these. A million people almost got barbecued by friendly fire in a Cold War inside their own borders, inside their own backyards! Worse, a mushroom cloud in NC in those days would have not been the end of that particularl bad day. No, it would have only stirred things up a bit. Imagine how flipping confused 1961 America would have been. Even reasonable people like JFK would likely think the Pinko Commie Bastards did it. Those Soviet wierdos were freakish bastards from Stalin down to the Trololo guy. Imagine the embarrassment in the explanation by our Government, if they indeed realized the mistake, and actually came clean about it immediately. Let's go to the land of make believe, children! (I'd be a great speechwriter for the next Presiden, but no, I decline.)
"My fellow citizens, I know stuff's mucked up right now in one of the Carolinas. Don't get me started on Marylan. Washington D.C., no party either. No sleep 'till Brooklyn. At least things are no worse in Jersey, for the first time ever!
*Laughter* I hate New Jersey... But I hate what happened in the one Carolina even more!
Soviet scumbags say we nuked ourselves. Do you believe what they are telling you about it? Do you really believe, honestly, what these lying red Soviet sons of guns said while pointing countless nukes at us? That we must've done it, because they are innocent? And they are saying it wasn't a mistake, unless it was our mistake?
Crowd rages in fervor...
Well uh, they are right. Rest assured, we did it! Whoops! And are we glad to know those Red Commie Pinkos didn't do it, WE DID IT TO OURSELVES... so no evil intentions. Only by accident, of course. It's an opportunity to get better and learn something. God Bless The 49 or so United States."
*Wait for Applause*
Yeah, I know you're relieved. Live and learn! JFK out"
Not a Textbook Lesson
God did bless America that day. Despite ape-like piss-poor incompetence, the trusting citizens shucking corn and whistling dixie down there enjoyed their country music and chitlins without suddenly turning into a haboob.
Funny how I didn't learn about this in any textbook or lesson in school. Heck, my college Professors, some of them hated the USA and even they didn't talk about this. They didn't know about it, or didn't have evidence like we have now. Sure it's dirty laundry. But this is the thing Congressional Inquiries were made for! I'd expect both Senators from NC in '61 should have been upset about what happened. The Representative of the district where they fell should have been even more upset, he'd have lost his job because every single citizen above ground that day wouldn't have had a vote in '62.
Goldsboro, North Carolina nearly nuked, did you know that?
It's difficult to convey how one crashing B-52 almost set off history's worst disaster. Not one, but two armed hydrogen bombs fell from the crashing plane.
One MK-39 fell 3/5 armed luckily crashed just hard enough for the live detonator to malfunction... and just soft enough at impact preventing "fusion".
5/6 arming sequences activated on the other MK-39 but the 6th final arming mechanism was set to "safe" on this one, and stayed intact just barely.
Thus ended a series of unfortunate events just short of the biggest single disaster since the last plague. One parachute opened and one did not. Just that one fact needs consideration. What if...
- Neither parachutes open - one nuke detonates, the other partially detonates leaving a radioactive mess of uninhabitable land covering a dozen counties, maybe more. Bad.
- Both parachutes open - the other bomb detonates to similar effect, possibly detonating the other bomb near ground level. Worse.
- One parachute opens but it's the other bomb - both bombs detonate, one at ground level and the other at altitude - widespread destruction with electromagnetic pulse (EMP) destroying electronics for a hundred miles in every direction. Worst!
Mild Aftermath - Armed Nuke Ground Zero
Yeah, look, a black and white photo!
Yes it was a long time ago. But when did incompetence depart from the Federal Government? I don't remember that happening. If we can't control digital secrets of our own NSA, even after Edward Snowden raises the alarm in a dramatic way, then what makes us think we can relax about all these nukes flying around in planes overhead and who knows where else?
I wonder what the scope is of the number of similar blunders such as the one in Goldsboro? Either way, the scope of the accident that didn't happen is just huge... just look at the map I made from the report data (below). If the weaker bomb blew at ground level, the area destroyed or damaged by radiation is shown in red. If the stronger, or both bombs detonated at altitude, the area in black would have been damaged, and much of the area in red would have been destroyed.
Whoops, I guess they shouldn't have been armed!
© 2014 Doug DeWalt