Journalist uses Freedom of Information Act to disclose 1961 accident in which one switch averted catastrophe
The United States Air Force nearly detonated a nuclear bomb over North Carolina in 1961, the Guardian has revealed. The bomb which nearly went off carried a payload of 4 megatons, making it 260 times more powerful than the bomb used in Hiroshima. The report is based on a previously classified report
The document obtained by the investigative journalist Eric Schlosser under the Freedom of Information Act, gives the first conclusive evidence that the US was narrowly spared a disaster of monumental proportions when two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, North Carolina on 23 January 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.
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