Nuke That Fell Off B52 in 1961 Almost Exploded in North Carolina.

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Huntn, Sep 21, 2013.

  1. macrumors G3


    May 5, 2008
    The Misty Mountains
    Mod: The event is not a current one, but just reported. Is this in the right forum?


    Nukes, playing with the devil. What kind of national impact would that of had not to mention N.Carolina and the states that surround it?

  2. macrumors G5


    Aug 17, 2007
  3. macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    There is a clip on the BBC that talks about this incident\. Plus the 1000 other unreported 'Broken Arrows' - and a mention of an accident with an ICBM whose warhead had 3x the equivalent of the TNT dropped during the entire Second World War - including the A-Bombs on Japan.

    Scary indeed. We're lucky we got out of the Cold War at all. Keep in mind that if the US was having this number close calls - how many near-misses did the USSR have?

    Very Scary....
  4. localoid, Sep 22, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2013

    macrumors 68020


    Feb 20, 2007
    America's Third World
    A video from the Buckley Report, below, provides some details of the 1961 incident in North Carolina, with accounts by one of the pilots of the B-52, a member of the military who was part of the recovery team, and an eye witness to the crash.

    According to the video, one bomb ended up in pieces, and a section of the bomb (containing uranium) is still missing, so it's lost... err, somewhere ~180 ft. underground... :eek:

    As the video points out, the H-bomb mishap took place just 3 days after JFK was sworn into office...

    Goldsboro, NC is only about 250 air miles from Washington, DC., so the impact could potentially being huge...

    But hells bells... just the fallout from the nuclear tests conducted by the U.S. government had an national impact...

    Atmospheric bomb tests at the Nevada test site during the 1945-1963 time period caused the production of large amounts of long-lived radioactivity in the atmosphere which was distributed by high altitude winds over the USA and Canada and even world wide. A 1997 study by National Cancer Institute (NCI) indicated internal exposures to radioiodine-131 from fallout was the most serious health risk of the testing.

    Anyone living in the U.S. 1945-1963 received at least a 2 rad thyroid radiation exposure, with some people receiving up to 300 rads.

    Exposure of the American People to Iodine-131 from Nevada Nuclear-Bomb Tests ... (Google books preview)

    Attached Files:

  5. macrumors 68030


    Sep 3, 2011
    It is my understanding that a Nuclear bomb is triggered by compressing a fissile core with conventional explosives, which much be done is a very precise manor (not likely to happen on impact) in order to achieve critical mass.* Otherwise you just get a dirty bomb. (which, though still isn't good, is not nearly as destructive as properly detonated Nuke)

    *The detonation of fissile material in turn triggers a fusion reaction with the H-Bomb's namesake Hydrogen.
  6. macrumors 65816


    Sep 30, 2009
    I wonder if the typical nuke was even real, or a part of this strange game that goes on and on between countries.
  7. snberk103, Sep 24, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2013

    macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    My understanding from reading the linked article (and then the one it linked to) is that all the switches to trigger the conventional explosives turned on - except for last one. If that that last switch had worked properly then the conventional explosives would have compressed the fissile core as planned... i.e. in a very precise manner.
  8. macrumors 6502a


    Feb 10, 2012
    B'more or Less
  9. macrumors 65816


    Sep 30, 2009
    Another reason to wonder if they are mostly just duds.

    Also, consider how kind it would be not to kill millions of people just because you don't like their tax structure. Think of the Human Rights....
  10. EchoTheDolphin, Sep 28, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2013

    macrumors newbie

    May 3, 2010
    This is actually old news, just some details were revealed recently further describing the process. You should also be warned the guy who 'revealed' it is an anti-nuclear weapons activist to the extreme (IE: his viewpoint is that every nuclear weapon on earth is a hammerstrike away from causing armageddon)

    That having been said "one safety from going off" isn't as close as you might think. The process involved in that last safety is quite complex and impossible to deactivate by chance, requiring direct input from crew members and a coded unlock at the very least. The majority of the rest of the safeties were similar to what a fighter jet's missiles have on them, they're literal safeties in terms of keeping it inert and the engine from firing while it's on the ground.

    EDIT: Nuclear weapons are very complex, they can't just "go off" you could hammer on one all day, set it on fire, even set off explosives next to it and at the very worst you'll have the explosives inside go off and contaminate a moderate-sized area. Nuclear weapons required very, very, very precise detonations to occur in sequences measured unless than a microsecond, otherwise they're just conventional bombs that will spread radioactive material in a small area.

    Further reading: there have been quite a few "lost" bombs that results from crashed or damaged aircraft over the years. A surprising number in fact, due to nuclear physicist and scientists, in fact, being experts and thorough, not one of them has accidentally gone of, because it is, for all intents and purposes, impossible.
  11. macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    I think you may have missed the point of this particular story. I agree with you that nuclear weapons are designed so that in case they are accidentally dropped they will simply leave an impact crater of a large and heavy object dropped from a height. And most nuclear weapon accidents are simply that... a large inert object dropped from a height.

    In this particular case, though, the weapon was not inert. The triggering systems were not working to prevent a nuclear explosion. In this case the systems were doing everything they could to initiate the carefully controlled and precisely timed sequence of events that would blow that part of the continent to Kingdom Come.

    It doesn't really matter if that last switch failed to work, and therefore prevented the cataclysm (that it was designed for) through sheer good fortune - or whether it worked as designed and was the final and last safety. It was still far far too close.

    And I think, with all due respect, that you may be a bit too nonchalant about the rather nasty effects of a nuclear bomb that goes fizzle-blourp rather than ka-boom. Consider the impact of the radioactive leak at Fukushima that occurred inside a containment building against the widespread effects of a nuclear warhead vapourized by high-explosives and spread into the 4 winds of rural South Carolina. Spread across the farms, into the rivers, into the wind, across the Interstates, into the sea, and... upwind of several major urban areas. And consider that in those days they did not have the knowledge about the long-term impacts that we do now, nor the technology and expertise to deal with the contaminated materials.

    Imagine the long-term implications had the weapon gone off. IF the US and the USSR had not gone to war (through a misunderstanding) at that point the US would likely, imho, not have gone on and become a superpower. The nation would have had to divert massive amounts of resources to rebuilding and providing healthcare to hundreds of thousands of people, while the USSR continued building its empire. The American people would certainly have forced a slowdown in the militarization of the nation. And of course who knows how the lineage of Presidents would have unfolded from there.

    It would make a really good starting point for an alternative reality novel though, eh?
  12. Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    Kite flying
    Two excellent and thoughtful posts.

    A deeply disturbing - exceedingly unnerving - and rather thought provoking story. Having come across the story, I have followed it on the BBC.

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