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Anyone who has taken world history knows that American forces effectively destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs in 1945. One story you’ve most likely never heard is the near miss of a case of nuclear friendly fire over North Carolina in 1961.
On Jan. 24, 1961, a U.S. Air Force B-53 bomber was flying over North Carolina when its wing began breaking apart. Obviously, a plane breaking up mid-air is bad enough. What takes this story to a new level is the fact that this bomber was carrying two live nuclear bombs.
As the plane further broke apart, the two bombs broke away and began free falling toward the ground. By pure chance, and in two very different methods, the bombs miraculously avoided detonation and surefire destruction for the surrounding area.
Weapon 1, the bomb whose parachute opened, landed intact. Fortunately, the safing pins that provided power from a generator to the weapon had been yanked — preventing it from going off.
Weapon 2, the second bomb with the unopened parachute, landed in a free fall. The impact of the crash put it in the “armed” setting. Fortunately — once again — it damaged another part of the bomb needed to initiate an explosion.
If that isn’t enough to scare you, the bombs that fell onto North Carolina contained 190 and 380 times the explosive yield of the bombs dropped on Japan.
The MK39 bombs weighed 10,000 pounds and their explosive yield was 3.8 megatons. Compare that to the bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki: They were 0.01 and 0.02 megatons.
Just for shits and giggles–and pure, morbid curiosity–I used the Nukemap to determine what the damage a nuclear weapon that size would do to TFM’s home: Austin, Texas.
Be happy you’ve never heard this story. This is one that we’re lucky to not have in the history textbooks. We dodged a
Image via Wikipedia