A recently released document, obtained by Reefer Madness author and investigative journalist Eric Scholsser, explains that an armed nuclear weapon nearly detonated over Goldsboro, North Carolina, in January of 1961.
The weapon, which apparently fell to Earth when the aircraft carrying it broke apart in midair, carried a payload of 4 megatons; enough to have made the resulting blast roughly 260 times the force of the bombs that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.
Schlosser’s find was one of many he plans to examine in his latest book, Command and Control. “I’ve spent six years in the most crazy nuclear shit imaginable,” he recently told The Guardian. “That at times made me question mankind. But I really do believe things can be done. I wouldn’t have written this book if I thought we were doomed.”
In truth, the Old North State is only one of many locations where the U.S came damned close to leveling parts of rural America, as well as parts of other countries around the world, with unplanned incidents that could have easily turned deadly:
South Carolina, 1958: An incident near the town of Mars Bluff involved a Mark 6 atom bomb that was accidentally dropped into a family’s backyard
North Carolina, 1961: A pair of hydrogen bombs “with a combined power of more than 500 Hiroshimas” fell into a meadow near Goldsboro after a B-52 broke up in mid air.
Spain, 1966: A similar incident involving an impaired B-52 over the coast of Spain resulted in a hydrogen bomb much like ones that landed in North Carolina five years earlier to be accidentally dropped. The bomb was eventually found and recovered from the ocean bed where it had landed.
Arkansas, 1980: During routine work on a Titan II missile, the projectile exploded in its silo. However, the missile had been fitted with a thermonuclear warhead 600 times the strength of Hiroshima. The explosion launched the warhead into a ditch, but did not detonate the weapon.
While these mishaps are hard to handle, there’s also the terrifying potential for nature to intervene in unexpected ways. In a non-U.S. related incident in June of 2002, a 32-foot asteroid exploded over the Mediterranean ocean during the height of nuclear tensions between Pakistan and India. A blast that would have essentially been identical to a presumed first-strike could have occurred, if the asteroid had entered Earth’s atmosphere only hours earlier, causing the resulting blast to occur over south Asia, rather than the Mediterranean. While most would view natural meteorological phenomenon to be an unlikely instigator of nuclear war, such natural near-misses, in the heat of tensions around the world, could easily lead to confusion, and thus, provoke unwarranted attacks.
Of course, it goes without saying that with the obvious “surprise” blast of a meteor that occurred over Russia’s Urals earlier this year, it is apparent that potentially devastating blasts resulting from space rocks are quite capable of taking us by surprise.
Indeed, the old expression “too close for comfort” may come to mind here, and any of the selected incidents above would have to fall under the damned uncomfortable category.