N. Carolina - Nuclear


1961 Goldsboro B-52 crash

From Wikipedia(View original Wikipedia Article)Last modified on 17 November 2010, at 04:04 
1961 Goldsboro B-52 crash

One of the nuclear weapons at Goldsboro, largely intact, with its parachute still attached
Accident summary
Date January 24, 1961
Type Structural failure
Site Faro, 12 miles (19 km) north ofGoldsboro, North Carolina
35.5123°N 77.8463°W
Crew 8
Fatalities 3
Survivors 5
Aircraft type B-52G
Operator Strategic Air CommandUnited States Air Force
Tail number 58-0187
Flight origin Seymour Johnson Air Force Base
Destination Seymour Johnson Air Force Base

The 1961 Goldsboro B-52 crash refers to an accident that occurred near Goldsboro, North Carolina, on 24 January 1961 when a B-52 Stratofortress carrying two nuclear bombs broke up in mid-air, dropping its nuclear payload in the process.[1][2]


1961 Goldsboro B-52 crash is located in North Carolina
Accident scene
North Carolina

The aircraft, a B-52G, was on a 24-hour "Coverall" airborne alert mission on the Atlantic seaboard. Around midnight on January 23/24, 1961, it rendezvoused with a tanker for mid-air refuelling. During the hook-up, the tanker crew advised the B-52 captain, Major W.S. Tullock, that his aircraft had a leak in its port wing fuel cell. The refuelling was broken off, and ground control notified of the problem. The aircraft was directed to assume a holding pattern off the coast until the majority of fuel was consumed. However when the B-52 reached its assigned position, the captain reported that leak had worsened and that 37,000 pounds (17,000 kg) of fuel had been lost in 3 minutes. The aircraft was immediately directed to land at Seymour Johnson Air Base. As it descended through 10,000 feet (3,000 m) on its approach to the airfield, the pilots were no longer able to keep the aircraft in trim and lost control. The captain ordered the crew toeject, which they did at 9,000 feet (2,700 m). The crew last saw the aircraft intact with its payload of two Mark 39 nuclear weapons onboard.[2]

The two nuclear weapons separated from the gyrating aircraft as it broke up between 10,000 feet (3,000 m) and 2,000 feet (610 m) feet. Five of the six arming devices on one of the bombs became activated, causing it to carry out many of the steps needed to arm itself, such as the charging of the firing capacitors and, critically, the deployment of a 100 feet (30 m) diameter retardation parachute. The parachute allowed the bomb to hit the ground with little damage. The wreckage covered a 2-square-mile (5.2 km2) area of tobacco and cotton farmland at Faro, near Goldsboro.

According to former military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, he saw highly classified documents indicating that the pilot’s safe/arm switch was the only one of the six arming devices on the bomb that prevented detonation.[1][3] The Pentagon claims that there was no chance of an explosion and that two switches remained unswitched. A DOD spokesperson told UPI reporter Donald May that the bomb was unarmed and could not explode.[3]

The second bomb plunged into a muddy field at around 700 miles per hour (310 m/s) and disintegrated.[4] The tail was discovered about 20 feet (6.1 m) below ground. Much of the bomb was recovered, including the tritium bottle and the plutonium. However, excavation was abandoned due to uncontrollable ground water flooding. Most of the thermonuclear stage, containing uranium, was left in situ. It is estimated to lie around 55 feet (17 m) below the surface. The Air Force purchased the land to prevent interference with the nuclear remnants.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Barry Schneider (May 1975). "Big Bangs from Little Bombs"Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: 28. Retrieved 2009-07-13.
  2. 2.0 2.1 James C. Oskins, Michael H. Maggelet (2008). Broken Arrow - The Declassified History of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Accidents. lulu.com.ISBN 1435703618. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Gary Hanauer (April 1981). "The Pentagon's Broken Arrows"Mother Jones Magazine: 28. Retrieved 2009-07-13.
  4. ? "Nuclear Mishap in Goldsboro"Broken Arrow: Goldsboro, NC (2000). Retrieved June 14, 2005.
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