Saturday, 21 September 2013


Now then, Dmitri, you know how we've always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the Bomb... The *Bomb*, Dmitri... The *hydrogen* bomb!... Well now, what happened is... ahm...
...On January 23, 1961, a B-52 packing a pair of Mark 39 hydrogen bombs suffered a refueling snafu and went into an uncontrolled spin over North Carolina. In the cockpit of the rapidly disintegrating bomber (only one crew member bailed out safely) was a lanyard attached to the bomb-release mechanism. Intense G-forces tugged hard at it and unleashed the nukes, which, at four megatons, were 250 times more powerful than the weapon that leveled Hiroshima. One of them "failed safe" and plummeted to the ground unarmed. The other weapon's failsafe mechanisms—the devices designed to prevent an accidental detonation—were subverted one by one ...

... Just days after JFK was sworn in as president, one of the most terrifying weapons in our arsenal was a hair's breadth from detonating on American soil. It would have pulverized a portion of North Carolina and, given strong northerly winds, could have blanketed East Coast cities (including New York, Baltimore, and Washington, DC) in lethal fallout. The only thing standing between us and an explosion so catastrophic that it would have radically altered the course of history was a simple electronic toggle switch in the cockpit, a part that probably cost a couple of bucks to manufacture and easily could have been undermined by a short circuit.
Kind of puts Fukushima into perspective. Fukishima made the headlines, spooked some important people and had consequences. The important facts about the Goldsboro incident were kept secret for decades and, judging by the numbers in this graph, the people in charge really did learn to to stop worrying and love The Bomb.