Oops: How the US Almost Nuked Itself

Bombs fell over North Carolina in 1961: book
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 16, 2013 10:34 AM CDT
Updated Sep 21, 2013 7:00 AM CDT
Oops: How the US Almost Nuked Itself
The US accidentally let loose atomic bombs over North Carolina in 1961, according to a new book.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – The author of Fast Food Nation is offering a little reminder of the danger of nuclear weapons: If things had gone just a little differently, the US could have blown up North Carolina—and taken much of the East Coast out too, thanks to the fallout. In 1961, Eric Schlosser writes in an upcoming book excerpted in Mother Jones, a B-52 bomber went haywire over the state, and a pair of hydrogen bombs fell out. They were each 250 times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. One of the bombs wasn't armed when it dropped, thanks to a failsafe, but the other one nearly exploded when its safety gear failed.

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"The arming wires were yanked out, and the bomb responded as though it had been deliberately released by the crew above a target," Schlosser writes in Command and Control, an investigation of US nuclear mishaps. "The bomb hit the ground, and the piezoelectric crystals inside the nose crushed. They sent a firing signal." Of course, the bomb didn't ultimately explode. The Air Force said there was never a chance it would have, but that's not true, Schlosser says. Today, Schlosser tells Mother Jones in an interview, we've forgotten about the danger of these weapons: They "are machines, and I think they are the most dangerous machines ever invented," he says. "And like every machine, sometimes they go wrong." The book is out tomorrow, the Raw Story reports. (Click to read about a woman who's been protesting nukes across from the White House ... for 32 years.)

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