On January 23rd/24th 1961 around midnight a B-52G bomber was scheduled to do an aerial refueling. The bomber was based at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro and was carrying two 3-4 megaton Mark 39 nuclear bombs. When the bomber was hooking up to the tanker the aircraft commander Major Walter Scott Tulloch noticed that the plane had a fuel leak in the right wing. The refueling was brought to a halt so that ground control could be notified and the men could figure out what to do.
Ground control told the B-52 to maintain a holding position off the coast until most of the fuel was used up. Yet the size of the leak was greatly underestimated and while it only took 3 minutes to reach the designated holding position 37,000 pounds of fuel had already been lost. Ground control then told the pilots to immediately return and land back at Seymour Air Force Base.
The crew directed the aircraft back toward base. When they began their descent to 10,000 feet things went wrong. The pilots were unable to keep the plane in trim and completely lost control. The pilot in command of the craft told all crew to eject at 9,000 feet. Five of the men survived, two died on the aircraft and one died after bailing out. As the surviving crew steadily fell toward the ground they reported seeing the plane intact.
However, it did not remain that way for long. The plane broke apart before impact and released the two hydrogen thermonuclear bombs that it had been carrying. The plane was somewhere around 1,000 to 2,000 feet when it broke apart and the wreckage of the plane was found 12 miles north of Goldsboro. Each bomb had four different arming mechanisms and while one bomb did not arm at all, the other had three of the mechanisms activate. As the bomb fell the 1,000 feet it began to execute the steps needed for a successful detonation including charging the firing capacitors and deploying the retard parachute.
Both of the bombs hit the ground without detonating much to the relief of everyone involved and to the survival of everyone nearby. The Pentagon released a statement that there was no chance the bombs could have exploded. The U.S. Department of Defense said the same, that the bombs were unarmed and could not detonate. But information obtained in 2013 due to the Freedom of Information Act revealed the shocking truth to how close North Carolina and the United States had been to experiencing a massive nuclear explosion.
What information was released in 2013? Read on to find out!