Friendly fire in the hole!
No, I didn’t blow up the old blog. It’s just a little tattered from lack of use lately.
But from the “I can’t believe this isn’t a bigger story” file, I recently read about how we almost blew up North Carolina. And while I suspect that there are some who wouldn’t mind seeing them wiped off the map today — what with their recent legislative agenda aimed at suppressing the rights of voters, women, and the poor — I think we can agree that nuking them into oblivion seems a little harsh.
But back in January 1961, just 3 days after JFK’s inaugural address, and a little more than a year before yours truly burst upon this mortal coil, a B-52 bomber began to break up over the tar heel state. As a result, two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro. Each bomb carried a payload of 4 megatons – the equivalent of 4 million tons of TNT. If you’re keeping score at home, that is 260 times more powerful than the bomb at Hiroshima. Had the device detonated, lethal fallout would have been deposited over Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and as far north as New York city – putting millions of lives at risk.
The released bombs performed exactly as designed. Their parachutes engaged and their triggers were activated. Three of the four safety mechanisms designed to prevent unintended detonation failed. When the bomb hit the ground, a firing signal was sent to the nuclear core of the device and it was only the fourth fail-safe, a low-voltage switch, that prevented a big boom.
We know this not because the government felt that enough time had passed for them to fess up and do the right thing, but because investigative journalist Eric Schlosser filed a request to release the files under the Freedom of Information Act. As a result of the requests, he discovered that at least 700 “significant” accidents and incidents involving 1,250 nuclear weapons were recorded between 1950 and 1968 alone. Imagine what’s in the files that have not been released yet.
Thus, not only is the U.S. the only country to have used nuclear weapons against a foreign foe, but now we also know that nobody has ever come closer to nuking the U.S. than we have ourselves, thank you very much.
For the record, the government claims that at no time was the U.S. public ever in danger from any of these events. Ooooooookay.
So what do you think? Is this valuable information to have, even though it was more than 50 years ago? Or is ignorance bliss, and maybe it would be better not to know stuff like this, since what good does it do us now? Surely the military never makes mistakes like that anymore, right?
And surely our own government wouldn’t have any more ideas about blowing up our own country and economy, right congressional Republicans?