WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force came dangerously close to detonating a nuclear bomb over North Carolina in 1961, recently declassified government documents show.
Two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, N.C., Jan. 23, 1961, The Guardian reported Saturday, citing previously top secret documents recently made public through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Each of the bombs, which became separated from the plane when it got into trouble and went into a tail spin, was 260 times more powerful than the atom bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.
One of the bombs engaged normally and was only stopped from exploding by "one simple, dynamo-technology, low voltage switch [that] stood between the United States and a major catastrophe," said Parker F Jones, a senior engineer in the Sandia national laboratories responsible for the mechanical safety of nuclear weapons cited in the previously classified documents.
Had the bomb detonated, the nuclear fallout could have spread to Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and as far north as New York City.
"It would have been bad news -- in spades," Jones said eight years after the accident.