Saturday, 21 September 2013

Only One Carolina In The Morning

The breaking news this week is that the US nearly had a "Dr Strangelove" moment in 1961, when it dropped two atomic bombs, each were four-megatons, that's 260 times powerful than the bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on Goldsboro in the state of North Carolina.

The event occurred in January 1961, when a B52 on a routine flight when it began to break up in the sky, both bombs fell to the ground, one was still unarmed when it hit as all the safety protocols worked. But the second "assumed it was being deliberately released over an enemy target - and went through all its arming mechanisms save one .... only the failure of a single low-voltage switch prevented disaster".

If either bomb had gone off, it would likely have wiped a large swathe of the state off the map and rendered the rest of the state uninhabitable .... it may even have triggered a nuclear war, if politicians or military had misinterpreted the event at as an attack by the USSR.

So thank your lucky stars that US manufacturing was already in decline because the failure of just one simple dynamo-technology low voltage switch, stopped a disaster that could have had cataclysmic consequences.

Broken Arrows - North Carolina 1961 - Palomares 1966 - how many more?

Of course this wasn't the only 'Broken Arrows' incident that the US have reported under 'freedom of information' requests, but apparently it was the closest we came to lighting up the sky .... that they have admitted to.

But what's even more disturbing is that the USSR was notoriously even more inefficient in its technology at the time, so how many close shaves did they have in that period? I guess we will never know ... perhaps its better we don't.


  1. By some strange coincidence the BBC is reporting today on a Soviet slip that nearly started WWIII in 1983.

    Stanislav Petrov: The man who may have saved the world

    Apparently he was a civilian trained operative at an early warning centre near Moscow, when all the warning klaxons sounded and the computer reported that missile hits were imminent. However instead of reporting this 'fact' after checking with satellite operators that nothing was happening (something he wasn't supposed to do), he reported a computer malfunction instead. 23 minutes later he knew that he had been correct (Its interesting to note that the Soviets only had "23 minutes" warning of attack on Moscow).

    He believes that had this happened when a military operator was on duty, they would have reported the attack (as they were trained to do), and the USSR would have been forced to retaliate or face annihilation without any response.

    As it was, he was reprimanded for sloppy log entries, but nothing more (they were probably as relieved as anyone that they hadn't launched nuclear weapons for no reason). 1983 was a dangerous and unstable time in a declining USSR.

    1. We were so close to a general nuclear war on a number of occasions that's its almost no longer scary. What will happen in the future it's impossible to guess, but as the weapons spread we must eventually find one nation that will use them again ..... sad but true.


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