"..AN EDGE OF YOUR SEAT TALE ABOUT CLOSE CALLS AND DISASTER AVERTED." - Dr. Roy Heidecker, Wing Historian, 4th Fighter Wing                          

In 1961 a B-52 Strategic Air Command bomber disintegrated in mid-air near Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Two H-Bombs, with a combined destructive power more than 500 times that of the Hiroshima bomb, were thrown from the aircraft in an unusual manner and started the arming process. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara would later say of the Goldsboro bomb, ‘It ran through six or seven steps in order to detonate, and it went through all but one.’

If accidental nuclear war ever did erupt, it would have have occurred at a time when several conditions would be in place:  international tension, a massive build-up of nuclear weapons, a communication system with unexpected weaknesses, and readiness by a single commander with the authority, willingness, and the means of execution of nuclear war.  If all those conditions were in place all that would be required would be a spark . . . an event that could be the tipping point for nuclear war.

It now becomes more and more apparent that such a possibility did exist in January, 1961.  For a very short period of time, the conditions for a perfect storm for accidental nuclear war came together near Goldsboro, North Carolina. It happened more than a year before the Cuban Crisis, and the weaknesses of that time would quickly be recognized and repaired, but this event did happen, and it needs to be remembered.



“Joel Dobson has illuminated the story of the 1961 Goldsboro Broken Arrow, one of the most serious nuclear accidents in history. With meticulous detail, his book describes the inner working of the B-52, the terrible plane crash and the costs and consequences of this deadly accident. Dobson, a SAC veteran, compiles this rich history with an insider’s knowledge, offering a fine read to Air Force buffs, nuclear experts and casual readers alike. This is the book to turn to if you want the details on what happened that fateful night in 1961.”                 - Barbara Moran, author, The Day We Lost the H-Bomb: Cold War, Hot Nukes and the Worst Nuclear Weapons Disaster in History

“A meticulously researched book ...A 'must read' for anyone interested in the Cold War....It is not often one finds such a book as this, a story of facts woven together that enlightens the reader in both the technical and human side of the event. Joel has brought to light the dangers and hardships of the aircrews that were the tip of the spear during those uncertain times. He has preserved for history an event that few outside of Goldsboro, NC are aware.”                           - James Oskins, author ( with Michael Maggelet ), Broken Arrow, The Declassified History of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Accidents

"How close was it to exploding?  My opinion is damn close.  You might now have a very large Bay of North Carolina if that thing had gone off."                             - Dr. Jack ReVelle, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer who deactivated both thermonuclear bombs in 1961.


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Copyright © 2011 by Joel Dobson