The Man Who Helped Save North Carolina From a Thermonuclear Disa - myfoxcarolinas.com

The Man Who Helped Save North Carolina From a Thermonuclear Disaster

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It was a cold January morning in 1961. Jack ReVelle, an explosive ordnance disposal officer with the United States Air Force, was sleeping in Ohio when his phone rang.

"On the occasion of the Goldsboro Broken Arrow, at about 5 o'clock in the morning, I get a phone call," said ReVelle. "And, [squadron commander] says, “Jack, I got a real one for you.""

The “real one” was a pair of thermonuclear weapons that had plummeted to the ground in North Carolina following the crash of the B-52 that was transporting them.

"The B-52 itself had just taken on fuel from a KC-135 tanker and the operator of the boom from the tanker informed the pilot of the B-52 that he saw fuel leaking from the right wing,” he said. “The strain on the aircraft with all that fuel being lost caused sufficient stress that the right wing broke off while they were flying.”

Eventually, the tail section of the plane also broke off of the plane, exposing the bomb bay housing the two hydrogen bombs.

“When the bombs ejected from the aircraft, one bomb, the parachute deployed and it functioned just as it was supposed to and we found it.”

The second one hit the ground and continued to dig into the marshy ground outside of Goldsboro, North Carolina. ReVelle said the bomb was as far down as 50 feet below the surface.

“That's why we spent the next eight days digging from that hole of entry to pull up things not only like the parachute pack, but the arm safe switch and tritium bottle, and the zipper."

As we well know, the bombs were contained. But, what would have happened if one or both had detonated?

“Total 100 percent devastation in a full scale detonation is 17 miles across,” said ReVelle. “There is no question in mind, as close as Goldsboro is to the Atlantic Ocean, we would have a new Eastern seaboard profile”

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