Sunday, January 24, 2016


JFK+50:  Volume 6, No. 1838


Goldsboro, North Carolina (JFK+50)Fifty-five years ago just after midnight, January 24, 1961, just days after John F. Kennedy had been inaugurated POTUS, a United States Air Force B52G stratofortress carrying two Mark 39 nuclear bombs broke up in mid-air.

The B52G had taken off from Seymour Johnson AFB on the previous day on a training mission dubbed Operation Coverall.  According to, the mission was "designed to keep as many bombers in the air as possible on a continual basis."  This feat was accomplished by the use of in-the-air refueling.

Just after midnight, January 24, 1961, while in the process of being refueled, a fuel leak was detected from the B52.  USAF authorities ordered the bomber to go into a holding pattern to bleed off fuel until it was safe enough to land.

As the B52G descended to 10,000 feet, it broke up sending its bombs plummeting to the ground.  Five of the eight man crew survived, but North Carolina almost didn't.

One of the 4 megaton bombs tunneled into the ground in a field 12 miles north of Goldsboro at 700 mph.  This bomb's parachute, intended to slow the bomb's drop to give the aircraft time to fly out of the area, had not deployed.

The other 4 megaton bomb's chute did deploy and snagged on a tree leaving 18 inches of its nose buried in the ground.  Fortunately, neither bomb detonated.

Lt. Jack Revelle, in charge of recovery for the Army Corps of Engineers, later said that the second nuclear bomb came "damn close" to detonating.

If that bomb had detonated, 60,000 people would have died from the effects of the blast and radioactive fallout would have threatened the entire Eastern coast of the United States.

Obviously, all this was kept TOP SECRET back in 1961.  The documents detailing the event were uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act.


"The Day the USAF Almost Nuked North Carolina," The Museum of Unnatural History,

Close-Up of MK 39
Faro, North Carolina
USAF Photo

Nuclear Mishap Marker
Eureka, North Carolina
Photo by RJHaas (2014)