Hanging out down east as we touch on a very real might-have-been from the Cold War.
The year was 1961. Sixteen years before, the United States had ended World War II and helped start what we call the Atomic Age. While this part of history was full of enthusiastic folks looking to the future, it can also be characterized by a nice dose of paranoia.
So while we dreamed of the possibilities of a nuclear future, we also prepared for war.
The incident I’ll relate in this post didn’t take place during a battle or anything so epic. In fact, what the plane (B-52 Stratofortress) was doing was pretty routine: it was time to refuel on a cold January night.
But there was a leak, big enough to dump a substantial amount of fuel in a very short time. A landing at Seymore Johnson Airforce Base, near Goldsboro, was supposed to occur. The aircraft, and the two nuclear bombs it was carrying, never made it. The plane crashed, and three of the eight crew members were killed. The bombs were thrown from the plane. One was armed, and it’s parachute activated. They were able to recover that one.
If you’ve ever been to Eastern North Carolina, you probably know that it’s a part of the country that’s very wet. Even though Goldsboro is further inland and is far from being a beach resort area, our winters are still damp and the ground can get pretty muddy.
Thus was the fate of the second bomb, buried in pieces, deep in the mud. Now part of it they did get, so it’s still there today. And no, you can’t get to it.
It’s uranium. Why would you want to?
North Carolina came very close to dealing with a serious nuclear incident on that night. I find myself wondering sometimes, what if it had detonated? What would have happened, and what worlds would have changed at that very moment in history?
I’m always ready to look through answers and solve mysteries, but I have to constantly remind myself that I have to be prepared for what I might find on the other sides of all the doors I open.
And maybe, weirdly, you should too.