Nuclear Bomb Mishap - Wayne County, North Carolina
Nuclear Bomb Mishap - Wayne County, North Carolina
|Nuclear Bombs in North Carolina
A marker in Eureka notes the nearby nuclear mishap
that resulted in two nuclear bombs being dropped in
rural North Carolina in 1961.
Faro, North Carolina
The wreckage of the B-52
was scattered for 2 miles
around Faro and one of the
nuclear bombs is still there.
Site of a "Nuclear Mishap"
One of the bombs dropped in
North Carolina was prevented
from exploding by a single
low voltage switch.
Nuclear Mishap - Wayne County, North Carolina
The Nuclear Bombing of NC
|Copyright 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: September 23, 2013
North Carolina Historic Sites
Ground Zero in NC?
Had the Faro bomb gone off,
lethal fallout would have
Philadelphia and New York.
Bomb on Big Daddy's Road
One of the bombs buried
itself in a field along Big
Daddy's Road. Three of its
four safety mechanisms
The largest disaster in American history
almost took place in 1961 at the peaceful
community of Faro, North Carolina. Only a
low voltage switch prevented a nuclear bomb
The incident took place on January 23, 1961
and is sometimes called the Goldsboro
Incident after the nearby city of Goldsboro,
North Carolina. Faro is a community in farm
country about 14 miles by road northeast of
Goldsboro and less than 60 miles from the
state capital of Raleigh.
Although the government kept many of the
details of what happened in North Carolina
secret for 50 years, it is now known that the
United States miraculously escaped nuclear
disaster when the bombs fell on Faro.
The near disaster happened after a B-52
bomber from nearby Seymour Johnson Air
Force Base carrying two MK-39 (Mark 39)
hydrogen bombs rendezvoused with a tanker
aircraft for refueling. The crew of the tanker
noticed fuel leaking from the wing of the
bomber and the planned refueling was
Each of the bombs carried by the B-52 was
260 times more powerful than the devices
that the United States dropped on Hiroshima
and Nagisaki, Japan during World War II.
In the minutes that followed, the giant plane
lost 37,000 gallons of fuel and was ordered
to return to Seymour Johnson. As the B-52
began its descent, the pilots experienced
additional problems and were no longer able
to control it. The commander, Major W.S.
Tulloch, ordered his 8-man crew to eject.
Five of the crew members ejected and
survived. A sixth man also ejected, but died in
the process, while two other members of the
crew died in the crash. The wreckage of the
plane covered two square miles of fields and
woods around Faro.
The U.S. Air Force was quick to announce
that the public was in no danger because of
the accident, a position that it maintained for
50 years. The release of formerly classified
documents, however, now reveals that was
According to a document prepared on
October 22, 1969, by Parker F. Jones, then
the supervisor of nuclear weapons safety at
Sandia national laboratores, a major safety
failure took place in what he called the
According to the newly declassified
document, only a single "dynamo-technology,
low voltage switch stood between the United
States and a major catastrophe!"
In other words, of the four safety devices
attached to the bomb, three armed
themselves as the B-52 broke up over Faro.
Jones concluded that the bomb easily could
have exploded. "If a short to an 'arm' line
occurred in mid-air breakup, a postulate that
seems credible," he concluded, "the Mk 39
Mod 2 bomb could have given a nuclear
Other research concluded that the safety
switch that saved the bomb from going off
was prone to failure in similar accidents.
His study of the Goldsboro Incident also led
Jones to conclude that nuclear bombs were
likely to arm themselves and fall in a "near
normal fashion," just as if they were being
dropped on an enemy target.
The two bombs fell into farmland at Faro.
One deployed exactly as it would have in a
war situation. Its parachute, designed to slow
the descent of a bomb as it fell to earth,
deployed properly and all but one of the
safety devices had time to arm themselves
before it landed upright on the ground.
The second bomb hit a field at 700 miles per
hour. Its thermo-nuclear stage buried itself
180 feet into the ground and is still there
today. The Air Force was unable to recover it
and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
purchased an easement of 400 feet around
the site. It also had begun the process of
According to Lieutenant Jack ReVell, who
was involved in the recovery efforts at Faro,
one of the bombs came perilously close to
exploding. He was quoted in 2011 as saying
that had the bomb exploded, every living thing
within 17 miles would have been killed.
Other sources indicate that deadly radiation
would have spread over cities including
Raleigh, Richmond, Washington, DC,
Baltimore, Philadelphia and even New York.
Millions of people would have been sickened
The North Carolina Highway Historical
Marker Program erected a historical marker
about the accident at nearby Eureka in July
2012. It stands at the intersection of Main and
Church Streets in Eureka, just three miles
northwest of the impact site. Please click
here to read the text of the marker.
To reach the community of Faro from the
marker in downtown Eureka, just travel south
on Church Street, which becomes Faro
Road, and follow it for three miles to the
intersection of Faro and Big Daddy's Roads.
Church near Bomb Site
Christians still meet and pray
near where a nuclear bomb
nearly exploded in 1961 in
Faro, North Carolina.
|Photos by Alan Cox & Lee Ann Cox