Monday marked the 50th anniversary of a B-52 Stratofortress breaking up in mid-air near Goldsboro and dropping two nuclear bombs in the process.
The aircraft was on a rendezvous with a tanker for mid-air refueling when the aircraft reported a leak in its port wing fuel cell. The refueling was broken off, and ground control notified of the problem.
The aircraft was directed to land at nearby Seymour Johnson Air Base. As it descended the pilots eventually lost control and the crew ejected.
The two nuclear weapons separated from the aircraft as it broke up. A parachute opened one one weapon allowing the bomb to hit the ground with little damage.
The second bomb plunged into a muddy field and disintegrated. The tail was discovered about 20 feet below ground. Much of the bomb was recovered. However, excavation was abandoned due to uncontrollable ground water flooding. Most of the thermonuclear stage containing uranium was left. It is estimated to lie around 55 feet below the surface.
The Air Force purchased the land to prevent interference with the nuclear remnants.