According to a declassified U.S. Document published by a British newspaper Friday, a nuclear bomb nearly exploded in 1961 over Goldsboro that would have been 260 times more powerful than the one that leveled Hiroshima.
The Guardian newspaper said the document, obtained by investigative journalist Eric Schlosser under the Freedom of Information Act, gave the first conclusive evidence that the United States came close to a disaster in January 1961.
The U.S. government has never said one of the bombs was close to detonating.
The B-52 Stratofortress broke up in mid-air near Goldsboro and dropped two nuclear bombs in the process.
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 newly published document said one of the two bombs behaved exactly in the manner of a nuclear weapon in wartime and that only one low-voltage switch prevented a disaster.
It says three of four safety mechanisms designed to prevent unintended detonation failed to operate properly and when the bomb hit the ground, a firing signal was sent to the nuclear core of the device and it was only the final, highly vulnerable switch that averted a disaster.
The paper says fallout could have spread over Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and even New York City.