North Carolina-Atomic Bomb-July 11

North Carolina People, Places, and Things-July 11

I am the dad to five adult children. As they were growing up I attempted to remind them they were special and to implore them to learn something new. My goal was to do that daily.

In 2016 my goal is to learn something new daily on the people, places, and things that make North Carolina special. Everyday this year I am doing a post on what I have learned new.

Of all the things I have learned new about North Carolina this past year I have to say today’s post might be the most alarming.

In 1961, a pair of atomic bombs were dropped into Nahunta Swamp, a 3rd order tributary to the Neuse River located east of Pikeville NC in Wayne County. One of those bombs today remains entombed underground.

The exact location of where this bomb fell and is entombed can be located by following the directions below. A fair warning to those adventure seekers there is nothing to see but here are the directions I got off the web.

Start at the center of the bridge over Nahunta Swamp stream on NC State Route 1534 (Big Daddy’s Road). The bridge is located about 2 miles southwest of Faro, NC. Bridge circled on map below.

faro bridge

Then go 2,135 feet northeasterly (back toward Faro) on the road. That will bring you to: 2). The common corner of the Davis and Edmundson land. There is nothing to mark that spot, it was just the nearest property line at the time. That’s apparently essential for surveyors. 3). From that point, continue northeast for another 835.6 feet along the centerline of the road, (49 degrees magnetic)…Look to your left, at about 90° relative to the road. You will be looking northwest on a magnetic heading of 320 degrees (or, in the wording of surveyors: N 40 degrees 32’ W)…The GPS coordinates…are N 35° 29.525 W 77° 51.50. In the survey format of Degrees/Minutes/Seconds, the coordinates would be 35° 29’ 31.5” N 77° 51’ 30” W.

Map of Nahunta Swamp

nahunta swamp

The story on what happened on January 24, 1961 right after midnight is as follows.

This incident occurred at the height of the cold war. Early in the morning of January 23, 1961 a B-52 flight crew took off from Seymour Johnson Air Base in Goldsboro, NC. They were taking part in a 24 hour training mission.

The mission was designed to practice keeping as many bombers in the air as possible on a continual basis. This was so that during an actual nuclear threat they would not be caught on the ground by Soviet atomic strikes. Because the planes needed to fly hour after hour without landing, they were refueled in the air.

On one other thing about the mission they had live atomic bombs on board.


About half way through their 24 hour mission a fuel tank in the right wing developed a leak during midair refueling, lost 37,000 pounds of fuel in two minutes, caught fire, and exploded, causing the aircraft to break up over Goldsboro, North Carolina.  Five of the eight crew members survived.  The explosion caused structural failure of the right wing at 8,000 feet after the crew had bailed out. This in turn resulted in two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs separating from the B-52G during airframe breakup.

One of the bombs had its parachute activated and it provided this bomb with a soft landing in an upright position. See photo below.

hydrogen bomb

The second bomb on the hand other buried itself beneath soggy farmland, leaving a crater eight feet in diameter. After excavating to a depth of 50 feet and recovering a parachute pack, some high explosives, a tritium bottle, and a portion of the nose, the Air Force paid $1,000 for an easement on the site (much cheaper than the $500,000 estimated cost of recovery) and left the business end of the hydrogen bomb where it lay 180 feet (plus or minus 10 feet) below ground. Originally the easement was enclosed by a chain link fence which was not maintained and has long since vanished. Nothing around except for a small overgrown cemetery.


Lots of articles about this incident can be found on the web

Whoops: Atomic Bomb dropped in Goldsboro, NC swamp, Neuse River Basin, HUC 02

The Night Hydrogen Bombs Fell Over North Carolina



One comment

  1. Well that’s just a little disturbing.

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