By January 1961, the United States was well into the Cold War. Citizens had spent the last decade digging bomb shelters in their backyards and filling them with supplies to survive the nuclear apocalypse, and the government produced cute films about how to avoid getting your face melted by a nuclear blast. People feared that, one day, some deranged leader in Moscow would send the missiles and bombs into their cities and end their livelihoods in the blink of an eye.
Few thought that a nuclear catastrophe might come at the hands of their own Air Force.
On January 24, 1961, a B-52 bomber from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base located in Goldsboro, North Carolina was flying over eastern part of the state in a routine, unsuspect mission. Partway through, the pilot noticed a leak in the starboard wing and notified ground control. They promptly directed him to fly back to the air base, and so he made his way. In a drastic turn of events, the plane began to break up in the air. The pilot ordered his crewmen to abandon the aircraft, and so they did.
As the plane crashed to the ground, it released one piece of its cargo: a 24 megaton hydrogen bomb. Although it harmlessly parachuted to the ground, an item of grave concern was still aboard the aircraft: another 24 megaton hydrogen bomb.
The plane crashed into a farm near Faro, about a 20 minute drive from Goldsboro. As the bomb and plane rocketed into the ground, the parachuting crewmen likely thought the sum of all their fears was about to come to fruition: A brief flash followed by a force that would wreak devastation across eastern North Carolina. The area immediately surrounding the farm would be absolutely obliterated, with nearby villages leveled from the blast. Worse still, a thick band of radiation would blanket the Earth from Goldsboro to Virginia’s Eastern Shore.