It's a small miracle that we survived the Cold War. Those were some crazy times. People today look back at the 70s and 80s and think all of this nuclear paranoia was quaint relic of the era, but it is incidents like this that show just how grounded that thinking was. The US and USSR spend the better part of 4 decades building a gigantic Sword of Damocles over the world before the USSR finally cried uncle.
Eric Schlosser's book Command and Control details a number of incidents similar to this. And for every nuclear-armed bomber accident in the air there were a number of accidents on the ground because, surprise surprise, early jet aircraft had a tendency to catch on fire on the ramp and burn themselves into molten puddles of burning alloy.
It's a lucky thing we had the CRM-114 or there might have been more accidents like this polluting our precious bodily fluids.
Well. Doesn't that just put the Ford Ignition Switch scandal into perspective...
We must maintain purity of essence.
I became aware of the accident via Eugene Chadbourne's They can make it rain bombs (but they can't make it rain) song where he does a little spoken summary about the incident.
Here is a breakdown of the blast radius and fallout information based off current weather conditions in the area. We would have irradiated our largest naval base.
According to Wikipedia, the current population of Goldsboro is about 37,000, and while I didn't go hunting through census records to see what it was in 1961, it was probably big enough that nuking it and the surrounding areas would have been a really bad thing. It's about 50 miles from Raleigh, which would have almost certainly been affected as well.
That's actually one of the advantages of being sure to stand close to them:
Sufficiently close and, in the event of an adverse incident, your nervous system will be annihilated faster than signals travel across it. You'll be gas-phase before you even get the news that something went wrong.
It's the unlucky suckers further away who get horribly burned, filled with shrapnel, irradiated heavily enough to kill them messily over a period of some days, an opportunity to play Fallout: Real Life, or other genuinely nasty outcomes.
Well sure (and I appreciate the Munroesque elaboration), but you know, it's just the sheer scale of deadliness about the thing... standing on the edge of a huge drop is obviously a pretty poor analogy in terms of possible consequences, but it's as if my brain handles the concept the same way.
You know, how being on the edge of a much smaller but still totally fatal drop seems like less of a big deal... our hindbrains can be pretty dumb.
Proves that God exists. In a small way.
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