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(NEW YORK) — A declassified document revealed that the U.S. Air Force nearly detonated an atomic bomb more than 200 times as powerful as the device dropped in Hiroshima, Japan, over North Carolina at the height of the Cold War.

The Guardian reportedly obtained the document under the Freedom of Information Act which showed that two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs were accidentally released over Goldsboro, N.C., in January 1961, when a B-52 bomber broke apart in mid-air. One of the bombs fell to earth, operating in much the way that a nuclear weapon would be expected to in warfare, the Guardian says.

Each bomb carried four megaton payload, which could have deposited lethal fallout as far away as Baltimore, Philadelphia or even New York city, reports the Guardian.

The incident took place just days after John F. Kennedy’s inauguration as president. The Guardian reports that three of the bomb’s four safety mechanisms failed, and the only switch that prevented the bomb from going off could, a report says, have easily been shorted by an electrical jolt, resulting in a nuclear blast on the eastern seaboard.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


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