The weirdest thing, though, was that it didn’t go off. Nuclear bombs have seven steps towards detonation and, well, this bomb had gone through six of them. Its arming switch had even been set to “arm”. But for some reason, it didn’t go off, and no one knows why.
“Why that bomb didn’t explode has been debated for years,” the Register noted. “Was the ARM/SAFE switch broken? Did the impact of the crash spread out the parts so far they couldn’t affect each other? Was the bomb a dud?”
What’s more, while the primary uranium core of the bomb was recovered, the secondary core was never found and remains missing to this day. It’s thought that it’s still buried somewhere at the crash site up to 60 meters (200 feet) underground. There doesn’t seem to be any radiation risk to locals from the lost core.
Thankfully, neither bomb went off. And it’s a good thing they didn’t, as they would have spread radiation over an area about 50 kilometers (30 miles) across. It’s estimated that about 28,000 people could have been killed and a further 26,000 injured by the blast.
This wasn't the only time the US accidentally dropped nuclear bombs, with another resulting in a little girl's playhouse being replaced by a smoking crater. The bizarre episode, though, serves as a reminder as to how close the world once was to nuclear war. Save for a faulty switch, a defiant officer, or a heroic colonel, things could have been a whole lot different.