On January 24, 1961, a U.S. B-52 bomber was flying over rural North Carolina when fuel started to leak, the plane snapped apart, and the two hydrogen bombs it was carrying fell into a tobacco field. If detonated, these 3.8-megaton weapons would have had an impact 250 times greater than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

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25-year-old Lieutenant Jack ReVelle, a munitions expert, was the man called to the scene. His job was to make sure the bombs didn’t explode.

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He came to StoryCorps with his daughter, Karen, to remember those harrowing eight days.

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Top photo: Four of the “terrible ten” – from ReVelle’s team – observe the retrieval of the second bomb’s parachute pack from inside a hole they dug over the course of eight days. Photo courtesy of the United States Air Force.
Middle photo: The first hydrogen bomb in January 1961. Photo courtesy of the United States Air Force.
Middle photo: 24-year-old First Lieutenant Jack ReVelle in 1960, the year before the incident in North Carolina. ReVelle worked in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). Photo courtesy of the United States Air Force.
Bottom photo: Jack ReVelle and Karen ReVelle at their StoryCorps interview in Santa Ana, CA. Photo by Kevin Oliver for StoryCorps.

Originally aired January 25th, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition.