Stowaway Leprechaun Helps Avert Nuclear Disaster
Recently declassified documents reveal that on January 23, 1961, a simple low voltage switch and an heroic leprechaun were all that stood between the eastern coast of the United States and a nuclear catastrophe.
According to a government report obtained by journalist Eric Schlosser, two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs carrying 4 megaton payloads landed in a field in North Carolina after the B-52 which had been carrying the warheads broke up in midair. Adding to the danger, the trigger mechanism on one of the bombs had been activated and only one out of four safety switches was still properly functioning by the time federal officials inspected the device.
Had the bomb detonated, its blast would have been over 250 times more powerful than those exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Parker F. Jones, supervisor of the nuclear weapons safety department at Sandia national laboratories said in a severe understatement, that “It would have been bad news – in spades.”
It has also been revealed that, unbeknownst to the captain and crew of that ill fated B-52, a teenaged leprechaun named Rampotractman had hitched a ride on the plane that day. Ramprotractman explains that with the release of the report, he is finally able to tell his remembrances of that day, which he had kept secret from everyone including his close family.
The Leprechaun loved to sneak rides from the planes taking off from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro. According to him it was a “quick and enjoyable way to travel.”
While flying, Rampotractman would frequently lie atop the missiles in the dock because it gave him a sense of “power such as he has never felt before or since.” Consequently, on the day of the accident, he was sleeping in his usual spot atop the warhead.
Flung into the sky with little idea of what had occurred, the Leprechaun clung to the side of the bomb, watching in horror as three of the four safety switches failed one after the other. Rampotractman used his body to shield the fourth and final switch from the wind as the device glided through the air. Only after the device had safely landed and USAF officials converged on the field did he relinquish his guardianship of the weapon.
Two days later, a thankful Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara called Rampotractman to express the gratitude of an entire nation. He said that Rampotractman had earned the Air Force decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service, but that the award could not be given because of the classified nature of the incident.
The Leprechaun was also told that in the future, he would not have to sneak onto US government aircraft and he was given a lifetime pass on military flights. Rampotractman used this perk infrequently as the Goldsboro accident dampened his enthusiasm for mechanical flight. He did however make sure to travel a few times on Air Force One, figuring that was one of the safest places he could hope to be.
- Atom bomb nearly exploded over North Carolina in 1961 (timesofmalta.com)
- Report: US came close nuclear disaster in 1961 (kansascity.com)
- The Single Switch That Saved the East Coast From Nuclear Disaster (theatlantic.com)
- Document Sheds New Light On The Time The U.S. Almost Nuked Itself (npr.org)