More on the Making of the Goldsboro Broken Arrow
When retired Air Force officer Joel Dobson contacted me with news he'd written a book about the near annihilation, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. All my life, I'd heard vague claims of fire in the sky; I wanted facts and figures. On that, The Goldsboro Broken Arrow delivers. Dobson's SAC credentials shows through as he lists the risks of nuclear brinkmanship with a war planner's dead-eyed detachment. That's what a story like this requires. This is by far the definitive account of the incident and among those diagrams, charts and photos lie the bones of a blockbuster. Hear me, Hollywood: King Kong ain't got nuthin on the likes of Scott Tulloch, Jack ReVelle and Adam Mattocks.
That's Lieutenant Adam Mattocks, thank you very much. He was aboard the B-52 Stratofortress when it developed a fuel leak, as a back-up pilot withOUT an ejection seat. When the aircraft began to break apart he dove through an opening in the crumbling behemoth. Miraculously, he made it safely to the ground, where a rural family didn't know what to make of the tall black man with a parachute on his back standing on their front porch. Fifty one years later, Mattocks welcomed Bob Buckley and I up their own porch as we dragged lights and tripod inside. His lovely wife held the family dachshund as the man who fell to Earth recounted every inch of his descent.
Of course, much of what Mattocks described would be hard to imagine without any visual proof. Luckily for those of us in the eyeball business, a treasure trove of evidence has slowly been unearthed. Author Joel Dobson deserves endless credit for compiling what does exist and his enthusiasm for the project didn't end when his book hit the presses. The wreckage, the crew, the area of impact: seeing leads to believing. Among the many photos he provided, this one proved to be the most iconic. Hey, I don't care how shrewd a wordsmith you are, nothing conveys the idea of global disaster averted like a picture of an eleven foot long thermonuclear bomb hanging from a neighborhood tree.
One person who doesn't need a picture album to remember that white hot winter night is Billy Reeves. He was eighteen years old when parts of the B-52 and its deadly payload struck the Faro farmland across from his home. Reeves saw it all and even helped the Air Force with the extraordinary search that followed. For half a century he's assured anyone who doubted this story's veracity that the sky did indeed turn red that night. When Bob and I met Reeves in that fabled field, he surprised me by reeling off names of the many Pittmans we both knew. Then he told me what his own family thought the night vessels of death rained down from above. "Mama thought it was End Times." he said.
She was almost right.