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The Day the U.S. Air Force Dropped a Nuclear Bomb on South Carolina

Posted April 23, 2019 7:34 AM by RSBenner
Pathfinder Tags: bomb Mark 6 Walter Gregg

It was March 11, 1958 and the Cold War was in full swing. A crew from Hunter Air Force Base in Savannah, Georgia, was taking part in Operation Snow Flurry. Their mission was to load a Mark 6 nuclear bomb into a B-47E bomber and fly to England to perform mock bomb drops. All of this would be timed as part of the operation.

Problems with the mission began early as the crew had difficulty loading the bomb onto the plane. The problems concentrated around a locking pin on the shackle mechanism that secured the bomb in place. Being conscious of the time ticking by, a hammer was used to facilitate the pin’s engagement.

Before the plane could depart, the locking pin was disengaged, per regulations, in case of an emergency during takeoff. However, when the bomber reached the proper altitude, the pin would not re-engage because of the same issues that occurred prior to takeoff. The bombardier went to the bomb’s location to manually engage the pin. While reaching for the pin, and to steady himself as he crawled over the top of the bomb, he mistakably grabbed the emergency bomb release lever and, as the name implies, released the bomb from its shackles.

The bomb first hit the closed bomb bay doors, where it hesitated for an instant until the weight of the bomb caused the doors to open and drop out of the plane. Imagine the look on the bombardier’s face as he hung on over the open doors, watching the bomb fall to the Earth.

The bomb fell on the farm of Walter Gregg in the small town of Mars Bluff, South Carolina. The concussion from the blast injured all of his family members, severely damaged their house, destroyed outbuildings and their garden, vaporized chickens and created a 50-foot-diameter, 35-feet-deep crater. Windows were cracked up to 5 miles from the point of impact.

But wasn’t it a nuclear bomb? It was. However, as part of this operation, the nuclear core was not installed in the bomb. The trigger part of the bomb, the part designed to begin the chain reaction of the nuclear explosion, did explode on impact and this is what caused the damage. Had the nuclear core been installed, the story would have been much different.

References:

https://history.howstuffworks.com/american-history/nuclear-bomb-air-force-south-carolina-1958.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1958_Mars_Bluff_B-47_nuclear_weapon_loss_incident

Images:

https://media.defense.gov/2012/Feb/10/2000179511/-1/-1/0/120210-F-XN622-001.JPG

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Atomic_Bomb_historical_marker.jpg

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#1

Re: The Day the U.S. Air Force Dropped a Nuclear Bomb on South Carolina

04/23/2019 9:57 AM

My goodness -- Carolinians might have been justified to feel like they were marked as nuclear targets: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1961_Goldsboro_B-52_crash.

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#2
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Re: The Day the U.S. Air Force Dropped a Nuclear Bomb on South Carolina

04/23/2019 12:38 PM

I had initially confused this with this lost warhead off Georgie coast: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1958_Tybee_Island_mid-air_collision

Since we doing a round up! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1964_Savage_Mountain_B-52_crash

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#3
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Re: The Day the U.S. Air Force Dropped a Nuclear Bomb on South Carolina

04/23/2019 1:10 PM

I thought you were talking about NC -- I didn't even know about the one off of Georgia. I wonder how many more of these almost disasters will surface? I'm sure our readers know of others and won't be shy to report them.

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#4
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Re: The Day the U.S. Air Force Dropped a Nuclear Bomb on South Carolina

04/23/2019 5:56 PM

..."Since 1950, there have been 32 nuclear weapon accidents, known as "Broken Arrows." A Broken Arrow is defined as an unexpected event involving nuclear weapons that result in the accidental launching, firing, detonating, theft, or loss of the weapon. To date, six nuclear weapons have been lost and never recovered.May 23, 2013"...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_military_nuclear_accidents

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#5

Re: The Day the U.S. Air Force Dropped a Nuclear Bomb on South Carolina

04/23/2019 7:54 PM

I hope the military reimbursed him. I'm betting his insurance didn't cover an atom bomb falling on his house...

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#6
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Re: The Day the U.S. Air Force Dropped a Nuclear Bomb on South Carolina

04/24/2019 6:30 AM

They received $54,000, which is about $470,000 in 2019 dollars.

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#7
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Re: The Day the U.S. Air Force Dropped a Nuclear Bomb on South Carolina

04/25/2019 11:05 AM

So enough to keep farming for a few more years...

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Re: The Day the U.S. Air Force Dropped a Nuclear Bomb on South Carolina

04/27/2019 3:52 PM

...and they got a new fishin' hole....

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