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In 1958, The U.S. Air Force Accidentally Dropped An Atomic Bomb On South Carolina

I will be the first to admit that accidents do happen. We are only human and sometimes we make mistakes. However, some accidents just shouldn’t happen. Especially when it involves an atomic bomb.

In 1958, The U.S. Air Force Accidentally Dropped An Atomic Bomb On South Carolina

Walter Gregg and his family were minding their own business on March 11, 1958. Suddenly, a giant explosion out of nowhere rocked the property and nearly destroyed their house. After Gregg accounted for his family members (none of whom were injured), he wondered what exactly happened.

In 1958, The U.S. Air Force Accidentally Dropped An Atomic Bomb On South Carolina

In this image above, you can see how close the bomb landed to the house.

In 1958, The U.S. Air Force Accidentally Dropped An Atomic Bomb On South Carolina
Atlas Obscura

Unbeknownst to Gregg, on that same spring morning, a B-47 Stratojet was flying in the skies over his property. The bomber was on its way to the U.K. to take part in a war game exercise. At that time, all bombers in the air were required to carry an atomic payload. This was because of the off-chance that nuclear war broke out while they were in the air. This particular bomber carried a Mark 6 atomic bomb, like the one pictured below.

In 1958, The U.S. Air Force Accidentally Dropped An Atomic Bomb On South Carolina

Luckily, this particular Mark 6 bomb did not have its nuclear rod inserted. Otherwise, what happened would have been much, much worse.

In 1958, The U.S. Air Force Accidentally Dropped An Atomic Bomb On South Carolina

As the bomber passed over Gregg’s house, a warning light went off. Something was wrong with the bomb’s docking system. Apparently, the locking pin was not engaged properly. That’s when navigator Captain Bruce Kulka went to investigate. However, while he was trying to fix the locking pin, Kulka accidentally pressed the bomb’s emergency release.

In 1958, The U.S. Air Force Accidentally Dropped An Atomic Bomb On South Carolina

The weight of the 8,500 pound bomb forced the bay doors open. The bomb plummeted towards the woods of Mars Bluff. When the bomb landed, it left a 75-foot-wide, and 30-foot-deep crater in the forest near Gregg’s house. Here is what the impact site looks like today.

In 1958, The U.S. Air Force Accidentally Dropped An Atomic Bomb On South Carolina

Luckily, no one died in the explosion, but it did level several buildings on Gregg’s property and damage nearby houses. Just imagine how much worse it would have been if the bomb was armed with its nuclear material.

In 1958, The U.S. Air Force Accidentally Dropped An Atomic Bomb On South Carolina

The military paid Gregg and his family $54,000 to rebuild what was destroyed by the bomb and to keep things quiet. It was also around this time when a new rule was put in place requiring planes to make sure that their payloads were locked before take-off.

In 1958, The U.S. Air Force Accidentally Dropped An Atomic Bomb On South Carolina

You can still see some pieces of the original bomb dropped on Mars Bluff at a local museum.

H/T

Crazy story, right? It could have been much worse, but still very scary. Makes you wonder what is flying over your house.

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