Who Bombed South Carolina?...We Did
It was a time when Russia and the United States were locked in a cold war battle to see who had the biggest baddest bombs and missiles. It was 1958, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president and Nikita Khrushchev was the leader of the former Soviet Union. Russia was parading its massive arsenal of weaponry down the main street of Moscow and we took notice in a big way. Unfortunately a small town in South Carolina had to pay the price. It hasn't been very well documented for obvious reasons. The story goes that a B47 bomber was flying over the town of Mars Bluff on its way to the United Kingdom when its bomb bay doors opened and released an 8,000 pound Mark 6 nuclear bomb.
As the massive B47 flew over South Carolina with this huge bomb strapped to its innards, the pilot noticed the planes fault light glow red on his instrument panel which meant that one of the pins holding the bomb in place was lose. He sent the navigator down to check on the bomb which was secured just above the Bomb bay doors of the plane. The navigator wasn't tall enough to see around to the back side of the bomb so he reached up and grabbed onto a strap to hoist himself up. Problem was the strap was attached to the bomb release pin. The bomb dropped and fell onto the bomb bay doors; three seconds later to the horror of the navigator the doors opened and the 8,000 pound nuclear bomb exited the plane.
Mars Bluff was a very small community in Florence County South Carolina with just a few small farms. On this particular afternoon three children were at play in the yard outside of a one of these farms. As the bomb smacked into the ground just outside the area of the children it exploded on impact causing a mushroom cloud that could be seen for many miles in all directions. The bomb created a 50 x 70 foot crater, the massive hole was 30 feet deep. Miraculously only six people were injured, six homes and a church were damaged. Walter Gregg's home was completely destroyed. Six members of the Gregg family were injured, but no deaths were recorded. The Gregg family was awarded $54,000.
A partial quote from a Gregg family member. “My adult cousin Effie Gregg were sitting by a window sewing, and the entire window blew out. She was cut behind her ear, which was kind of miraculous. My cousin Walter and his son were in the workshop garage. He knew what was happening because he had been in World War II. He knew a bomb had dropped and protected his son from the debris falling around him — a beam fell on his back. I was hit by a brick from the pile. I had a large gash on my head that was bleeding profusely.”
This could have been perhaps the largest disaster in U.S. history had it not been for someone having the forethought to store the uranium and plutonium core separately from the bomb. But the bomb still contained 7,600 lbs of non-fissionable explosives. The crater is still there and has become a minor attraction.