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Who Bombed South Carolina?...We Did

Updated on September 27, 2017

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.


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    • Leesleez profile image

      Leesleez 4 years ago from New York

      Yeah, Slim never knew what hit him. Thanks gobsmacked for reading and commenting.

    • Resident Weevil profile image

      Resident Weevil 4 years ago

      Color me gobsmacked. I did not know this.

      I blame Slim Pickens.

    • Leesleez profile image

      Leesleez 4 years ago from New York

      The scary part is that the government tried to keep it a secret. Thanks for reading.

    • profile image

      andrea arlene 4 years ago

      Scary back in '58 and today human error reigns even more problematic.

    • Leesleez profile image

      Leesleez 5 years ago from New York

      Many lives could have been lost if it wasn't for the fact that after the bomb hit the ground it took 5 seconds for it to explode. The bombs energy when hitting the ground forced it to dig itself a ten foot hole which generated its potential full power into the ground itself. Thanks for reading.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      This was an interesting review of this historical event. I didn't know if you made it up, as you are a good storyteller based on your other hubs. So I looked it up and see that this really happened. What a drastic mistake that was!