A U.S. Air Force crew almost blew up a large area of South Carolina in 1958 when they accidentally dropped a nuclear bomb on a play house in Mars Bluff, South Carolina.The incident happened at the height of the Cold War on March 11, 1958.
Two sisters Helen and Frances Gregg, 6 and 9 respectively, and their cousin Ella Davies, 9, were in a playhouse built by their father Walter Gregg, behind their house in Mars Bluff, South Carolina. Minutes after the children moved to a yard close by, the playhouse was destroyed by a nuclear bomb.
According to Daily Mail, the bomb exploded on impact with the ground and left a crater 70 feet across and 35 feet deep.
The girls were injured but survived the explosion. The playhouse was destroyed leaving only a few shards of metal roof.
American Heritage explains that the bomb was dropped from an American B-47E bomber that took off from Savannah, Georgia, and was flying to Bruntinghorpe Air Base in in Leicestershire, England on what was only a routine exercise.
The aircraft was carrying a Mark 6 30-kiloton fission bomb.
According to Daily Mail, the accident happened when the captain of the plane, Bruce Kulka, decided to take a look at the weapon after having difficulties with its locking pin. While searching for the pin he decided to look in the bomb bay. But while he tried to hoist himself up he accidentally used the emergency bomb-release for handhold and the three-ton bomb was released.
But the story Rense.com tells is significantly different. The website says:
"The flight had barely begun when a small, red warning light came on in the cockpit. It indicated that the bomb wasn't properly secured in the bay... the co-pilot thought the red warning light was a glitch. He hit the light with the butt of his service revolver, and the light went off momentarily. When the red light returned, he figured something was wrong. The co-pilot went back to the bomb bay and discovered that the egg-shaped bomb wasn't locked into place. He pushed a button he thought would engage the bomb lock.The man hit the wrong button. The bay doors opened, and the prized 6-kiloton nuclear package fell to Earth."
What saved thousands of people in South Carolina on that day was the fact that the nuclear core of the bomb had been removed and stored separately on the same plane.
According to Rense.com, chunks of earth hurled skyward by the explosion fell and "flattened Gregg's home and several outbuildings. Pieces of debris damaged several nearby homes and a church. Smaller pieces of dirt and rock pelted Gregg. When the sky stopped falling, Gregg found his family. Aside from cuts and bruises, the kids seemed all right. His cousin complained of back and side pain. His wife, who escaped from the house, was cut on her head by a piece of plaster."
Six members of the family were wounded, but it could have been worse Rense.com explains: "...if the nuclear rod had been installed in the bomb that fell on Gregg's yard, it would have killed everything within 10 miles. The fallout would have killed thousands in Horry County and Wilmington, N.C."
The family sued the Air Force and were award $54,000.
The crew of the aircraft were arrested when they returned to base. The authorities had initially believed that the bombing was a deliberate act of sabotage. But the men explained what happened and were released.
A second more potentially deadly incident.
On January 24, 1961 at midnight, a B-52G bomber broke up over the town of Faro in North Carolina while it was refueling in midair. The bomb was carrying two Mark 39 thermonuclear weapons. One of the weapons parachuted to Earth harmlessly, but according to Daily Mail, the other fell into a cultivated field at 700 miles per hour. What saved the area from being incinerated in a nuclear explosion was that the force of the impact led to the bomb losing its uranium.
According to the deactivator of the bomb Dr. Jack Revelle: "How close was it to exploding? My opinion is damn close."
Rense.com reports that such nuclear mishaps were not uncommon during the Cold War but luckily non resulted in a detonation. David Coleman, visiting professor of Cold War history at the University of Virginia said: "It's certainly unusual. But there were many examples of times when bombs were dropped or planes crashed. It's not talked about very much."
The authorities evidently attempted to hush up the incident. Air Force officials said they have no records about the whereabouts of the crew in the Mars Bluff case, but Gregg said they wrote letters apologizing to his family and he became friends with them when they visited years after the accident. " Rense.com reports that Greg said: "We got to be friends with a lot of them (Air Corps staffers). One of them came and spent a week with us about 20 years ago."
Gregg said the B-47 crew that dropped the bomb was transferred to overseas bases. He said:"I think they didn't want them talking to reporters. They wanted them as far away from South Carolina as possible."