Mars Bluff, South Carolina
|Elevation||98 ft (30 m)|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|GNIS feature ID||1246538|
Mars Bluff is an unincorporated community in Florence County, South Carolina, United States that bears the distinction of having been inadvertently bombed with a nuclear weapon by the United States Air Force.
Originally known as Marr's Bluff during the American Revolution, the area west of the Great Pee Dee River eventually became known as Mars Bluff at some point before the American Civil War. Near the end of the American Civil War, the Mars Bluff Naval Yard was established, one of many inland Confederate naval yards.
Nuclear bomb accident
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (July 2013)|
On March 11, 1958 a U.S. Air Force B-47 Stratojet from the Hunter Air Force Base's 308th Bombardment Wing in Savannah, Georgia took off around 4:34 p.m. It was scheduled to fly to the United Kingdom for Operation Snow Flurry. The plane was required to carry nuclear weapons in the event of war with the Soviet Union breaking out. Air Force Captain Bruce Kulka was the navigator and was summoned to the bomb bay area after the captain of the plane had encountered a fault light in the cockpit indicating that the bomb harness locking pin for the transatlantic flight did not engage. As Kulka was reaching around the bomb to pull himself up, he mistakenly grabbed the emergency release pin. The Mark 6 bomb dropped to the floor of the B-47 and the weight forced the bomb bay doors open sending the bomb 15,000 feet (4,572 m) down to the ground below.
Although the bomb did not contain the removable core of fissionable uranium and plutonium (the core was securely stored in a containment area on board the plane and thus the bomb was not technically a traditional "atomic" bomb per se.), it did contain 7,600 pounds (3,447 kg) of conventional explosives. The resulting explosion created a mushroom cloud and crater estimated to be 75 feet (23 m) wide and 25–35 feet (7.6–10.7 m) deep. It destroyed a local home, the residence of Walter Gregg, and leveled nearby trees. Nobody was directly killed from the blast but several people in Gregg's family were injured from the explosion.
The crater still exists. It is marked by a historical marker and is accessible via a marked trail just off SC Highway 76 (East Palmetto Street). An informational board and mock up of the bomb's size are also at the site.
- "Mars Bluff, South Carolina". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
- Reynolds, William (2012). Andrew Pickens: South Carolina patriot in the Revolutionary War. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-6694-8.
- "Dixie Historical Society: Mars Bluff and the CSS Pee Dee". Retrieved November 12, 2013.
- "Atomic Bomb dropped on Florence, S.C., March 11, 1958" by Warner M. Montgomery, Columbia Star, March 21, 2008
- "Aircraft 53-1876A has lost a device" by Clark Rumrill, American Heritage Magazine, September 2000, Volume 51, Issue 5
- "Accidental Mars Bluff bombing survivor dies at 92" Morning News, July 25, 2013