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
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 and then to North Africa for Operation Snow Flurry. The plane was carrying nuclear weapons on board in the event of war with the Soviet Union breaking out. Air Force Captain Bruce Kulka, who was the navigator and bombardier, was summoned to the bomb bay area after the captain of the plane, Captain Earl Koehler, had encountered a fault light in the cockpit indicating that the bomb harness locking pin did not engage. As Kulka reached 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 was not armed with the trigger, a removable capsule of fissionable material, which was securely stored in a containment area on board the plane, it did contain high-explosive detonator. The resulting explosion created a 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 killed by the blast but several people in Gregg's family were injured.
The incident made national and international headlines. The crater is still present today. It is marked by a historical marker; however, access to the site is limited because it is located on private property with no public access road.
- "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.
- Mars Bluff, Time Magazine, March 24, 1958.
- Warner M. Montgomery. Atomic Bomb dropped on Florence, S.C., March 11, 1958, Columbia Star, March 21, 2008.
- Clark Rumrill. "Aircraft 53-1876A has lost a device": How the U.S. Air Force came to drop an A-bomb on South Carolina , American Heritage Magazine, September 2000, Volume 51, Issue 5.
- Accidental Mars Bluff bombing survivor dies at 92, Morning News, July 25, 2013.
- Unarmed Atom Bomb Hits Carolina Home, Hurting 6, The New York Times, March, 12, 1958.
- Accidents stir concern here and in Britain, Oxnard Press-Courier, March 12, 1958.
- Mars Bluff Bomb, Florence County Museum
- "Dead A-Bomb Hits US Town, Universal Newsreel story, Internet Archive
- Only Atomic Bomb Ever Dropped on America, The HistoryPodcast 1