Mars Bluff, South Carolina

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Mars Bluff
unincorporated community
Mars Bluff is located in South Carolina
Mars Bluff
Mars Bluff
Location within the state of South Carolina
Coordinates: 34°12′20″N 79°39′19″W / 34.20556°N 79.65528°W / 34.20556; -79.65528Coordinates: 34°12′20″N 79°39′19″W / 34.20556°N 79.65528°W / 34.20556; -79.65528
Country United States
State South Carolina
County Florence County
Elevation 98 ft (30 m)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 29506
Area code(s) 843
GNIS feature ID 1246538[1]

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.[1][2] Near the end of the American Civil War, the Mars Bluff Naval Yard was established, one of many inland Confederate naval yards.[3]

Nuclear bomb accident[edit]

A Mark 6 nuclear bomb.

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 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 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 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 killed by the blast but several people in Gregg's family were injured.

The crater is still present today. It is marked by a historical marker, however access to the site is limited because it is on private property with no public access road.

Crater site today
Historical Marker and access sign

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Mars Bluff, South Carolina". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved November 12, 2013. 
  2. ^ Reynolds, William (2012). Andrew Pickens: South Carolina patriot in the Revolutionary War. McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-6694-8. 
  3. ^ "Dixie Historical Society: Mars Bluff and the CSS Pee Dee". Retrieved November 12, 2013. 

External links[edit]