Please be sneaky when retrieving and replacing. You don't even have to get out of your car if you park close enough. BYOP.
A Broken Arrow Lands in Mars Bluff
What is a Broken Arrow? A Broken Arrow is the code word for a military accident involving a nuclear weapon.
Here’s the official military definition:
1. The accidental or unauthorized detonation, or possible detonation of a nuclear weapon (other than war risk);
2. Non-nuclear detonation or burning of a nuclear weapon;
3. Radioactive contamination;
4. Seizure, theft, or loss of a nuclear weapon or component (including jettisoning);
5. Public hazard, actual or implied.
Okay. Now you need to know where Mars Bluff is. Mars Bluff is a rural area near the Francis Marion University which is just east of Florence, SC. It’s not really a town, it’s more like a crossroads.
This cache is about a Broken Arrow that fell to earth in Mars Bluff, SC. It’s an almost unbelievable true story about the day that a 30 kiloton Mark 6 nuclear bomb was accidentally dropped in the yard of the Greggs who lived in Mars Bluff, SC. The entire story is quite detailed, and can be read here, but I’ll give you the Readers Digest version.
Here’s The Story:
The date was March 11, 1958. At 16:19 a B-47E bomber, Aircraft 35-1876A, accidentally released their nuclear bomb as they were passing over the Gregg property in rural South Carolina in an area called Mars Bluff. This event, a Broken Arrow, is also considered to be the only time a nuclear bomb was ever dropped on America.
In the morning of March 11, 1958, a specialized crew of two at Hunter Air Force Base, Savannah ran into some problems while trying to set the locking pin, which holds the bomb in the plane until it’s ready to be dropped, in place. They used a hammer to complete the pin engagement. The men then hurriedly completed their pre-flight checklist. They had to be finished by 10:30 or points would be docked for the mission. During their haste, they failed to check the release mechanism of the pin.
Air Force policy required that the pin be released prior to take-off, in case it needed to be dropped, and to re-insert the pin at 5000 feet until it was time to finally drop the bomb on its intended target.
The bomber’s flight crew included Captain Earl Koehler, the pilot; Captain Charles Woodruff, the co-pilot; Captain Bruce Kulka, the navigator/bombardier: and crew chief Sergeant Robert Screptock . They were part of a mission called Snow Flurry which was a Special or Nuclear Weapons Exercise. Their bomber was accompanied by three additional bombers also carrying atomic bombs. They were all headed to Bruntingthorpe Air Base, England.
As the bomber took off the pin was released as per the policy and when they reached 5,000 feet the co-pilot reached down and operated the lever to re-insert the pin. The re-insertion failed and a warning light notified them that the pin was not set.
Since bombardier, Bruce Kulka was responsible for the bomb, he was instructed to go into the bay where the bomb was and find out what was wrong. The crew had to go onto oxygen because the bomb bay was not pressurized and the entire plane had to be depressurized while Kulka was back there working.
The space where the bomb was stored was so tight that Kulka was not able to wear a parachute. The bomb was almost as large as the as the inside of the bomber itself. This required Kulka to feel blindly above the bomb to try to re-insert the pin. So, here we have Kulka; no parachute; wearing an oxygen mask; and working blind. Kulka grabs what he thinks is the pin, but quickly finds out that it’s the emergency-release lever as the 7,600 pound bomb drops onto the bomb bay doors. When the bomb dropped, Kulka fell on top of it. The weight is more then the bomb bay doors can hold and they open with Kulka still on top of the bomb.
As the bomb drops out of the plane, Kulka manages to grab hold of something and pull himself back into the plane and then he radios the pilot what had just happened. The pilot transmits a special coded message to Hunter Air Force Base, but the base did not recognize the coded transmission because the procedure had never been used before. The pilot was then forced to radio the Florence airport, about 6 miles from Mars Bluff, to request that they call the air base and tell them that, “Aircraft 35-1876A has lost a device.”
While all this was taking place, the bomb was impacting the Gregg property below. The high-explosives in the bomb detonated, but, because the fissionable core of the bomb was stored in another part of the plane, a full-on nuclear explosion did not take place.
The explosion injured Walter Gregg; his wife; his son; and his two daughters. Ella Davies, a cousin of the Gregg children who was visiting at the time, was the most severely injured. They all were taken to the Florence hospital. The Greggs were released, but Ella required 31 stitches and an overnight stay.
The blast produced a crater that was 50-70 feet in diameter and 25-35 feet deep.
Every building and vehicle on the property was damaged beyond repair. The Air Force offered the Gregg’s $44,000, which was the depreciated value for the property – not the replacement value. The Greggs refused the offer. The family didn’t even get a housing allowance while their house was being rebuilt.
A special bill was signed by President Eisenhower which allowed the Greggs to sue the Federal Government. After filing the suit and more than three years in court, the Greggs received $54,000 (eaual to about $380,000 today) and still had to pay their legal fees.
The crater is still there today. Trees are growing on the perimeter, but nothing grows in the interior of the crater. It is located behind a housing development called Francis Marion Forest.
No historical marker is nearby to mark the location of the only nuclear bomb that was dropped on America. Do you think that the government would rather we forget this page in history? Sounds like it to me.
I tried to find the location of the crater using a search in Google Earth, but even GE didn’t know where Mars Bluff is. But, by using GE and the description in the link of where the crater is, I think I was able to locate it as shown in the photos below.
Here's a recent satellite view of the crater and the surrounding area.
Here's a close-up view of the crater in the above photo.
Congratulations to The Green Family on their FTF!