On this day in history, 1958, the U.S. Air Force unintentionally dropped a nuclear bomb 15,000 feet on Mars Bluff, South Carolina. A B-47 Stratojet with a nuclear payload took off from Hunter Air Force Base at about 4:34 p.m., operated by the 375th Bombardment Squadron of the 308th Bombardment Wing.
Yesterday: Abraham Lincoln Patents Device
The aircraft was destined to fly to the United Kingdom and then to North Africa as part of Operation Snow Flurry. The Stratojet was carrying nuclear weapons just in case war broke out with the Soviet Union.
When Captain Earl Koehler (pilot of the aircraft) found a fault line in the cockpit, he knew the bomb harness locking pin did not engage. Koehler quickly requested that Captain Bruce Kulka, the bombardier and navigator, come to the bomb bay area to investigate the problem.
Disastrously, when Kulka reached around the bomb to pull himself up, he accidentally grabbed the emergency pin release. The Mark 6 nuclear bomb fell to the floor of the aircraft and pushed open the bomb bay doors. Thankfully, the fissile nuclear core was located in a different part of the B-47.
No one was killed in the incident; however, Walter Gregg, his three children, niece, and wife were all injured. A 70 feet wide and 35 feet deep crater was created from the impact.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense