Monday, July 15, 2013

My visit to an atomic bomb drop site!

OK, recently I discovered that where I am working is not too far from one of only few bomb sites where an atomic bomb was dropped from an airplane on a populated area...but this one is in the USA!

Now, as Paul Harvey use to say, "and now...the rest of the story".

From the Wiki entry:

"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 breaking out with the Soviet Union. 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.

The Mark 6 Atomic Bomb
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 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."

There is more to the story than that!  When the bomber crew realized that they just dropped an atomic bomb on the US, they immediately contacted Hunter AFB and gave them the coded message that they lost the bomb.  As this code was never used before and was not something regularly trained on, Hunter AFB could not understand the message.  So the bomber crew radio the local civilian airport at Florence, SC, and stated to for them to contact Hunter AFB and tell them the bomber has "lost their device."  Also the the bomber crew instructed Florence airport to send every available emergency vehicle and to bomb site, without saying it was a bomb site!  Also the Gregg's children had just left their tree house about 15 minutes or so earlier or they would have been the first Americans killed by an atomic bomb being dropped on the US!

The bomb site
It also took many years for the Gregg family finally win their settlement from the US Government for their damages to their home.

For more detailed accounts go to here, here, here and here.

Anyway, I did go to visit the site and got with a couple hundred feet of the crater, but did not know exactly where it was to go out and walk up to it.  But since then, I know where it is and an I am planning to revisit it later.  But I did find the roadside marker for the event and have included the pictures of it here.




FlyXwire said...

Hi Joe, you might like the Field Commander solo board games by Dan Verssen Games (DVG). I've heard they're pretty good, although I've not played them (BGG links):

Dave S.

Chuckaroobob said...

A long time ago there was an aircraft museum in Florence, SC, where I first learned of this event.

Sapper Joe said...

Thanks for the heads up, Dave & Bob.

The Nimitz game sounds interesting.

I will have found out about that museum in Florence. I only found out about the incident while reading a book called, 'Weird Carolinas'.