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No doubt, many people reading this will think it a hoax. But, this really did happen.
On March 11th, 1958, a Boeing B-47 Stratojet from Hunter Air Force Base and flown by the 375th Bombardment Squadron out of Savannah, Georgia was on the first leg of a flight headed to England and then North Africa. The Stratojet was carrying a nuclear payload.
Captain Earl Koehler noticed what he thought was a faulty light indicating that the bomb harness locking pin had not engaged. The navigator and bombardier, Captain Bruce Kulka, went to investigate the bomb bay and bomb harness.
This was not a simple matter. At 15,000 ft, the plane had to be depressurized and the crew had to go on oxygen. Matters were even worse for Captain Bruce Kulka. The entrance to the bomb bay meant negotiating a narrow hallway which prevented Kulka from wearing a parachute.
After making his way to the bomb bay and investigating the bomb harness, Kulka realized the bomb harness was not locked into place. Not knowing exactly where the locking pin was located, Kulka correctly surmised that it must be high up on the nearly 4-ton bomb and hidden from view due to the curvature of the bomb. Not being a tall man, Kulka had to jump to pull himself up to where he thought the locking pin should be and in doing so grabbed the emergency bomb-release which caused the bomb to drop onto the bomb bay doors.
When the bomb dropped to the bomb bay doors, Kulka found himself riding the bomb like a cowboy on a bucking bronco as the weight of the bomb began forcing the bomb bay doors open.
Remember, Kulka had no parachute. As the weight of the bomb quickly forced the doors open, Kulka began grabbing at anything he could find. Luckily someone had hooked a bag in the bomb bay that he was able to reach and eventually dragged himself to safety.
Meanwhile, on the ground in Mars Bluff, South Carolina, two sisters, 6-year-old Helen and 9-year-old Frances Gregg, playing with their 9-year-old cousin, Ella Davies, were about 200 yards from a playhouse built by Helen and Frances’ father, Walter Gregg.
The bomb hit the playhouse and exploded.
Fortunately, the nuclear core was still on the B-47 Stratojet where it was stored separately for safety reasons. Reasons that we can see now were indeed warranted.
When the remaining conventional high explosives detonated, it left a crater about 70 feet wide and 35 feet deep.
All three girls were injured by the explosion as were Walter Gregg, his wife Effie, and their son Walter Jr. None of the injuries were life-threatening.
Seven nearby buildings were heavily damaged.
Today, while covered by new growth trees and overgrown by vegetation, the crater is still visible if you know where to look. This is private property, but it is currently marked by a plywood cutout of a bomb and a glass paneled bulletin board housing old newspaper articles about the incident.
The United States government paid the family $54,000 in damages (roughly $500,000 today).
“You can’t really describe it,” said Walter Jr in an interview with the Sun News in 2003. “The noise was incredible, and the dust was crazy. You can’t really describe it.”
“Not too many people can say they’ve had a nuclear bomb dropped on them,” said his father, Walter Gregg. “Not too many would want to.”
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