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This Simple Mistake Nearly Started World War III Not Very Long Time Ago

Historical Facts | August 31, 2015

What happened in Mars Bluffs, South Carolina, is a terrifying reminder of the Cold War. Apparently, the U.S. Air Force had some trouble keeping those nuclear bombs in the air during that volatile era.

On March 11, 1958, an atomic bomb was accidentally dropped near the house of Walter Gregg and his family in South Carolina. Miraculously, no one was killed.

It was one of those peaceful, quiet afternoons in Mars Bluffs when suddenly a giant explosion rocked the area, nearly destroying the house of the Gregg family.

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After Walter accounted for his wife and kids, and finding out none of them were injured, he investigated what exactly happened.

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Unknown to everyone in the Mars Bluffs community, on that day, four B-47 bombers took off from Hunter Air Force Base in Savannah enroute to England. At that time, all bombers were required to carry an atomic load in case a nuclear war broke out while they're in the air. The bombers carried a Mark 6 atomic bomb, just like this one below.

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Fortunately, the Mark 6 atomic bomb that was accidentally dropped wasn’t armed with its devastating nuclear rod. Otherwise, it would have been the start of World War III. But it did contain its triggering device that amounted to several tons of high explosives.

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As one of the B-47 bombers passed over Gregg's house, a warning device went off. Navigator Captain Bruce Kulka went to investigate and fix the problem, but accidentally pressed the bomb's emergency release instead.

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The 8,500 pound bomb plummeted into the rural area of Mars Bluff. There was a tremendous blast and the bomb left a 75-foot-wide and 30-foot-deep crater in the woods near Gregg's house. This is what the crater looks like today.

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The Gregg family was battered and bruised, but alive with just minor injuries.

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Their house and several outbuildings were destroyed. There were even damages to buildings five miles away!

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The U.S. military paid off the Gregg family. They were given $54,000 to start over and to keep things quiet.

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When you visit a local museum in Mars Bluff, you'll see some pieces of the bomb.

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Just hours after the incident, the U.S. Air Force began cleaning up the actual blast site, extending to a 2-mile blast radius. The Mars Bluffs site is one of the biggest military blunders of the entire Cold War.

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