Mar-11-1958: The Air Force Drops a Nuke on South Carolina
The 1958 Mars Bluff B-47 nuclear weapon loss incident was an inadvertent nuclear weapon release over Mars Bluff, South Carolina during 1958. The bomb, which lacked the fissile nuclear core, fell over the area causing minor structural damage to buildings below. Six people were injured by the explosion of the bomb’s conventional explosive load. The United States Air Force (USAF) was sued by the family of the victims, who received US$54,000, equivalent to $441,405 in 2015
On March 11, 1958 a U.S. Air Force Boeing B-47E-LM Stratojet from Hunter Air Force Base operated by the 375th Bombardment Squadron of the 308th Bombardment Wing near Savannah, Georgia, took off at approximately 4:34 PM and was scheduled to fly to the United Kingdom and then to North Africa as part of Operation Snow Flurry. The aircraft was carrying nuclear weapons on board in the event of war with the Soviet Union breaking out.
Air Force Captain Bruce Kulka, who was the navigator and bombardier, was summoned to the bomb bay area after the captain of the aircraft, Captain Earl Koehler, had encountered a fault light in the cockpit indicating that the bomb harness locking pin did not engage. As Kulka reached around the bomb to pull himself up, he mistakenly grabbed the emergency release pin. The Mark 6 nuclear bomb dropped to the floor of the B-47 and the weight forced the bomb bay doors open, sending the bomb 15,000 ft (4,600 m) down to the ground below.
Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, investigative journalist Eric Schlosser discovered that on January 23, 1961, a B-52 bomber broke up mid air, dropping two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs over Goldsboro, North Carolina. While one bomb never activated, the second one had its trigger mechanisms engage and its parachute open, two things that only happen when the bomb is intended to explode on target. In fact, only one low-voltage trigger kept it from detonating upon landing.