Mars Bluff: Impact

Tales from the Nuclear Age

Copyright © 2012 by Charles Glassmire

 __________________________________________________________

Nov. 26, 2012

 Mars Bluff: Impact

         It was March 11, 1958 in the peaceful town of Mars Bluff, South Carolina. Suddenly, at 4:20 p.m. a tremendous explosion destroyed the backyard playhouse which 37 year old railroad conductor Walter Gregg had constructed for his two little girls. Just 20 minutes earlier the two girls and a friend had left the playhouse to play in the side yard. Overhead, a SAC B-47 Stratojet bomber crew, on a simulated combat mission out of Hunter Air Force Base, Georgia, had accidentally dropped a 30-kiloton Mark 6 atomic weapon from their bomb bay, and its chemical explosive had detonated upon impact with the playhouse. The crater measured 50 feet across and 35 feet deep. The concussion was felt and heard seven miles away and the rising cloud was observed from the roof of the downtown courthouse miles away.

Walter Gregg was with his son in the tool shed, making shelves when they heard the sound of a B-47 overhead. Suddenly a hugh explosion rocked the shed and the house where Mrs. Gregg (Effie) was sewing. The two men were blinded as the air was filled with swirling dust. Trees in the nearby forest were uprooted with tremendous cracking noises.

You couldn’t see 10 feet in front of your face,” Gregg said. “The only thing I could figure is that a plane had crashed.”(3)

He raced outside to locate his family with ringing ears from the tremendous concussion. His right arm was bleeding from a deep cut and a pain in his side. There Gregg House Damage (aerial view)was a tank of heating gas beside the house and he feared that it would detonate. As his hearing returned, he heard the sounds of his family screaming. (3)

You can’t really describe it, said Walter Jr., who now lives in Florence. The noise was incredible, and the dust was crazy. You can’t really describe it.” (3)

Walters’s  garden stood beside the playhouse, and was now only a deep gaping hole in the land. Now chunks of earth and debris began falling from the sky, some weighing hundreds of pounds. Some pieces began destroying the house as they impacted. He observed the house had been moved off its foundation from the blast and now tilted at an angle. The two began to be pelted with smaller pieces of dirt and rock. Effie ran from the house screaming and bleeding from a head incision where parts of the ceiling had hit her. (3)

Several outbuildings were being destroyed. Both of Walters’s vehicles were destroyed. Then he found the children. His two terrified girls, age nine and six, Rear View of Housesuffered cuts, bruising and scratches, and their nine year old cousin Ella had serious internal pain, bleeding and was in distress. (3)

A State Trooper arrived and said his car had been forced off the road by the blast wave. Neighbors began to arrive to see what had happened. The family was rushed to Florence Hospital, where all but Cousin Ella Davies were stitched up, treated and released. Ella required 31 stitches, and wasDestroyed  Greff Auto admitted to hospital for internal surgery. The family then spent the night at the home of Walter’s brother. It wasn’t until late that evening that Walter Gregg discovered that his house had been destroyed by an atomic bomb!

But the local newspaper in Florence actually knew what had occurred within a few minutes of the blast. At least Thom Andersen, a staff member of the Florence Morning News, already knew. He was a cub reporter manning the office desk alone when the call came in about 5 p.m.. (He was later to become the News’s Managing Editor). The rest of the staff was at the courthouse covering a sensational trial occurring there. Thom raced there to tell the Editors about the blast. He was told that a fuel tank had probably exploded and to “check on it in the morning”.(1)

But Thom showed the stuff of a reporter with a nose for news. Ignoring the indifferent advice of his bosses, he hired a freelance photographer and lit out for Mars Bluff! (1)

  (To be continued)

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(1)  “Aircraft 53-1876A Has Lost a Device”, by Clark Rumrill, American Heritage Magazine, Vol. 51 Issue 5, Sept. 2000.

(2)  “The Day a nuclear bomb fell on South Carolina…”, by Anthony Bond, 26 April 2012, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2135832/, photos courtesy of the Columbia Star Newspaper.

(3)  ”Man Recalls Day a Nuclear Bomb Fell On His Yard”, by David Klepper, The Sun News – SC, 11-24-3, http://rense.com/general45/Manrec.htm.

(4)  “Mars Bluff, South Carolina”, Wickipedia.

(5)  ”Mars Bluff “Broken Arrow”, August 08, http://www.sonicbomb.com/modules.phop?name=News&file=print&sid=95

(6)  “Atom Bomb Dropped Here”, RoadsideAmerica.com/story/24951.

(7)  “Mars Bluff Bomb”, www.florencemuseum.org/artifacts/mars-bluff-bomb/

(8)  “March 11,1958: An Atom Bomb fell on Mars Bluff,SC, by Tom Horton, http://www.moultrienews.com.

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