Not very far from me there was an incident in the late 50s that could have been disastrous for a large portion of the southeast.
I was talking to a friend last night about a the misplacement of some C-4 in a news article. I mentioned to him that he’d be surprised how often ammo and such things do get misplaced as I’ve had to help find grenades before on a range.
But what this piece is about is something much worse. Something, I’m fairly certain, you can’t put the pin back in.
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 bomb bay doors of the B-47 and the weight forced the doors open, sending the bomb 15,000 ft (4,600 m) down to the ground below.
Two sisters, six-year-old Helen and nine-year-old Frances Gregg, along with their nine-year-old cousin Ella Davies, were playing 200 yards (180 m) from a playhouse in the woods that had been built for them by their father Walter Gregg, who had served as a paratrooper during World War II. The playhouse was struck by the bomb. Its conventional high explosives detonated, destroying the playhouse, and leaving a crater about 70 feet (21 m) wide and 35 feet (11 m) deep. Fortunately, the fissile nuclear core was stored elsewhere on the aircraft.
All three girls were injured by the explosion, as were Walter, his wife Effie and son Walter, Jr. Seven nearby buildings were damaged. The United States Air Force (USAF) was sued by the family of the victims, who received US$54,000, equivalent to $478,526 in 2019.
The incident made domestic and international headlines.
And if this had actually detonated I would not have even been a thought in either of my parents minds. They were both approximately ten years old at the time.
That’s not the only Broken Arrow story from the southeast. Check them out.