Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Musings 34--The bombing of America

I may be the only guy left in America that admits to reading Esquire magazine. I do so because I enjoy the off-beat stories that they run in the back of the mag every month. (Plus, everybody knows that my fashion sense is beyond reproach.)

In the May 2005 edition--the one with Eva Longoria on the cover, hubba hubba--Luke Dittrich has a story entitled, "A Perfectly Understandable Mistake--The true story of the albino raccoon, the pig farmer and the only Nuclear Bomb ever to be dropped on America."

Now if that title don't get you nothing will. I will give you the condensed version here, but you need to pick up the magazine to read this story. It is truly surreal.

On March 11, 1958 a nuclear bomb was dropped on Mars Bluff, South Carolina. It was an accident, but it happened just the same. Back in those days, the USA was very much into the Cold War. The air force flew mock bombing runs toward Europe all the time. While running these practice runs, they also carried real nuclear weapons--just in case WWIII broke out during the exercise.

On one such mock bomb run, Captain Bruce Kulka stood in the bomb bay of a cramped B47 strategic bomber and made the biggest mistake of his life. It was the type of mistake that leads one to eventually flee the country and settle in Thailand. Captain Kulka saw that the harness of a 7600 real nuclear bomb was messed up. He tried to straighten it out but accidentally hit the harness release lever which dropped the bomb onto the floor of the plane. Captain Kulka tried to stop the sliding bomb, but, alas, he could not. The force of the three and half ton bomb--bombs were pretty big in those days--knocked open the bomb bay doors. It was bombs away! Captain Kulka grabbed on to something solid and barely escaped taking a ride like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove.

So at a little past 4:30 in the afternoon a nuclear bomb fell on Mars Bluff. Luckily, it was not in the middle of the town but in the woods behind a farmhouse.

Now nuclear bombs were not armed when we flew them around in those days. It was probably a good thing. Nuclear bombs have a thing called a core. It is a grapefruit sized device that makes it become an atom smasher. So when the bomb fell on Mars Bluff, the core was still flying around at 15,000 feet. The worst thing that could happen was that a 7,600 pound chunk of scrape iron lands on you from above. At least, South Carolina was spared the new nickname of "the glow-in-the-dark state."

However, it did explode when it hit due to the several hundred tons of explosives that are also in a nuclear warhead. It blew a crater twenty-five feet deep by seventy-five feet wide in the South Carolina soil.

L. E. Kirby, the owner of a general store in Mars Bluff, said he thought, "It sounded like one of them atomic bombs." You can not make this stuff up.

The part about the albino raccoon and the pig farmer are side stories that would probably bear further research on their own. Get is worth the price of the magazine just to read this story.


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