March 11, 1958
Air Force B-47 Stratojet
Carrying one 26-kiloton Mark 6 Nuclear Bomb
(More powerful than the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.)
While flying over South Carolina the cockpit suddenly showed a fault light indicating a problem with the locking pin on the bomb harnesses in the cargo bay. While investigating the error, the navigator accidentally pulled the bomb’s emergency release pin. The bomb dropped to the floor ripped open the bomb bay doors, and fell 15,000 feet landing in rural South Carolina.
Fortunately, the bomb’s fission core was stored in a separate part of the plane, but it was still loaded with almost 8,000 pounds of traditional explosives. The explosion leveled a nearby home, injured civilians, flattened part of a forest, and created a mushroom cloud that could be seen for miles.
The crater still exists just off of South Carolina Highway 76, marked by a historical plaque.
Where this gets stranger still:
January 24, 1961
B-52 Stratofortress Bomber
Carrying Two 3–4-megaton Mark 39 hydrogen Bombs
(Each more than 250 times more powerful than what was dropped on Hiroshima)
The bomber broke up in mid-air, dropping its nuclear payload in the process. The pilot in command ordered the crew to eject at 9,000 feet (2,700 m).
The bombs separated from the aircraft as it broke up between 1,000 and 2,000 feet (300 and 610 m).
The first bomb was found intact and standing upright as a result of its parachute being caught in a tree.
The second bomb plunged into a muddy field at around 700 miles per hour (310 m/s) and disintegrated without detonation.