The Night They (Almost) Bombed Old Dixie Down

Walter Gregg and his young son were working on a project in their garden shed in Mars Bluff, South Carolina, when the backyard was hit with a nuclear bomb.

What? You don’t recall the time a nuke almost took out the South? It happened on March 11, 1958, when a B-47 plane carrying a Mark 6 bomb was headed to Europe from the Hunter Air Force Base in Savannah, Georgia. The deadly device was a more sophisticated version of the Mark 3 Fat Man bomb that was unleashed on Nagasaki, Japan, more than 10 years earlier.

The plane hadn’t gotten far from the base when the pilot noticed on the instrument panel that the bomb wasn’t properly in place.

The switch that should have locked it down did nothing, so Captain Bruce Kulka was sent back to see if he could lock the bomb into place manually. Kulka reached over the nose of the bomb to try to pull himself up to see what the problem was, but what he grabbed to give himself some leverage was basically the worst possible thing he could have lunged for: the emergency-release lever.

The Mark 6 dropped down onto the bay doors, the only things keeping the bomb plummeting to the South Carolina countryside below. Its weight combined with the weight of the parachute-less Capt. Kulka, who was sprawled on top of it, started to force the doors open. Kulka managed to scramble back into the plane as the bomb dropped through the hatch.

When it hit the ground below, the A-bomb turned the Greggs‘ garden into a 75-foot crater, destroyed both of their cars and knocked the house off of its foundation. Everyone in the family was injured, though only one was hurt badly enough to spend the night in the hospital.

The outcome for the Greggs, Florence County, and the entire state of South Carolina would have been much different if the bomb had been fully equipped with its nuclear core. In non-war times, the core was kept in the cockpit in something called a “birdcage” and was added to the bomb only if necessary. Had it been installed in the bomb when it fell, everything within a 10-mile radius of the impact site would have died from the fallout.

The Air Force assured the Greggs that they would be compensated for their losses and that the crater would be filled in as soon as the recovery operation was done. In the end, the family was given a mere $56,000 - after they sued for it. The crater is still there.

College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy

One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

Nate D. Sanders Auctions
Sylvia Plath's Pulitzer Prize in Poetry Is Up for Auction
Nate D. Sanders Auctions
Nate D. Sanders Auctions

A Pulitzer Prize in Poetry that was awarded posthumously to Sylvia Plath in 1982 for her book The Collected Poems will be auctioned on June 28. The Los Angeles-based Nate D. Sanders Auctions says bidding for the literary document will start at $40,000.

The complete book of Plath’s poetry was published in 1981—18 years after her death—and was edited by her husband, fellow poet Ted Hughes. The Pulitzer Prize was presented to Hughes on Plath’s behalf, and one of two telegrams sent by Pulitzer President Michael Sovern to Hughes read, “We’ve just heard that the Collected Plath has won the Pulitzer Prize. Congratulations to you for making it possible.” The telegrams will also be included in the lot, in addition to an official congratulatory letter from Sovern.

The Pultizer’s jury report from 1982 called The Collected Poems an “extraordinary literary event.” It went on to write, “Plath won no major prizes in her lifetime, and most of her work has been posthumously published … The combination of metaphorical brilliance with an effortless formal structure makes this a striking volume.”

Ted Hughes penned an introduction to the poetry collection describing how Plath had “never scrapped any of her poetic efforts,” even if they weren’t all masterpieces. He wrote:

“Her attitude to her verse was artisan-like: if she couldn’t get a table out of the material, she was quite happy to get a chair, or even a toy. The end product for her was not so much a successful poem, as something that had temporarily exhausted her ingenuity. So this book contains not merely what verse she saved, but—after 1956—all she wrote.”

Also up for auction is Plath’s Massachusetts driver’s license from 1958, at which time she went by the name Sylvia P. Hughes. Bidding for the license will begin at $8000.

Plath's driver's license
Nate D. Sanders Auctions


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