WALTER GREGG JR. WITH EAGLE SCOUT JESSE MOTTE AT MARS BLUFF BOMB SITE
Jesse Motte of Boy Scout Troop 477 spearheaded a scout project to clear up the Mars Bluff site where a bomb was accidentally dropped fifty-six years ago. Although the bomb site had been cleared off a few times over the years, it had become overgrown and was neither accessible, nor presentable, to the public. When Motte, an Eagle Scout candidate, learned of the condition of this historical site, he met with Marshall Yarborough, Florence City-County Historical Commission chairperson, to discuss a proposal and plan to restore the bomb site.
After gaining permission, Motte set his plan into motion by recruiting and scheduling a “posse” of his classmates, fellow scouts, family and friends to help clear the site, repaint and replace faded information on the kiosk, and repaint the bomb silhouette. They also added information to the structure. A total of 68 plus hours were spent on the project. “I learned that a leader must be able to visualize a completed job and organize a project so that others will be able to see my vision," Motte commented. He added that the most rewarding part of the project was knowing that the finished project would be beneficial to the community.
An Eagle Scout candidate is required to demonstrate their leadership skills by developing and executing a service project that will benefit a non-profit organization or institution. Motte was awarded the rank of Eagle, the highest rank in scouting, on June 2 at the Eagle Scout Court of Honor held at First Presbyterian Church in Florence. On March 11, 1958, an Air Force B-47 took off from Hunter AF Base in Savannah, Ga., on a mission known as Operation Snow Flurry. The plane was headed for England carrying a 7,600 lb. atomic bomb on board. At 15,000 ft. the plane's bombardier was ordered to re-engage the bomb’s locking pin.
Due to a series of unfortunate events and in an attempt to steady himself, he accidentally grabbed the emergency bomb-release mechanism and the nearly four-ton bomb, minus its plutonium core, dropped from its shackle, broke open the bomb bay doors and fell earthward. The shock wave from the blast rocked the plane and the little community known as Mars Bluff. The bomb exploded on the property of Walter Gregg Sr., destroying his home, injuring the entire family, and leaving a 70 foot wide 35 foot deep crater in the wooded area behind their house.
Fifty six years later, Walter Gregg Jr., remembers that he was working in the shed with his father at the time of the incident and recalls that his father thought a plane had crashed nearby. According to Mrs. Yarborough, the bomb site falls under the protection of the Commission, and the state of South Carolina, although it remains on private property. Motte joined Boy Scout Troop 477 in 2008.
He is a member of Central United Methodist Church where he was part of several Youth Group service projects and served as a church acolyte, banner bearer, and crucifer for many years. He recently graduated from Trinity-Byrnes Collegiate School and plans to attend Winthrop University in the fall. In his senior year, he was on the varsity basketball team, the Political Debate Team, and the High School Quiz Bowl Team (Region Champions). He also earned letters in Varsity XC, soccer, and basketball. Jesse resides with his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Motte of Florence.