It doesn't look like much now but wait until it spreads its wings.
This image shows the first instant of the French nuclear test Pégase, which took place at Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia today in 1970. Pégase is of course French for Pegasus, but this particular aerial phenomenon isn't something you ride through the sky to perform acts of heroism. The protrusions at the bottom of the plasma ball are wires used to stabilize the testing tower vaporizing, a phenomenon you can see in better detail here and here. You can also see a typical testing tower with wires intact here.
Sigh. I feel like an utter fool. This will completely kill my career. I just know it.
Linda Lawson, who danced at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas as one of the famed Copa Girls, poses with a mushroom cloud on her head in her temporary dual capacity as Miss-Cue, a title bestowed by military personnel participating in the nuclear test Operation Cue at the nearby Nevada Test Site in 1955. High winds had caused the the test to be delayed several times, causing clever soldiers to change the name to Operation Miscue. From there it was just a small leap to actually giving the title to a lucky Vegas showgirl.
The above photo was made at the pool at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas during the summer of 1955, and the one at right was made at the same location earlier in the year, with Lawson in a different suit. Hard to know if publicity from getting all mushroom-cloudy helped raise her profile, but in any case she began appearing on television in 1958, and by 1961 had launched a movie career.
So from inauspicious beginnings wearing an oversized tuft of cotton on her head she carved out a résumé of steady work that lasted forty-seven years, which just goes to show that true talent often has a way of overshadowing career sins. All's well that ends well—but we bet she's still mad at her agent. Today Lawson is eighty years old and retired.
Wow, something smells amazing.
This photo shows the debris cloud of the nuclear test Priscilla, which was part of the series of tests codenamed Operation Plumbbob, conducted during the summer and autumn of 1957 at the Nevada Test Site. For this particular blast, more than seven hundred pigs were garbed in suits made of different materials to test various means of protecting living tissue from thermal radiation. Guess what? It didn't work. The pigs survived, but with third-degree burns over 80% of their bodies, making for one of the cruelest, but undoubtedly most mouth-watering nuclear tests in history.
Another country develops the power to destroy civilization.
Today in 1964 China joined the worst club in history—the nuclear club. The test detonation took place in Lop Nur, in eastern Xinjiang province, and gave China the same standing as the U.S., the Soviet Union, Britain, and France. Of the four most recent states to acquire nuclear weapons all of them—Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea—refuse to sign or adhere to agreements concerning non-proliferation and non-first use, a trend that will continue as other states develop the technology. It’s also worth noting that, despite such terms as "sole superpower" or "exeptional" that are routinely applied to the U.S., all of the countries listed—apart from North Korea—possess enough nukes to trigger a nuclear winter that would kill billions everywhere, no exceptions. You can read more about China’s big day here.
Mass destruction as a party balloon.
Above is a photo of the French nuclear test codenamed Tamouré, a 50 kiloton airdrop at Mururoa Atoll, Pacific Test Area, French Polynesia. It was the first time the French dropped a nuclear device from an airplane. The photo has the same weird ass green color as the Betelgeuse test we showed you a few years ago, but we don’t know why that is. Exposure time? Film stock? French photog getting all artistic trying make the horrifying reality of the shot a bit more cheerful? We don’t know. But the image was made this week in 1966.
Once the way is opened it can never be closed.
This photo shows a long exposure of the early instants of the Trinity nuclear test, which was conducted as part of the Manhattan Project at White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico. It happened today in 1945 and was the first nuclear explosion in human history.
The years of living dangerously.
Operation Greenhouse took place on Enewetak Atoll at the Pacific Proving Grounds, with the aim of exploring methods for expanding the destructive capacity of nuclear weapons while reducing the amount of fissile material needed. There were four tests—above you see an image of the third of those, codenamed George. It occurred today (some sources say yesterday due to the time difference) in 1951.
Annie was a big hit in the desert long before the Broadway musical came along.
In the photo above, department store manager Hillman Lee checks out a group of battered mannequins he had helped the U.S. government use in a nuclear test. The mannequins were placed inside House No. 1 at the Nevada Proving Grounds and subjected to the blast effects of the sixteen-kiloton shot codenamed Annie, which was part of Operation Upshot-Knothole. The images below show up on all sorts of websites identified with all sorts of tests, but these come from the Nevada Department of Energy website and are identified there as the actual House No. 1 that wasblown to smithereens along with Hillman’s mannequins (those may seem in strangely good shape to you, but keep in mind that fiberglass melts at about 37,000°F, whereas human flesh burns at about 120°F and melts shortly thereafter).
For an interesting indication of the bizarro world some people lived in during the nuclear 1950s, consider this quote from Hillman concerning the use of mannequins (which, by the way, he dressed differently as a tribute to American individuality and choice): “The outcome of this test is unpredictable, but the results of the evaluation may be a powerful factor in deciding fashion trends in the years to come.” That’s right—he thought he could learn from the test how to make nuclear blast-resistant clothes, market them, and make money selling them. Kind of makes you wonder whether humans are simply destined to fail on this planet, doesn’t it? Nuclear test Annie occurred at 5:20 a.m. today in 1953.
Note: We got an e-mail, and the question was whether the mannequin photo was really made after the test, or before. If the photo were larger you'd be able to see that the mannequins are, in fact, a bit battered. Of course, that raises the question of whether they're radioactive. Being the morbid guys we are, we did check historical records on Hillman Lee to see if maybe he developed health problems, but there's nothing on him. Presumably he made a fortune on his nuke resistant garments and retired to a life of quiet but comfortable obscurity. Or not.
Police Gazette conveniently forgets who invented what and when.
Police Gazette editors hit the panic button with this November 1961 cover claiming the Soviets have a death ray bomb. For a mere twenty-five cents readers were able to acquire new nightmare material by reading about this superweapon, which in the story is called an n-bomb. They’re of course referring to a neutron bomb, which by releasing deadly unshielded neutrons would minimize destruction and contamination of property but maximize human death. Not quite rays, so much as a wave emitted by a massive air burst, but still, the new element it brought to the nuclear party was wantonly scattered neutrons, so, okay—rays it is. It must have been a real stunner for Gazette’s millions of readers to learn of this horrific weapon, but unless the Russian scientist who brainstormed it into existence was named Sam Cohen we have to call bullshit on this tall tale, for it was Samuel T. Cohen—an American physicist—who conceived and developed the neutron bomb.
Cohen was an ex-Manhattan Project scientist who spent his career in nukes. He promoted his bomb relentlessly, defending it as “the most sane and moral weapon ever devised,” because “when the war is over, the world is still intact.” See, this is what can happen when you live in a military bubble—Cohen defined morality not by the neutron bomb’s extra-lethal effects on actual living and feeling humans, but by the survival of (reusable) material assets. At its most compact it could blast an area scarcely a mile across, however only a blind man could fail tosee that tactical neutron weapons were simply the thin edge of a wedge opening a tightly sealed nuclear door.
Of course, once the Soviets caught wind of this abomination they developed their own neutron bomb, prompting the U.S. to accelerate its program (see: arms race), until Ronald Reagan ordered 700 finished warheads to be deployed in Europe. It was only mass protest by Europeans—those ungrateful victims of two previous devastating continental wars—that thwarted Reagan’s plans. They realized that neutron weapons made nuclear war more likely, not less likely. If this wasn’t clear enough at the time, it became crystalline when China announced in 1999 that it had built its own neutron bomb. As you have probably deduced by now, the entire point of the Gazette’s death ray story is to urge President John F. Kennedy to get off his ass and develop an American n-bomb to counter the Soviet one. You almost have to wonder if the text was fed to Gazette editors from Sam Cohen’s office.
Moving on, Gazette wouldn’t be Gazette without at least a little Hitler, so in addition to the death ray feature it offers up photos of Adolf relaxing with Eva Braun at a retreat in the Bavarian Alps. In contrast to the
many stories about Hitler living in bitter, defeated isolation in South America, here readers see happy Hitler, socializing during the 1930s with friends and compatriots. Next up, Gazette gives readers their fix of celebrity content with Rita Hayworth, who had been married five times and whose problem the editors are only too happy to diagnose—in their esteemed opinion she’s just too wild to be tamed. And lastly, Gazette presses panic button number two by tying the nascent civil rights movement to communist agitation from overseas. This is a tabloid tale that was told often in the 1960s because, well, we don’t know why exactly—presumably because who besides the puppets of foreign governments would ever deign to demand equal rights? Anyway, we have a few scans below, and an entire stack of early 1970s Gazettes we hope to get to soonish.
, Soviet Union
, Police Gazette
, John F. Kennedy
, Samuel T. Cohen
, Eva Braun
, Adolf Hitler
, Rita Hayworth
, Ronald Reagan
Sounds a lot like debacle to us.
The De Baca nuclear test was part of Operation Hardtack II, a series of thirty-seven Nevada Test Ground blasts squeezed into seven weeks in order to beat a looming deadline—the beginning of a U.S./U.S.S.R. nuclear moratorium. The test ban failed when the Soviets began testing again three years later, a political crisis precipitating that failure, specifically a showdown concerning the status of East Berlin. The test ban would have failed anyway, though, as all test bans have failed, and all future test bans will fail, because nuclear weapons are seen by weak nations as the ultimate defense against invasion by stronger nations. And of course, they’re right. Since only the year 2000, nuclear-armed nations have invaded non-nuclear nations nine times. Conversely, since the dawn of the nuclear era in 1945, a period comprising nearly seventy military encroachments, no nuclear nation has had its mainland invaded. The De Baca test occurred today in 1958.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1945—Plane Hits Empire State Building
A B-25 bomber crashes into the north side of the Empire State Building, between the 79th and 80th floors. One engine plows entirely through the structure, lands on a nearby apartment building, and sparks a fire that destroys a penthouse. The other engine falls down an elevator shaft. Fourteen people are killed in the incident.
1965—Vietnam War Heats Up
U.S. president Lyndon Johnson commits a further 50,000 US troops to the conflict in Vietnam, increasing the military presence there to 125,000. Johnson says about the increase, "I do not find it easy to send the flower of our youth... into battle."
Film legend Bob Hope dies of pneumonia two months after celebrating his 100th birthday.
1945—Churchill Given the Sack
In spite of admiring Winston Churchill as a great wartime leader, Britons elect
Clement Attlee the nation's new prime minister in a sweeping victory for the Labour Party over the Conservatives.
1952—Evita Peron Dies
Eva Duarte de Peron, aka Evita, wife of the president of the Argentine Republic, dies from cancer at age 33. Evita had brought the working classes into a position of political power never witnessed before, but was hated by the nation's powerful military class. She is lain to rest in Milan, Italy in a secret grave under a nun's name, but is eventually returned to Argentina for reburial beside her husband in 1974.
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