Intl. Notebook May 8 2013
PRECARIOUS STEPS
Careful now—the footing is truly treacherous.

Above, two photos from today in 1955 of a superheated debris cloud over Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands of the South Pacific. It was generated by the nuclear test George, which was part of Operation Greenhouse and was the first test of a boosted fission weapon. What is a boosted fission weapon? Well, it’s more advanced than the world-threatening weapons that came before it, but not as advanced as the world-threatening weapons that came after it. Or put another way, it was a completely redundant step on a ladder to nowhere.

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Intl. Notebook May 1 2013
DOG DAY AFTERNOON
These weapons have the power to kill every human on the planet. High five!

Back during the days of aboveground nuclear testing, particularly during the Korean War, the U.S. government wanted to be sure troops could operate under threat of nuclear attack. A field exercise known as Desert Rock IV was conducted at the Nevada Test Site during some of the detonations comprising the nuclear test series codenamed Operation Tumbler-Snapper. Thousands of soldiers conducted maneuvers as the blasts occurred, and were exposed to radiation, though the levels were said to be low. This particular photo is from the 20-kiloton airburst codenamed Dog, and shows two soldiers pretending to touch the bomb’s debris cloud. An aerial photo of the blast appears below. That was today in 1952.

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Intl. Notebook Feb 18 2013
TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT
I'm a very special pot, it’s true. Here’s an example of what I can do

Above, a photo of the American nuclear test codenamed Wasp, part of Operation Teapot, detonated at the Nevada Test Site today in 1955  

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Intl. Notebook Oct 10 2012
NUCLEAR FRONTIER
If this is the new Earth we’ll just stick with the old one.

Today in 1957 in the Soviet Union, this photo was shot of an underwater nuclear detonation at the Novaya Zemlya Test Site, located on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Novaya Zemlya means “new earth” in Russian, but might as well mean “nuclear earth,” considering 224 tests were conducted on the islands amounting to 265 megatons of TNT. To put that in perspective, all the explosives used during World War II, including the two nuclear bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, amounted to only two megatons.

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Intl. Notebook Aug 7 2012
TOTALLY STOKED
Awfully sorry to burst your balloon.

Above is an image of a downed blimp, or barrage balloon, that was floated above the Nevada Test Site to measure the effects of the pressure wave from a nuclear blast. The test was a nineteen kiloton detonation codenamed Stokes, part of the series Operation Plumbbob, and was set off about five miles away from the blimp. That was today in 1957.

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Intl. Notebook May 5 2012
ONE BAD APPLE
You got any sunscreen with SPF, um, maybe like 40,000?

The numbers in reverse on the top photo tell you the date—today, 1955. The occasion was yet another nuclear test in the Nevada desert near Las Vegas, and the image captured the glow that had filtered all the way to downtown Los Angeles, more than 250 miles away. The blast that made all that light appears in the second image. The test was called Apple-2, and it was part of Operation Teapot, a fourteen blast series designed to examine potential tactics for ground forces under nuclear attack. We aren’t military experts, but we have a pretty good idea what the best tactics are—run like the Devil is chasing you. Come on now—tactics for infantry under nuclear attack? What would those be, really? Wear BluBlockers? Hide inside a fortress of hot dogs? Strategy our asses. We think the Army just liked blowing shit up. 

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Intl. Notebook Apr 12 2012
WILD CARDS
Close only counts in horseshoes and h-bombs.

We came across two more postcards celebrating Las Vegas’s distinction as a city from which it was possible to see nuclear test shots. You may remember we posted a couple of similar items in December. These two promote not just Vegas’s dubious proximity to planet-killing nuclear ordnance, but also the venerable Horseshoe Club, a casino owned by Vegas legend Benny Binion. This is the 1950’s we’re talking about, so of course Binion was mobbed up. He started as a thief and killer in Dallas, and ended up with a commemorative statue on Freemont Street (later moved to the Strip). That simple fact probably says more about old Las Vegas than entire books. We’ll get back to him a bit later. No pulp site could be complete without him. 

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Intl. Notebook Feb 6 2012
DESERT FOX
The lights never go out in Las Vegas.

What you see here, which we found on the great architecture forum Skyscraperpage.com, is a clipping from the Los Angeles Times showing the glare of an atomic bomb explosion. The shot was taken from atop the L.A. Times Building, and the light is from the 34 kiloton nuclear test codenamed Fox, which took place in the desert near Las Vegas, more than 300 miles away. Of course, the clipping has yellowed with time, but below you can see what the shot looked like originally. There were hundreds of photos of this type made during the heyday of U.S. atomic bomb testing, and with a glance around the web you can find many of them. This one happened today in 1951. 

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Intl. Notebook Jan 15 2012
LAKE EERIE
Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink.

The explosion and mushroom cloud you see here were generated by the Soviet nuclear blast Chagan, which took place at the Semipalatinsk Test Site today in 1965. You notice we didn’t describe this as a “test” like we have with the other explosions we’ve posted. That’s because it wasn’t. The explosion was designed to create an artificial lake. It worked, but the lake is of course still radioactive today. You have to laugh. Where could the Soviets have gotten such a crazy idea? Well, they got it from the Americans, who three years earlier had investigated the use of nuclear explosions for earth moving purposes with their Sedan test. What were the results? That experiment dumped more radioactive fallout on U.S. residents than any other nuclear test ever conducted. Below, two shots of lovely Lake Chagan. 

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Intl. Notebook Dec 16 2011
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS
This must be what people mean when they say the Las Vegas area is exploding.

Above, two postcards showing a portion of the Las Vegas strip and a nuclear test in the background, about 75 miles away. For a time, yes, nuclear tests could be seen from Las Vegas, if only as a flash of light. Leave it to the Chamber of Commerce guys to think: Tourist attraction! These are from 1951. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 24
1929—Stock Market Crashes
Black Thursday, a catastrophic crash on the New York Stock Exchange, occurs when the value of stocks suddenly declines and continues to decline for a month. The event leads to a subsequent crash in world stock prices and precipitates the Great Depression. This after famous economist Irving Fisher had declared that stock prices had reached a permanently high plateau.
October 23
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
October 22
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.

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