This is one of the more famous images of a nuclear detonation, a shot of the American blast codenamed Dakota, which was part of Operation Redwing, conducted at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, today in 1956. The layered effect you see is sometimes called a Wilson cloud, and consists of water vapor condensed out of the atmosphere by rarefaction, an aftereffect of a shockwave traveling through humid air. In order to perform tests on Bikini Atoll, about 200 Micronesian inhabitants were forced to relocate. They and their descendants hope to return one day, but as of now their home is still too contaminated with radiation.
Exercise with no benefits.
U.S. Marines march beneath a debris cloud generated by the nuclear test George, which was part of the Tumbler-Snapper series staged at the Nevada Proving Ground. This particular troop exercise, which occurred today in 1952, was codenamed Desert Rock IV and was designed to gain knowledge of military operations on a nuclear battlefield, as well as determine troops’ reaction to witnessing a nuclear detonation. Since the government was less than forthcoming about radiation effects, we’re guessing the troops weren’t particularly worried. But they should have been—many later developed cancer, and some of their children were born with deformities.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1947—Heyerdahl Embarks on Kon-Tiki
Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl and his five man crew set out from Peru on a giant balsa wood raft called the Kon-Tiki in order to prove that Peruvian natives could have settled Polynesia. After a 101 day, 4,300 mile (8,000 km) journey, Kon-Tiki smashes into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7, 1947, thus demonstrating that it is possible for a primitive craft to survive a Pacific crossing.
1989—Soviets Acknowledge Chernobyl Accident
After two days of rumors and denials the Soviet Union admits there was an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Reactor number four had suffered a meltdown, sending a plume of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area. Today the abandoned radioactive area surrounding Chernobyl is rife with local wildlife and has been converted into a wildlife sanctuary, one of the largest in Europe.
1945—Mussolini Is Arrested
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, his mistress Clara Petacci, and fifteen supporters are arrested by Italian partisans in Dongo, Italy while attempting to escape the region in the wake of the collapse of Mussolini's fascist government. The next day, Mussolini and his mistress are both executed, along with most of the members of their group. Their bodies are then trucked to Milan where they are hung upside down on meathooks from the roof of a gas station, then spat upon and stoned until they are unrecognizable.
1933—The Gestapo Is Formed
The Geheime Staatspolizei, aka Gestapo, the official secret police force of Nazi Germany, is established. It begins under the administration of SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police, but by 1939 is administered by the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, or Reich Main Security Office, and is a feared entity in every corner of Germany and beyond.
1937—Guernica Is Bombed
In Spain during the Spanish Civil War, the Basque town of Guernica is bombed by the German Luftwaffe, resulting in widespread destruction and casualties. The Basque government reports 1,654 people killed, while later research suggests far fewer deaths, but regardless, Guernica is viewed as an example of terror bombing and other countries learn that Nazi Germany is committed to that tactic. The bombing also becomes inspiration for Pablo Picasso, resulting in a protest painting that is not only his most famous work, but one the most important pieces of art ever produced.
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