Our civilization has avoided nuclear destruction so far, but has it been by design or chance?
This debris cloud was generated yesterday in 1952 by the nuclear blast codenamed Dog, which was part of Operation Tumbler-Snapper, a series of tests that occurred at the Nevada Test Site that year. The people you see in the image are just a few of the 2,100 marines who observed the explosion. Last month Chatham House released a sobering nuclear study showing that there have been thirteen incidents since 1962 that qualify as “near use” of nuclear weapons. In two of those—the famed Oleg Penkovsky incident and the less famous but more serious Stanislaw Petrov incident—nuclear holocaust may have been averted only because individuals disobeyed orders. Chatham House also details many instances of “sloppy practice.” Two examples: President Jimmy Carter once left the U.S. nuclear launch codes in a suit that was taken to the dry cleaners, and in 1981 when Ronald Reagan was shot, his bloody pants containing the launch codes ended up in the hands of FBI agents who had no authorization to possess them. There are instances of sloppy practice from as recently as 2013. If you’re in the mood for some sobering reading, the report is here.
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.
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
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.
Hmm, I never thought of going to Los Alamos before, but I gotta say, it looks inviting.
The unusual image you see above, which probably has you just a rarin’ to book a hotel room in Los Alamos before they’re all gone, appears in authors John O’Brien and Jeremy Borsos’ recently published Atomic Postcards: Radioactive Messages from the Cold War. The book features a wide array of nuclear themed mid-century postcards, some of which were produced for educational purposes, some to influence political debate, and some—like this one—to boost tourism. All the images we’ve seen from Atomic Postcards are fascinating, and we have a feeling this will be the hottest nuclear coffee table book since Michael Light’s stunning collection of atomic images 100 Suns. Historical note: the above photo is actually from an atomic test at the Nevada Proving Ground in 1952, but as far as the Los Alamos chamber of commerce was concerned, any old mushroom cloud would do as long as it was irresistibly enticing. Mission accomplished, chamber guys. Our bags are packed. If you’d like to see more of Atomic Postcards, there’s a slideshow here, and if you’d like to see Pulp Intl.’s collection of nuke images, just click the fallout shelter icon in the sidebar.
Above, a photograph of the superheated debris cloud of the American nuclear test codenamed Climax, part of the series Upshot-Knothole, detonated at the Nevada Test Site today in 1953.
Tell me again, who made the desert bloom?
Photo of the mushroom cloud generated by the American nuclear test Buster Charlie, a fourteen kiloton shot conducted at the Nevada Test Site, today, 1951.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1933—King Kong Opens
The first version of King Kong
, starring Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray, and with the giant ape Kong brought to life with stop-action photography, opens at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The film goes on to play worldwide to good reviews and huge crowds, and spawns numerous sequels and reworkings over the next eighty years.
1949—James Gallagher Completes Round-the-World Flight
Captain James Gallagher and a crew of fourteen land their B-50 Superfortress named Lucky Lady II in Fort Worth, Texas, thus completing the first non-stop around-the-world airplane flight. The entire trip from takeoff to touchdown took ninety-four hours and one minute.
1953—Oscars Are Shown on Television
The 26th Academy Awards are broadcast on television by NBC, the first time the awards have been shown on television. Audiences watch live as From Here to Eternity wins for Best Picture, and William Holden and Audrey Hepburn earn statues in the best acting categories for Stalag 17 and Roman Holiday.
1912—First Parachute Jump Takes Place
Albert Berry jumps from a biplane traveling at 1,500 feet and lands by parachute at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. The 36 foot diameter chute was contained in a metal canister attached to the underside of the plane, and when Berry dropped from the plane his weight pulled the canopy from the canister. Rather than being secured into the chute by a harness, Berry was seated on a trapeze bar. It's possible he was only the second man to accomplish a parachute landing, as there are some accounts of someone accomplishing the feat in California several months earlier.
1932—Lindbergh Baby Is Kidnapped
The twenty-month-old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh, Charles Augustus Lindbergh III, is kidnapped from the family home in East Amwell, New Jersey. Over two months later the toddler's body is discovered in woods a short distance from the home. A medical examination determines that he had died of a massive skull fracture. A German carpenter named Bruno Hauptmann is arrested, tried, and convicted for the crime. He is sentenced to death and executed in April 1936.
1953—Watson and Crick Unravel DNA
American biologists James D. Watson and Francis Crick tell their friends that they have determined the chemical structure of DNA. The formal announcement takes place in April following publication in Nature magazine. In 1968, Watson writes The Double Helix, a non-fiction account of not only the discovery of the structure of DNA, but the personalities, conflicts and controversy surrounding the work.
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