Atomic bomb madness: A real blast


Truly the lazy days of summer — I missed the anniversary of the Trinity Project, the first atomic bomb ever exploded, at White Sands, New Mexico, early on the morning of July 16, 1945. That was 63 years ago.

The Trinity atomic bomb test, culmination of the Manhattan Project, July 16, 1945

The Trinity atomic bomb test, culmination of the Manhattan Project, July 16, 1945

The New Mexico blast demonstrated that atomic bombs work. President Harry S Truman got the word of the successful test while attending the Potsdam Conference with Winston Churchill of England and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union.

The Potsdam Conference, July 1945 - Churchill, Stalin, and Truman at the table - Photo from the Truman

The Potsdam Conference, July 1945 - Churchill, Stalin, and Truman at the table - Photo from the Truman

Truman hoped to avoid a land invasion of Japan, which experts said would leave at least a million dead U.S. soldiers and five million dead Japanese. Truman was a soldier in World War I, who saw the trenches close up. He hoped to avoid anything similar for soldiers, and civilians. From Potsdam, Truman, Churchill and Stalin issued the Potsdam Declaration, ending with an ultimatum to Japan to surrender unconditionally or face terrible consequences.

Japan did not surrender. On August 6, 1945, the U.S. detonated the first atomic bomb used in warfare over Hiroshima, Japan, a city with large military support facilities. Within a few minutes, nearly 100,000 people were dead. When Japan failed to offer unconditional surrender even then, a second atomic device was detonated over Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9. (Had Japan not surrendered then a scramble would have been on — the U.S. had materials for about four more bombs, but they were not ready to go.)

1945 launched the world into the Atomic Age, by many accounts. The existence of atomic weaponry added to tensions on the planet played out during the Cold War. The creation of thermonuclear weapons, many times as powerful as a simple atomic bomb, only added to the tension. Perhaps we should call it the Atomic Angst Age.

Does that explain the fascination with photos of atomic blasts in recent days?

Wired’s online version noted the anniversary and included a slide show of atomic milestones, featuring a few blasts.

Then this post, from a blog named Picdit — “8 Insane Nuclear Explosions” rode the top of the popularity index of WordPress for the past couple of days. I’m not sure why these photos or the events they portray deserve to be called “insane.” I’m perplexed about why they are so popular.

These events around the creation, testing and use of nuclear arsenals resonate deeply with those of us who lived through any of these times. High school students have tested poorly on these issues during the past five years, however. Many of my history students do not know the significance of the classic mushroom cloud that marks an atomic blast.

I hope the curiosity is genuine curiosity for the historic events, that this curiosity leads to understanding of the destructive power of nuclear weapons, and that those tens of thousands who clicked on those images achieved an iota of understanding. I hope.

The First Bomb at Bikini, Charles Bittinger, 1946 - Captured at the peak of formation, this painting illustrates the classic mushroom cloud shape. The pink color of the cloud is due to the oxidation of nitrogen caused by high heat and radiation from the explosion. The rapidly cooling fireball is the cause of the red glow seen deep within the cloud. The blast wave created the massive waves and steam that engulfed the target fleet at the bottom.

The First Bomb at Bikini, Charles Bittinger, 1946 - "Captured at the peak of formation, this painting illustrates the classic mushroom cloud shape. The pink color of the cloud is due to the oxidation of nitrogen caused by high heat and radiation from the explosion. The rapidly cooling fireball is the cause of the red glow seen deep within the cloud. The blast wave created the massive waves and steam that engulfed the target fleet at the bottom." From the Naval Historical Center Art Collection

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14 Responses to Atomic bomb madness: A real blast

  1. […] July 16, marking the anniversary of the Trinity test in new Mexico […]

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  2. […] July 16, marking the anniversary of the Trinity test in new Mexico […]

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  3. Nick K says:

    I don’t think Ken even has the basket for the picnic.

    Like

  4. Jim says:

    Hello there Ken!

    A few sandwiches short of a full picnic basket, aren’t you?

    Like

  5. Flakey says:

    I just hope Ken an April fools joke, and not really think that way. Perhaps he would have benefited from talking to my grand uncle (one of the British that tried to help one of the camps) if he was real.

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  6. Ed Darrell says:

    Ken, in open court in the U.S., and even under Britain’s really odd defamation rules, the courts have determined that there was indeed a Holocaust, and that it was perpetrated by Nazis under Adolf Hitler.

    Talking about “Jew Communists” is tantamount to talking about “Jew Nazis” or “Nazi Communists” — which is to say that if you don’t recognize the inherent contradictions in the philosophical positions of the two groups you name, then you won’t understand how funny it is to see someone make such a bizarre claim. It’s sorta like talking about flying an airplane underground, or mining gold from with a pick, axe and mule, from the clouds.

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  7. Ken says:

    The ONLY people who caused a Holocaust (death by fire) in WWII were the sadistic Allies who incinerated CIVILIANS in Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki.

    God bless Hitler and Germany for standing up to the International Jew Communists. Today, you see the multicultural filth of the International Jew World Order.

    If you dont know the Holocaust is 100% Communist Jew war propaganda or that 9/11 was a demolition done by Israel and Zionist Traitors you are so lost and brainwashed it is stunning.

    If you cant handle the truth about the Holocaust or 9/11 try researching the USS Liberty, Levon Affair, King David Hotel Bombing.

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  8. […] July 16, marking the anniversary of the Trinity test in new Mexico […]

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  9. mpb says:

    I heard the story from the third director of the lab, Harold Agnew. It was on a significant anniversary (1985?) but my memory like my notes is in deep storage.

    Maybe it was the filmed version and not the stills that he was referring to.

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  10. Ed Darrell says:

    The photograph of the Hirsohima bomb does not exist. I’ve forgotten why but the film of the actual bomb dropping is from Nagasaki.

    Are you sure? My recollection is one of the main cameras malfunctioned, but that there was a shot obtained as the airplane sped away.

    Here’s an image from the Atomic Archive:

    http://www.atomicarchive.com/Photos/Hiroshima/image1.shtml

    It looks different from the Nagasaki blast, to me.

    http://www.atomicarchive.com/Photos/Nagasaki/image1.shtml

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  11. mpb says:

    Trivia on photos– If my memory is correct
    Harold Eugene Edgerton of EG&G (now subsumed under something else) developed strobe flash. Most of the test photos are his, I believe.

    The photograph of the Hirsohima bomb does not exist. I’ve forgotten why but the film of the actual bomb dropping is from Nagasaki.

    One (maybe only?) negative effect of the atmospheric test ban treaty was that politicians could no longer drop their pants and feel the heat. There are very few, if any, people these days who can comprehend fully the power of a nuclear blast AND appreciate its devastating effects on humanity and therefore never use it.

    Increasingly, there are few who understand the responsibilities of massive destruction. I think this is frightening.

    While an understanding may engender in the few a feeling of next-to-godliness (hubris similar to physicians– “I’m the only one capable of controlling this”) I found far more people who never, ever took their knowledge for granted. As a consequence, the center of non-proliferation and anti-nuclear thought and action was once Los Alamos Scientific Lab.

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  12. Mike says:

    I often wonder whether or not I would have ever been born if not for Hiroshima/Nagasaki. My Dad volunteered for the Navy in 1945, and was stationed in California at the time of the Japanese surrender. He could well have been a casualty if the War had continued.

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  13. Mero says:

    Love the post! It is tragic that a good portion of the population, particularly the recent generations, are unaware of the significance of the nuclear attack on Japan in World War II, as well as the nuclear arms state of our global society.

    Like

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