How to Watch a Nuclear Explosion

Jul 14, 2008 11 comments

From 1945 till 2008, over 2,000 nuclear tests have been conducted worldwide. The United States of America alone accounts for 1,054 of these tests, according to an official count. Many of these atmospheric tests, the ones in which the nuclear device is detonated above the ground, were watched by thousands of spectators and volunteers. Radiations and fall-out from these tests were later found to have claimed the lives of more than 11,000 Americans, according to a report by New Scientist. The guys in the following pictures had no idea of what they were getting into.

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VIP observers watching the spectacle during Operation Greenhouse at Enewetak Atoll, 1951.

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Soldiers being exposed to a nuclear explosion at the Nevada Test Site in 1951

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Believe it or not, these five volunteers were standing at ground zero when a 2KT nuclear war headed air-to-air missile, Genie, was exploded 15,000 feet above their heads, to demonstrate that the weapon was safe for use over populated areas. Whether this affected the health of the officers is unknown.

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The testing of "Small Boy" in 1962

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Cameramen at the Nevada Test Site, May 25, 1953

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Troops watching during Operation Tumbler-Snapper. Twenty-one hundred marines participated in this test on May 1, 1952

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Crew of the USS Fall River watching the atomic blast during Operation Crossroads in 1946

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Casual observers of the Baker blast during Operation Crossroads

The origin of the next two pictures is unknown, though the last one could be from Operation Tumbler-Snapper.


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Update: Watch this video (it's worth it)

Sources: 1,2,3,4,5


  1. I feel radioactive.

  2. In most of these pictures the people were far enough away than the amount of Gamma they received was less than a walk through a graveyard (lot's of marble and granite are radioactive, in case you didn't know, so watch your granite counter top). Tissue stops Alpha and Beta, so the 11000 must have bathed in fallout and eaten crap off the ground after the events.

    (I built nukes for 4 years, so I know what they can and don't do.)

  3. Just a guess, but marching them through ground Zero might have had a little bit to do with that. And nukes built today have about as much in common with the early nukes as your microwave. Early nukes were more dirty bombs than the ones of today.

  4. Wow - like they are watching a movie or something. Little did they know what they were about to unleash and how this weapon has chaned the way we rage war...

  5. If you watch footage of tests in which soldiers participated you'll see that many were in slit trenches close enough to the blast that sandbags above the trenches caught fire, also as soon as the light began to fade the soldiers were ordered to stand up and look at the event at which point the dirt cloud arrives pushed along buy the mach front, and indeed these unfortunate witnesses got mouth, lung, eye, and ears full of highly radioactive particulate. So while they may have been protected from the immediate thermal effects they were exposed to hazardous amounts of radiation even before they were ordered to march toward ground zero

  6. Some guy actually wrote a book on the Baker Blast, and it's effects on the people within the test area. It's scary stuff.

    Once I read it, I thought to myself, "How did they NOT know"?

    The book is called, "JEMO", by Stephen P. Robertson, and it's a log book of the engineer that got zapped!

    1. I believe that's a fictional account of the events from the perspective of someone who doesn't actually exist. Historical fiction as it were.

    2. I was curious, so I read it, and began researching things. This book has too much information that's dead on. For example, the log gives WASHINGTON 25 as the post code, which refers to the Chief of Naval Operation's address at that time. The details (however small), seem to correspond to a verifiable piece of real information.

      Then, there's the first-person account of Jack Lucas (real person who won the Medal of Honor). This person actually pushed the sailor out of the way of the two grenades he dove on! I think what this writer did was take what he knew, and changed a few things to assure he didn't get put into the pokey!

      Sometimes the truth is hiding in an obscure little book. There's more to this story than a vivid imagination.

      If we can't find anything else within this story, it's about the courage someone had to do his job, despite the reality that he was going to die. That's uncommon valor.

  7. My dad was 5th Marines 1953 a young man he would explain to me what it was like to watch the nukes..the x-ray light. U could see your bones n feel it suck towards the bomb then blow back extremely hard and hot..he lived healthy till accident took his life in 97..D.O.D sent me all the paper work on all nukes his company watched..all sizes n measurements..14 above ground in total 13 detentions and 1 dad was an amazing ,honest,brave,humble man..i miss him n love him

  8. My grandfather is in the picture that was taken may 1 1952. We have this picture in are family position. It is Also on his tombstone. He is the Marine in the middle turning back and pointing. His name is jack Wilson from van wert Ohio. If anyone has more info on this event or pics please post and let me know. Thanks Chris wilson


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