Five Men Agree To Stand Directly Under An Exploding Nuclear Bomb

A fantastic find from the National Archives by Robert Krulwich for NPR:

They weren’t crazy. They weren’t being punished. All but one volunteered to do this (which makes it all the more astonishing.)

On July 19, 1957, five Air Force officers and one photographer stood together on a patch of ground about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. They’d marked the spot “Ground Zero. Population 5” on a hand-lettered sign hammered into the soft ground right next to them.

As we watch, directly overhead, two F-89 jets roar into view and one of them shoots off a nuclear missile carrying an atomic warhead.

They wait. There is a countdown. 18,500 feet above them, the missile is intercepted and blows up. Which means, these men intentionally stood directly underneath an exploding 2 kiloton nuclear bomb. One of them, at the key moment (he’s wearing sunglasses), looks up. You have to see this to believe it.

[continues at NPR]


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40 Comments on "Five Men Agree To Stand Directly Under An Exploding Nuclear Bomb"

  1. They were hoping for super powers.

  2. Anarchy Pony | Jul 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm |

    There’s some pretty incredible footage of nuke testing out there.

  3. I know a guy who saw a nuke test in the Nevada desert. He said it was beautiful.

    It also burned a tiny hole in his retina (or cornea, shit, I’m not an anatomist) because he glanced at it without dark glasses. Has a tiny little black spec in his field of vision to this day. (He’s about 70 now; saw the nuke go off when he was 18.)

    Your tax dollars at work, Amerika. Enjoy the show.

  4. burnstand | Jul 17, 2012 at 4:40 pm |

    I wonder what happened to the volunteers. Cancer?

  5. during WW2 the Navy offered my father
    30 days paid leave
    if he would participate in the Bikini Atoll A-bomb explosion test
    he did, the bomb exploded and he survived
    they cancelled his 30 day leave
    God Blush Amerika

  6. All that gamma radiation, and three and a half miles away
    and totally exposed.
    It would be interesting to see the medical history of these
    5 brave souls.

    • I don’t know is brave is quite the right word….

    • Calypso_1 | Jul 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm |

      Military rad workers are strictly monitored for yearly and lifetime dosage amounts. The aircrews received more than the ground observers.  For example the pilot received 1330mR which is about the dose you get from a whole body CT or cooking with natural gas for a year. 
      Radiation exposure falls of with distance by The Inverse Square Law.  Every doubling of the distance decreases the exposure by ¼.

  7. “my only regrets are that everybody couldn’t have been here at ground zero with us.” Really? five brainwashed guinea pigs! why man would every conceive the idea of such a destructive machine baffles me. The nuclear bomb is a disgrace to every homosapien that has graced this beautiful planet.

  8. What exactly makes anyone believe that this is real?

    • Nuclearman | Jul 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm |

      It has all the tell tale signs of internet mash up rubbish. You can’t detonate a nuclear weapon by shooting it.

      • Andy Jarmin | Jul 23, 2012 at 7:53 am |


    • I am old enough to have been around when this sort of thing was going on. Its real. They also tested bombs near ships full of navy sailors and on the ground with men in trenches quite close to the explosion. And they did know about the effects of radiation, but after 2 world wars attitudes to servicemen’s lives and health were a little more relaxed than now.

      • Imgonnastabyou | Aug 6, 2012 at 11:33 am |

        nope, their attitudes are the same towards the lives of soldiers, brother…

  9. no offense but, why were the not completely incinerated? it was a nuclear a bomb right—? they must have been testing it in the atmosphere because these guys would be dead if they actually dropped a bomb on them and they were at ground zero… this is a misleading title.

    • Calypso_1 | Jul 19, 2012 at 5:51 pm |

      Ground zero is a different measure than the zero point.  One is the closest surface point to the blast the other is the point of detonation. 

  10. Jsparks108 | Jul 22, 2012 at 9:26 am |

    Hello people!!!! Has anyone noticed that the 5 men and the bomb are never in the same screen shot, Also, the color of the sky is completely different in both shots.

  11. franfetch | Aug 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm |

    just as
    Wendy implied I’m stunned that any one able to profit $6403 in 1 month
    on the internet. did you look at this website

  12. Outled26 | Aug 3, 2012 at 9:37 am |

    haha another bullshit hoax vid from the miltary, im beginning to think nuclear armaments dont even exist. The camera cant pan up from the people, it has to be intercut with another camera LOL BULLSHIT use your eyes people. SO OBVIOUSLY FAKE, YOU’D HAVE TO BE A FUCKING NUTJO TO BELIEVE THIS NONSENSE. Now onto the next fake news story…

  13. Bomb go boom, hahahah

    • Seriously, in no way was this stupid, especially for those five men.  Being former military myself, I am sure they where all aware of the risk involved, all of them being Officers would tell you that.  Now if those soldiers where enlisted then more than likely it was a lab rat type experiment. And as far as RADS, surely closely monitored, and as awesome as the VA is they are all covered for life out of tax payer pockets, there are benefits to serving, especially when you do your job.  And believe me for someone who HATES authority it was a stretch to get up every morning and expect to be shot at or blown up every day for +3 years in both OIF and OEF.  On a side note: originally “Operation Iraqi Freedom” was “Operation Iraqi Liberation”, and whats that spell?!? Muhahahahha.      

  14. Gungadon1 | Aug 23, 2012 at 11:38 pm |

    i worked with a guy that told me he was in the army during the 50’s and after a nuclear test they walked the troops thru the blast site tt didn’t appear that anything was wrong with him the conversation was in the 80’s

  15. Tavaking06 | Aug 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm |

    This is clearly fake. The camera has to cut away to the sky shots which are dramatically darker the the ground shots. The men also seem to look in random directions at the sky which signifies to me that there was no obvious focal point. It’s hoax people so shut up

  16. Beatrix17 | Aug 26, 2012 at 8:35 pm |

    Were they followed up medically to see if they developed cancer?

  17. Arthurthedented | Aug 30, 2012 at 11:38 am |

    I am of the opinion that this is… an authentic fake. IE that it dates from the era and it was produced exactly like this BUT there are a couple of problems that lead me to conclude that it was…faked at the time.. and some reasons they would do that. First.. though not conclusively  I dont believe that in the era in which the F80 would have been used that we had 2kt warheads small enough for it to carry… secondly , that standing directly UNDER such a detonation..only 10,000 feet away would be so casual or survivable an event. and lastly that camera work does have very much a ‘mash up’ feel to it.

    As a guess..with everyone terrified of the bomb…and with hundreds of soldiers having been exposed..for morale purposes it would be beneficial to show a colonel and other officers laughing and taking it and having no consequences…. Also.. as I dont THINK we had the technology shown would be a good piece of disinformation to let fall into soviet hands.

  18. Yates1953 | Sep 9, 2012 at 11:34 pm |

    Ok, I have watched this video several times now and have looked through some supporting text But no mention of the pilot  flying the F-89? Any one know? nothing tells you what the stand off distance for him was ” But there is only 4:seconds from the time of missile launch to detonation” (Thats too close)

    • Calypso_1 | Sep 10, 2012 at 8:02 am |

      The aircrew and observation aircraft recieved far more radiation than the ground observers but it was still an insignificiant amount.  There are detailed studies and reports on this, some of which are slightly redacted.  They are not hard to find if you really want to know.

  19. Adam Hansil | Oct 18, 2012 at 12:43 am |

    propaganda.  I don’t think we had anti missile missiles in 57 .  The tech is hardly proven today.

    • Calypso_1 | Oct 18, 2012 at 1:32 am |

      It is not an “anti-missile” missile.  It is an air burst nuclear weapon designed to destroy an incoming fleet of nuclear bombers. 
       Look up Operation Plumbbob, Test – John, AIR-2 Genie.  The resources to reference this technology are freely available with little effort. 

    • Calypso_1 | Oct 18, 2012 at 1:32 am |

      It is not an “anti-missile” missile.  It is an air burst nuclear weapon designed to destroy an incoming fleet of nuclear bombers. 
       Look up Operation Plumbbob, Test – John, AIR-2 Genie.  The resources to reference this technology are freely available with little effort. 

  20. This is why you should never let men lead….

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