The New York Times has a jaw-dropping slideshow of photographer George Yoshitake’s images of 1950s nuclear blasts conducted in the Nevada desert and South Pacific. Yoshitake was lucky, or perhaps cursed, to be one of the “atomic cameramen” charged with documenting the detonation of atom bombs — many of the photographers died from exposure to these experiments.
Tag Archives | Atomic Bomb
President George W. Bush and many of his top administration officials were often accused of hubris in their eight-year run, but I have to say this incident from 1946 really tops the literal cake. It has the haughtiness of President Bush’s 2003 “Mission Accomplished” photo-op aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, combined with an element as you see below, I can best describe as … callous. From CONELRAD Adjacent:
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The celebratory event took place on Tuesday evening, November 5, 1946 at the Officers’ Club of the Army War College in Washington, D.C. The occasion was to mark the disbanding of Joint Army-Navy Task Force Number One, the body that organized and oversaw the first post-war atomic tests in the Pacific. These highly publicized detonations on Bikini Atoll are remembered today, if at all, for displacing an entire indigenous population of islanders, for inspiring a revealing line of swimwear for women and for unleashing the myth that movie star Rita Hayworth’s image was once affixed to an A-bomb.
In the early morning hours of July 16, 1945, some of the greatest scientific minds of a generation gathered in the New Mexican desert to watch the results of their unprecedented, world-changing experiment: to build the most powerful weapon in the world. But when they pressed the button on their bomb, nicknamed “Gadget,” they weren’t quite sure what would happen. The general consensus was that the bomb would yield energy equivalent to 5,000 tons of TNT (the actual result as it was finally calculated was 21,000 tons). Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Manhattan Project, had bet ten dollars against scientist George Kistiakowsky’s wager, with his entire month’s pay, that the bomb would not work at all. Enrico Fermi offered a wager on “whether or not the bomb would ignite the atmosphere, and if so, whether it would merely destroy New Mexico or destroy the world.”
A Japanese artist named Isao Hashimoto has created a series of works about nuclear weapons. One is titled "1945—1998" and shows a history of the world's nuclear explosions. Over the course of fourteen and a half minutes, every single one of the 2,053 nuclear tests and explosions that took place between 1945 and 1998 are is plotted on a map. After a couple of minutes or so, however, once the USSR and Britain entered the nuclear club, the tests really start to build up, reaching a peak of nearly 140 in 1962, and remaining well over 40 each year until the mid-80s. It's a compelling insight into the history of humanity's greatest destructive force, especially when you remember that only two nuclear explosions have ever been detonated offensively, both in 1945. Since then, despite more than 2,000 other tests and billions of dollars having been spent on their development, no nuclear warheads have been used in anger.
And you thought you had a bad week…Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the only human ever to experience two atomic bombings, has died at age 93:
The only person officially recognized as a survivor of both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings at the end of World War II, Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on a business trip on Aug. 6, 1945, when a U.S. B-29 dropped an atom bomb. He suffered serious burns to his upper body and spent the night in the city.
He then returned to his hometown of Nagasaki, about 190 miles [away], which suffered the second U.S. atomic bomb attack three days later.
Immediately after the war, Yamaguchi worked as a translator for American forces in Nagasaki and later as a junior high school teacher.
At 11:00 a.m. on August 9th, 1945, just a minute before the second atomic bomb in the space of three days was dropped on Japan, a B-29 bomber named The Great Artiste quietly dropped three canisters from the sky. Inside each of the canisters, alongside a shockwave gauge designed by American physicist Luis Alvarez, was an unsigned copy of the following letter. The letter, written by Alvarez and two fellow scientists, was addressed to Japanese nuclear physicist Ryokichi Sagane —a man with whom Alvarez had previously worked at Berkeley — and pleaded with him to inform his 'leaders' of the impending 'total annihilation' of their cities. The letter reached Sagane a month later after being found 50km from the centre of devastation: Nagasaki. Alvarez and Sagane met again 4 years later, at which point the letter was finally signed.