Today marks the 55th anniversary of a very strange event: the day on which five Army officers and a photographer stood directly under a 2-kiloton atomic blast at the Nevada Test Site and lived to tell about it.
On July 19, 1957, the men stood next to a hand-lettered sign that read “Ground Zero, Population 5.” While the military men had volunteered for the test, the photographer had not.
Conducted during the Cold War, the atomic test was meant to convince U.S. military leaders that low-grade nuclear missiles would be relatively safe for troops on the ground.
Fifty-five years later, the team at AtomCentral.com obtained footage of two F-89 fighter jets flying into view as one fires the atomic warhead carrying missile. The video then shows the officers waiting for the missile to detonate 18,500 feet above their heads. As the warhead explodes, the officer wearing sunglasses looks up at the blast, and, a second later, a tremendous noise is heard, and the sky goes black before bursting into flame.
As the blast occurs a voice shouts:
“It’s happened! The mounds are vibrating. It is tremendous. Directly above our heads!”
According to KPLU, the film was ordered by Col. Arthur B. “Barney” Oldfield, a public information officer for the Continental Air Defense Command in Colorado Springs.
Participating in the blast were Col. Sidney Bruce, Lt. Col. Frank P. Ball, Maj. Norman “Bodie” Bodinger, Maj. John Hughes, Don Lutrel, and photographer George Yoshitake.
Despite the risk of radiation poisoning, cancer, and other variables, at least two of the men lived long lives.
Ground zero tests were not uncommon during the cold war, and officials at the time admit to many cancer related deaths, but, in the case of six volunteers, the result was a beautifully devastating explosion of atomic proportions just 18,500 feet above their heads.
Here’s the recently released video of the July 19, 1957 atomic blast test: