In 1957, these five men volunteered to stand under a nuclear blast
On July 19, 1957, five Air Force officers met 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Above their heads, two F-89s circle as the countdown continues. When it reaches zero, one of the bombers drops a bomb. Not just any bomb, yes: a nuclear bomb.
That is, a little over half a century ago a handful of people volunteered to stand still while a 2 kiloton bomb exploded over 6,000 meters above their heads. But there was someone else at the time: the cameraman who recorded all of this. Because if, thanks to Robert Krulwich, I just found out we have video.
How to convince someone that nuclear war is safe
The film, archived by the US government, was designed to show the safety of such a nuclear exchange at a time when American society was beginning to worry about radioactive fallout. By choosing five high-level officers, the military authorities thought they could convince the population that the nuclear race was an acceptable risk.
But beyond all that, the video is fascinating. You can see how the bomb explodes and how that explosion is followed by a huge silence. It can also be seen how, a moment later a “thunderous roar” rises. As explained in NPR a few years ago, enough with see other nuclear test videos to check that it was a public relations campaign.
According to Alex Wellerstein, one of the world’s greatest experts on the history of nuclear weapons, “on that particular explosion, those guys would have been in a pretty safe position. The bomb itself was small (by nuclear standards) and high, high above their heads. [Es decir] They weren’t in an area to be too affected by immediate radiation. “
However, fifty years later the question was still there, what happened to these volunteers? Apparently George Yoshitake, the cameraman, lived until at least 2010 when interviewed by the New York Times and as far as Robert Krulwich could have known most of them had reached the 2000s without health problems.
That is not to say, of course, that the tests were innocuous. It is quite proven that the tests had great effects on the health of the associated persons. According to Wellerstein, more than “150 million dollars in compensation have been paid to more than 2,000 affected” by the bombs. The history of nuclear research (and, on this, Wellerstein is preparing an excellent book) is still full of secrecy and half-truths, but each day the day is closer when the consequences of those years come to light.