On Veterans Day, formerly World War One Armistice Day, the “war to end all wars”, we look back and forward at the costs of war and remember the courage in defense of values worth defending. My father was a B-17 pilot then trained as a B-29 pilot among those who began the nuclear era…
The Nuclear Age ‘Begat’
The blast of the first atomic bomb occurred at dawn on July 16, 1945 in what is now called Trinity, New Mexico
The barren landscape had been named Jornada del Muerto for deaths it had brought the ”Conquistadors” who’d arrived centuries earlier looking for Aztec gold. They found no native treasure in the northern realm and survivors staggered back, eventually returning to the Old World.
In the New World, the invaders gained a foothold and centuries later in Los Alamos, in secrecy on a high mesa under an ancient volcano’s caldera, a group of war-challenged physicists built a bomb, an atomic bomb, a first-of-its-type nuclear weapon. They named it “Gadget.”
The first atomic bomb test, triggered by the Los Alamos scientists led by Robert Oppenheimer, left a 800 meter diameter deep crater with a “glistening encrustation of blue-green glass”. The scientists, huddled the night before in the distance in a bunker, had been wagering whether the nuclear explosion would ‘catch the atmosphere on fire’. It didn’t and those who gambled it would, lost.
After recording what had happened that day, the military quickly covered over the crater with desert sand ‘for security reasons’, burying the remnants of the molten blue-green crystalized debris that would later be given the name — “Trinitite”.
In July 1945 everything changed.
The official line of the US Army was that the explosion was an “accident”, an “ammunition dump” had exploded in the New Mexico desert south of Albuquerque.
The flash in the sky was noted in the news — then forgotten until the Hiroshima atomic blast on August 6, 1945.
A Family Memory — 1945 and the First Nuclear Bomb
August 7, 2015
Strategic Demands editor: My father in World War 2 was a bomber pilot trained to fly “secret missions.”
He spoke to me, on rare occasions, about his training and B-17/29 “special” assignments near war’s end.
One day and one story stands out in my memory. Posterity tells me to share his story as my dad has passed away.
War secrets have long faded into history. Marfa / Roswell / Ardmore / Clovis / Alamogordo — B-17s to B-29s — missions to the Pacific…
It was in July 1945. At that time my lieutenant father was based in New Mexico at Clovis Army Air Field flying training missions. He was scheduled, as I look today at his yellowing papers with orders in his air force trunk, to transfer to Alamogordo on July 23rd. Curiously, I see a number of destinations on his orders are blank. I’m remembering how he told me that he knew and his crew knew, in their own way, about the first test of a nuclear weapon. They knew it had happened not far from their base and on July 17th newspapers in New Mexico had reported that a “munitions storage depot” had exploded. This was the official line to explain the bright flash in the sky at dawn, 5:30 AM on July 16th, south of Albuquerque.
The initial testing of the first nuclear weapon was at Trinity in a barren area of New Mexico known as Jornada del Muerto (“Journey of the Dead Man”). The desolation made it the choice of the Army and scientists who had secretly developed the bomb at the isolated nuclear physics laboratory at Los Alamos.
The B-17 crew that flew that week from Clovis decided (in a departure from the official planned flight path) to veer “off course” and to take a look at the area where the bomb went off… not a good decision, but in those days many of the pilots and crews were strong willed to put it mildly. This crew chose to go where they thought the site of the blast was… They scanned the horizon and in the distance they saw a bright glistening spot in the desert.
They flew over it. My father, years later, told me it was both frightening and beautiful. It was a crater scattering radiating beams of light up.
The crater from the blast shocked the crew into silence he remembered. The sand had turned liquid then fused and fallen back to earth. The crater was coated with a ‘glass’ that would be called “Trinitite”.
They flew on without talking, he said. The power of the weapon all too evident. No more fly-boys on a run.
Now they knew what their bomber group, their B-29s, and their special runs with unusual maneuvers were being equipped to do. The military covered over the crater and evidence of the blast.
Then they heard the news, August 6th and 9th, 1945, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
Today it’s seventy plus years on and I remember how my father told me of his relief there were to be no more atomic bombs and hopefully no more wars with nuclear weapons.
He had trained as a warrior with nuclear weapons. He said it had gone too far. He was, we were, fortunate to not suffer the consequences as others have, even as a sword of a Damocles or worse continues to hang over our heads as a result.
Generations in the future have to deal with the potential consequences of the nuclear age.
The words of the head of the atomic weapon project for the U.S. continue to echo …
StratDem Looks at Nuclear Escalation and Nuclear Risks in the 21st Century
https://www.strategicdemands.com/prevent-nuclear-first-use/ Prevent Nuclear First Use
https://www.strategicdemands.com/a-nuclear-meme/ A Nuclear Meme
https://www.strategicdemands.com/nuclear-weapons-treaty-adopted-historic-moment/ Historic Nuclear Weapons Treaty
https://www.strategicdemands.com/nuclear-hair-trigger/ Nuclear Hair-Trigger
https://www.strategicdemands.com/trumps-nuclear-options/ Trump’s Nuclear Options
https://www.strategicdemands.com/updating-midnight-rendezvous/ Updating Nuclear Midnight
https://www.strategicdemands.com/entering-world-stage/ Entering World Stage: Trump
https://www.strategicdemands.com/satan-sarmat/ ‘Satan’ Sarmat
https://www.strategicdemands.com/to-ban-or-not-to-ban/ To Ban or Not To Ban Nuclear Weapons
https://www.strategicdemands.com/bad-week-global-anti-nuke-movement/ Bad Week for the Global Anti-Nuke Movement
https://www.strategicdemands.com/another-war/ Another War Escalating
https://www.strategicdemands.com/end-first-use-nukes/ End First-Use of Nukes
https://www.strategicdemands.com/nextgen-nuclear-weapons-codes/ NextGen Nuclear Weapons and Codes
https://www.strategicdemands.com/democrats-email-russia-trump/ More Than an Email Dustup
https://www.strategicdemands.com/turkey-incirlik-us-russia/ Turkey, Incirlik, US and Russia – Nukes
https://www.strategicdemands.com/nuclear-end-of-times-scenario/ Nuclear Use Scenarios / June 2016
https://www.strategicdemands.com/new-nuclear-arsenal/ New Nuclear Arsenal / June 2016
https://www.strategicdemands.com/hiroshima/ Hiroshima / May 2016
https://www.strategicdemands.com/stewards-of-the-apocalypse/ Stewards of the Apocalypse / May 2016
https://www.strategicdemands.com/nuclear-security-summit/ Recipe for Proliferation / April 2016
https://www.strategicdemands.com/what-are-the-odds/ My Journey at the Nuclear Brink / January 2016
https://www.strategicdemands.com/remembering-a-day-in-1962/ Remembering a Day in 1962 / October 2015
https://www.strategicdemands.com/nextgen_nuclear-weapons/ Next-Gen Nuclear Weapons / October 2015
https://www.strategicdemands.com/ongoing-questions-on-mideast-proliferation-v-non-proliferation/ Mideast Proliferation v Non-proliferation / Sept 2015
https://www.strategicdemands.com/nuclearexperts_statement_irandeal/ The Iran Deal / August 2015
https://www.strategicdemands.com/diplomacy-in-the-mideast/ Iran and Diplomacy / August 2015
https://www.strategicdemands.com/win-for-nonproliferation/ A Win for Non-proliferation / July 2015
https://www.strategicdemands.com/deal-now-onto-implementation/ Deal: Now to Implementation / July 2015
https://www.strategicdemands.com/one-day-in-the-life-of-a-nuclear-arms-race/ A Day in the Life of a Nuclear Arms Race / June 2015
https://www.strategicdemands.com/hair-trigger-revcon-ends/ Hair Trigger Revcon / June 2015
https://www.strategicdemands.com/re-pits-nuclear-warhead-cores/ Pits: Future of Nuclear Warhead Cores / May 2015
https://www.strategicdemands.com/npt-treaty-at-risk/ Nuclear Modernization and the NPT / April 2015
https://www.strategicdemands.com/edge/ “The Edge”, Europe and Russia – Cold War 2.0 / Feb 2015
https://www.strategicdemands.com/blip_on_the_screen/ Blip on the Screen / Jan 2015
https://www.strategicdemands.com/going_bzhrk/ Going Bzhrk / Jan 2015
Today, the clock ticks as humanity determines if, how and when to use the power of atomic weapons
Questioning the US Nuclear Arsenal.
What is it there for, if it can’t be used?
— The US President