The American West at Risk: Science, Myths, and Politics of Land Abuse and Recovery

By Howard G. Wilshire; Jane E. Nielson et al. | Go to book overview

Appendix 5
Destroyer of the Worlds

The United States exploded more than 1,000 individual nuclear devices in atmospheric, underwater, and underground tests at Pacific Ocean, Nevada, Alaska, South Atlantic Ocean, New Mexico, Colorado, and Mississippi sites. Atmospheric tests totaled 331.1 The following is a brief annotated chronology of the testing program and related events.2 Bomb yields are given in kilotons (Kt) or megatons (Mt), equivalent to 1,000 or one million tons of TNT, respectively.

1944–1945Nonnuclear testing for the World War II Manhattan Project takes place at Salton Sea Test Base, Muroc Air Base, and China Lake Naval Ordnance Testing Station in California, and Wendover Field in Utah. The Manhattan Project scientists creating the bombs are stationed at Los Alamos, New Mexico.
16 July 1945Trinity “event”: First detonation of a nuclear bomb, yielding 21 Kt, at White Sands Missile Base, Alamagordo, New Mexico. “With the Trinity event man would unlock the demon from the very fabric of matter and plunge the world into the atomic age.”3 The blast instantly raises the ground temperature to levels that melt soil, vaporizes the tower, and kills all desert life within half a mile, reminding Manhattan Project leader J. Robert Oppenheimer of words from Hindu mythology—“I am the destroyer of the worlds.”
6 August 1945Hiroshima: Uranium fission bomb called “Little Boy,” 15 Kt, kills 70,000 people. Of 90,000 buildings in the city, 60,000 are demolished.
9 August 1945Nagasaki: Plutonium bomb called “Fat Man,” 20 Kt, kills 42,000 people, injures 40,000, and destroys 39% of buildings.
July 1946Operation Crossroads “tests”: A series of bombs detonate at Bikini Atoll. Two blasts, “Able” and “Baker,” test the impacts of atom bombs

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