Times covers Nevada atomic blast
May 5, 1955: The detonation of an atomic test device at 5:10 a.m. is photographed from 8 miles away with a camera equipped with a 40-inch lens. The fireball is about 4 miles high. The test, named “Apple-2,” was part of the Operation Teapot series conducted at the Nevada Test Site in 1955.
This test was witnessed up close by thousands of military, civilians and journalists. Los Angeles Times staff representative Marvin Miles reported the next morning from a tank 3,100 yards from ground zero:
YUCCA FLAT, Nev., May 5 –– Paralyzing, terrifying thunder — like a crashing fulmination of hell — smashed our 50-ton Patton tank with a single lash of demoniacal rage in the faint dawn today as a massive atomic blast ripped earth and sky with incandescent flame less than two miles distant.
The violent paroxysm of power, equivalent to probably 70,000,000 pounds of TNT, erupted with cataclysmic force and blinding white heat in one-millionth of a second to fill our buttoned-up tank with the glare of a photoflood turned on in a darkened closet — at the same time suffusing this entire 20-mile wasteland valley with triple daylight.
For seven agonizing seconds after the searing flash at 5:10 a.m., the tank rocked gently to the trembling of the earth while a satanical fireball writhed its way skyward in a deadly pyre of radioactivity.
Then the massive onslaught of the atomic shockwave slammed into our protective steel with savage, whiplike fury to stun the mind in its ferocity and fill the turret with choking dust as the 50 tons of steel shuddered under the impact — but did not budge.
Other than the blanched faces, the deep hidden stab of fear, and a second or two of stupor, however the chain reaction spasm of the largest nuclear device ever triggered here in an “open shot” wrought no harm to four youthful tankers and me.
Miles estimated there were about 150 news representatives covering the test — including Times photographers Phil Bath and Larry Sharkey. The Press Photographers Association of Greater Los Angeles 1955 “Just One More” yearbook reports about 20 members present.
Bath, using a camera called “The Thing,” equipped with a 40-inch lens shot a color photo that was published on The Times’ front page on May 6, 1955. Sharkey used a similar camera to shoot a sequence, five of which were published inside the May 6th edition.
The test was originally scheduled for April 26, but nine weather postponements delayed it until May 5.
Times photographer Phil Bath with “The Thing,” a special camera with a 40-inch lens used to shoot the May 5, 1955, atomic blast in Nevada. Credit: Los Angeles Times.
March 8, 2012, 8:59 am
A tremendously frightful photograph of man's creation brings back memories of the awful cold war. For a kid, growing up in the 50's here in Los Angeles, I remember these times with mixed emotions. In many ways it was a good time, but with the constant fear presented to us in the media and at school we grew up as any ravaged child would in a war torn environment.
Add a comment or a question.
If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate. Here are the full legal terms you agree to by using this comment form.
Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they've been approved.
MOST POPULAR POSTS
SITES WE LIKE
- A Photo A Day
- A Photo Editor
- Bombay Flying Club
- California is a place
- Denver Post
- Interactive Narratives
- Multimedia Muse
- National Geographic