Thursday, October 14, 2010

Atomic Bombs

Almost immediately after WWII ended in 1945, the Berlin blockade began, followed by the Berlin Airlift, and in quick succession came Yeager breaking the sound barrier, the introduction of jet aircraft, Von Braun’s missiles, and the Korean War. In 6 or 7 short years our society had been transformed from an active war footing to a so-called “Cold War” footing.

Our 1950s workforce was filled with young, energetic men who had just recently been a part of a regimented and powerful organization that had vanquished some real villains. They came home and went to college or work in record numbers, and they stood ready to take on new threats without hesitation. They built an Interstate Highway system, an all-jet commercial airline industry, a space program, massive new suburbs, and along with all that, a vibrant “military-industrial complex.”

For those of us who grew up in North Texas during those years, tangible examples of their military industriousness took the form of frequent sonic booms overhead, missile launches brought to our homes via the nightly TV news, and unknown to us, a few Carswell-based B-36 bombers flying around the DFW area carrying nuclear reactors aboard them.

The evening news in those days frequently told of an atomic bomb detonation at the Nevada Test Site as there were just over 1000 bombs detonated there over an 11-year period. The last of them was set off during our last summer as a Highlander—July 1962.

Thankfully, we didn’t have any exposure to anything like those tests in the DFW area. To me, the West in those days seemed like another country…somewhere way out there…

I am very familiar with the Los Angeles basin as a result of doing some projects out there. Recently, as I was looking for some old pictures of the LA area, I happened on the picture posted above. It was taken at night in 1955 from downtown Los Angeles—see the lights turned on inside the buildings? The white glow above the buildings is the flash from an atomic bomb detonated over 300 miles to the northeast. This was one of about 100 atmospheric detonations that were included in the over 1000 bombs set off in Nevada during the years 1951-1962. Guess the sonic booms we had to contend with were much less nerve wracking than this startling scene.


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