Secret corps of filmmakers documented nuclear weapons tests

They risked their lives to capture on film hundreds of blinding flashes, rising fireballs and mushroom clouds.

The blast from one detonation hurled a man and his camera into a ditch. When he got up, a second wave knocked him down again.

Then there was radiation.

While many of the scientists who made atom bombs during the cold war became famous, the men who filmed what happened when those bombs were detonated made up a secret corps.

Their existence and the nature of their work has emerged from the shadows only since the federal government began a concerted effort to declassify their films about a dozen years ago. In all, the atomic moviemakers fashioned 6,500 secret films, according to federal officials.

Today, the result is a surge in fiery images on television and movie screens, as well as growing public knowledge about the atomic filmmakers…

Two new atomic documentaries, “Countdown to Zero” and “Nuclear Tipping Point,” feature archival images of the blasts. Both argue that the threat of atomic terrorism is on the rise and call for the strengthening of nuclear safeguards and, ultimately, the elimination of global arsenals.

As for the atomic cameramen, there aren’t that many left. “Quite a few have died from cancer,” George Yoshitake, 82, one of the survivors, said of his peers in an interview. “No doubt it was related to the testing.”

Long, reflective and cautionary tale. The sort of history the Pentagon, Congress and the corporations they pimp for would rather remain hidden.

RTFA. Interesting not only for the dangers many of us presume; but, for the dedication to craft and country of many cameramen who ended up losing their lives to inevitable cancers.

I was around nuclear manufacturing early enough to remember annual updates to advisories which announced that “last year’s” safety levels had been found to be unsafe. Again and again.

3 thoughts on “Secret corps of filmmakers documented nuclear weapons tests

  1. Oscar G. says:

    “Operation IVY” by Joint Task Force 132 (1952) Color from 16 mm film I:38 in length (see various download options) https://archive.org/details/OperationIVY1952
    “Declassifying the Ivy Mike film (1953)” http://blog.nuclearsecrecy.com/2012/02/08/weekly-document-13-declassifying-the-ivy-mike-film-1953/
    “The Horrifying Hollywood Movie That Determined U.S. Nuclear Policy : “Operation Ivy” Provoked Such Controversy That Future Nuclear Test Films Were Kept Secret From the Public” https://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2020/02/02/the-horrifying-hollywood-movie-about-thermonuclear-war-that-determined-u-s-nuclear-policy-operation-ivy/viewings/glimpses/
    “Operation Ivy was the eighth series of American nuclear tests, consisting of two explosions staged in late 1952 at Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific Proving Ground in the Marshall Islands.
    The first Ivy shot, Mike, was the first successful full-scale test of a multi-megaton thermonuclear weapon (“hydrogen bomb”) using the Teller-Ulam design. Unlike later thermonuclear weapons, Mike used deuterium as its fusion fuel, maintained as a liquid by an expensive and cumbersome cryogenic system. It was detonated on Elugelab Island yielding 10.4 megatons, almost 500 times the yield of the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.
    The second test, King, fired the largest nuclear weapon to date using only nuclear fission (no fusion nor fusion boosting). This “Super Oralloy Bomb” was intended as a backup if the fusion weapon failed. King yielded 500 kilotons, 25 times more powerful than the Fat Man weapon.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Ivy

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