By Dennis Overbye
TRINITY SITE, N.M. – Once, in another lifetime, I witnessed an atomic explosion. This was in the 1960s at the Nevada Test Site, a vast area about an hour northwest of Las Vegas where the American military tested bombs. I was working for EG&G, a military contracting company that, among other atomic chores, supplied all the instrumentation for the test site; it is now part of a company called Amentum. My job, to study the effects of nuclear explosions on the atmosphere, was sufficient to keep me out of the Vietnam War draft.
Cabriolet, as the test was called, contained the force of 2,300 tons of TNT. Detonated hundreds of feet underground, it was louder than I thought anything could ever be. The ground bulged, and a line of torches marking ground zero flew into the air. From a shaking trailer four miles away, my boss and I filmed tongues of fire erupting from the earth and congealing into an elephant-shaped cloud of dust that drifted off in the general direction of Montana.
Those were heady days in the atomic business, when people thought they could build harbors in a few microseconds of fury, or dig a new Panama Canal overnight in a domino of blasts, or even propel spaceships. Cabriolet was part of the Plowshare Program, which looked for peaceful civilian uses of nuclear explosions. Turns out all they are good for is terror.
And the rest of this article is about TRINITY SITE. Where the first atomic bombs were detonated. Just before we dropped one on Hiroshima…another on Nagasaki. RTFA. Fill out your knowledge of American history.