It was 70 years ago, on July 16, 1945, that the first atomic bomb, named Trinity, was exploded at the White Sands Proving Ground, the nuclear test site near Alamagordo, NM. It was an event that changed world history forever, and created new health and security threats that still plague all life on this planet.
Details of Trinity have been documented before, but merit a recap, since memories may fade with the passage of so many years. The collision of two forces – the discovery of atomic fission and the rise of Nazi Germany – resulted in the creation of the Manhattan Project in late 1942. Fearful that the Germans would develop and use a nuclear weapon, President Franklin D. Roosevelt directed the U.S. army to develop such a weapon first. Working furiously, scientists had developed enough nuclear material for a bomb in less than three years. Some were worried that Germany would develop a bomb, but historians have discounted that, and the country was defeated, but American forces were still engaged against Japan.
Before a bomb could be used, a test was needed. A 100-foot tower for the bomb and two trenches for observers were constructed.
The trenches were 10 and 17 miles away, as nobody really knew how powerful the blast would be.
At 5:29 local time, a deafening roar went up, and a blinding flash illuminated the desert, visible 200 miles away. A gaping crater 10 feet deep and 1100 feet in diameter was formed. The shock wave from the explosion could be felt for more than 100 miles. The yield of the plutonium-based bomb was estimated at 23,000 tons of TNT. To maintain secrecy, the Army issued a press release, stating that an “ammunition magazine” had exploded, without anyone being injured.
Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, who directed the team that created the bomb, later remembered that the blast brought to mind a passage from the Bhagavad-Gita: