Originally, I had claimed that the photos presented on this page were likely from the atom bomb tests conducted at the Trinity Site in Socorro, NM. However, a note was received from Mr. Jim Eckles challenging (rightly so) whether these photos are from the Trinity test site, or rather from the test site north of Las Vegas, NV. He believes they must be from NV. Mr. Eckles is an expert on the Trinity site, having worked at White Sands for 30 years. His argument seems compelling. Please read his note here. Furthermore, another RF Cafe visitor, Mr. Bill Loring pointed out that the "Property of U.S.A. A.E.C." marking on the technician's shirt dates the photos to being sometime after the Atomic Energy Commission was formed (August 1946). Accordingly, I have changed the story to reflect those inputs. Thanks to both fellows for setting me straight. Nevertheless, the story is still unique and worth presenting.
Note: New photos were submitted by RF Cafe visitor John Miller that are believed to be the Able and Baker detonations at the Bikini atoll. He received them from his mother's uncle. When so much time has passed since the events occurred, the line of descendancy gets longer and longer.
It is my great privilege to present to the world for the first time photographs of the atom bomb tests conducted by the United States Atomic Energy Commission. These are not, as originally believed, the tests for the development of the Little Boy and Fat Man bombs that were conducted at the Trinity Site in Socorro, New Mexico (now White Sands Missile Range). The date for that original blasts was July 16, 1945, so it predates the AEC by more than a year. These images had been taken by and were kept by the father of my sister-in-law's husband. Mr. Cline (first name omitted for privacy). After his death a year ago, his wife gave the photos shown here to her son, Gary. The rest of the story does not change...
The story I have heard told is that Gary's father was at an Army processing station in Maryland, in line to board a bus for basic training, when some men walked up and began selecting people for special assignment to an undisclosed location. He might have had some electronics training prior to enlisting, so he was one of the ones chosen. He ended up spending World War II either in the New Mexico or the Nevada desert (we don't know which).
View this video of all the world's nuclear denotations from 1945 through 1998.
Somehow, he managed to have a camera on hand, and snapped the images shown below. The black-and-white photo must be inside the control center. I do not know whether he is in the picture, or took the picture. He might be the guy on the right, with his hand on a knob. Is that a cool shot of the equipment or what? Time in the shack: 3:29 (am or pm?) Notice NBS (National Bureau of Standards) sign. NBS played a big role in the development of bombs and radio equipment during World War II. Mr. Cline worked for the NBS (later NIST) for many years as an electronics technician.
I contacted the director of the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum last summer (2007) on behalf of the Clines, after they showed the photos to me. From the moment I saw them, it was obvious that these images need to part of America's historical record. I have never seen such color images before. They might not be gold, but they are a National Treasure in their own respect. Many thanks to Gary and his mother for introducing me to these photographs. Please contact me, Kirt Blattenberger, if you are interested in interviewing Gary and/or his mother about these images (and the possibility of others).
Here is an e-mail received from Mr. Jim Eckles on July 21, 2009, regarding where the above photos were taken:
"This msg is for Mr. Cline concerning the posted photos you claim to be from the atomic bomb test at Trinity Site. They are not. They look very much like tests conducted in Nevada years later.
How can I tell? The test on July 16, 1945 was conducted at 5:30 a.m. Mountain War Time - that is the equivalent to our Daylight Savings Time. At 5:30 it was almost pitch black out. There was just a faint hint of light in the east. When the bomb exploded everything lit up like it was high noon with harsh shadows cast because the light came from a single source. Within seconds, as the fireball faded, the terrain returned to darkness with the glow in the east.
Your photos are obviously taken in full sunlight. The backs of the hills are lit up so the light couldn't be coming from the bomb itself. The first few photos are in the dark because the camera lens is shut down all the way to take into account the bright flash that occurs at detonation. As the fireball faded, the aperture was opened and we can see the surroundings lit by the sun.
I know this because I worked at White Sands Missile Range for 30 years and put together most of the Trinity Site open houses during my time - I retired in 2007. Also, between the open houses I took many groups and many of the original Trinity Site scientists, engineers and soldiers to revisit the site. If you don't believe me, contact the Public Affairs Office at White Sands Missile Range."
Kirt --- Sorry for the attitude but after spending 30 years dealing with so much misinformation, rumors, myths and outright fraud concerning Trinity Site, it is hard to be low key. There are people on the web that claim the white sands at White Sands National Monument got that way by being bleached by radiation from the Trinity Site test. There are people who claim their uncle in Las Cruces has cancer because of the test. In my office I regularly received queries to find out if it was safe to visit Albuquerque because of the test. There are people who sell fake Trinitite or the same photos you can get free by asking the right government office. The ignorance and greed gets to you after a while.
There has only been one above ground atomic bomb test in New Mexico and that was at Trinity Site on July 16, 1945. It was beyond top secret. People weren't allowed to shoot their own photos of the test. Everything was tightly controlled.
After the war, testing moved to the Pacific. After a few years there, officials worried about the Soviets and others nosing around the islands where the tests were conducted. Eventually, they moved the testing to Nevada. Kind of hard to keep a lid on it there - it shook buildings in Las Vegas and the mushroom clouds were visible from the towns. People used to exit the casinos to watch the mushroom clouds rise and spread. There were lots of tests in Nevada and lots of people got invited to see them.
Regardless of this or any other historical information, your photos cannot be from the Trinity test for the reasons I outlined in my previous email - it is physically impossible. Sunrise on the test day was 6:08. The explosion took place 38 minutes before that. No comparison of terrain is going to change the fact that the Trinity test happened pretty much in the dark and your photos were taken with the sun fully shining - look at how it lights up the mushroom cloud and illuminates all the landscape.
I suspect your brother-in-law's mother was simply confused by time. I've run into a lot of that and in myself, as well. After decades the dates and events sometimes don't match up too well anymore. I recently went to my 40-year high school reunion and some of my friends certainly remember things differently than I do.
This e-mail was received from Mr. Bill Loring, on July 15, 2010:
Mr. Hi kirt, I just was reading about the photos that someone took that were originally thought to be from Trinity. The photo in the control room has one of the men wearing coveralls with ‘AEC’ on them, and the AEC didn’t exist at the time of Trinity, so that would be another bit of proof against. You also spoke of Mr Jim Eckles. Do you still have his email address??? I have a question in regard to what happened to the two Sherman tanks that were used at Trinity and if he knows what happened to them. Thanks. Bill Loring
Photographs believed to be the Able and Baker detonations at the Bikini atoll were submitted by RF Cafe visitor John Miller. Thanks to John for making them available. His note to me is presented in its entirety below the photos.
Received July 22, 2010:
"I definitely have some corrected information based upon a closer examination of a stamp on the back of the one of the photos. It indicates the photo was printed by the USS Fulton. I did a search for information on the USS Fulton, and I have concluded that the two pictures are not from Trinity, but rather from Operation Crossroads at Bikini Atoll in the summer of 1946. 'The USS Fulton participated in the Operation "Crossroads," atomic weapons tests at Bikini in the Marshalls Islands that summer .' http://ussfulton.org/history.html
Therefore, I believe that the two pictures represent the 4th and 5th detonation … the first being Trinity, then Hiroshima and Nagasaki … followed by Able & Baker. Based upon what I saw online, Picture 2 is Able (the one that was detonated in the air); Picture 1 (the one with the stamped info on the back) is Baker (the one detonated under the water). The fact that Picture 1 of the Baker detonation is stamped as OFFICIAL … and USS FULTON … seems to lend credibility to the authenticity of the picture. I have no explanation for the absence of a similar stamp from Picture 2 of Able. Aside from that, the only thing that I know for absolutely certain is that my Mom has been in possession of them since “47 or “48, and they were giving to here by her Uncle that was an eye witness to either one or both of the explosions … and the family believes he died at least somewhat prematurely from the radiation. The photographs certainly seem to be very authentic … and not merely a copy of a copy. I have no clue how many of these pictures were handed out in those early days nor how many of them may have survived to this day. But here are at least two that have indeed survived the portal of time since the 1940's. It would be fun to know that information and what sort of a value they would have to the right collector.
Regards, John Miller"