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Five men at atomic ground zero

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When we hear the words “atomic bomb,” we usually think of massive explosions and even bigger mushroom clouds. The normal human reaction would be to run for cover upon learning that an atomic bomb was to be detonated within his or her vicinity. However, this video shows the exact opposite as five soldiers watched an atomic bomb detonate right above their heads.

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On July 19, 1957, five men clustered around Ground Zero of an atomic test that was being conducted at the Nevada Test Site. This was a test of a 2KT (kiloton) MB-1 nuclear air-to-air rocket launched from an F-89 Scorpion interceptor. The nuclear missile detonated 10,000 feet above their heads.

A reel-to-reel tape recorder was present on site to record their experience. The video shows the men’s live reactions to the event, starting with a countdown as the men’s upturned faces watched the aircrafts streak across the sky to launch the bomb. Upon detonation, the men expressed amazement as a white-hot flash appeared in the sky before a booming explosion caused a ring of orange clouds to form above them, including a strange-looking shape that seemed to perpetually hover in the air. The soldiers also described the shock wave they felt moments after the detonation. The men kept looking up at the cloud, which would not dissolve immediately but stayed in its ring shape even after the men had left ground zero.

The handmade placard by the participants that read, “Ground Zero; Population Five” was made by Colonel Arthur B. “Barney” Oldfield, the Public Information Officer for the Continental Air Defense Command in Colorado Spring who arranged for the volunteers to participate.

The five volunteers were: Colonel Sidney Bruce, Lt. Colonel Frank P. Ball (technical advisor to the Steve Canyon television show), Major Norman “Bodie” Bodinger, Major John Hughes and Don Lutrel. George Yoshitake served as the cameraman but was not a volunteer.

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