Reviewing Operations Able, Baker, Dominic, Epilog,
Hardtack, Orange and Troop Involvement
Nuclear Film Declassification Project / Nuclear Testing Review
- 25 minutes - Color
Coming out of World War II, the U.S. and its allies realized they
were in a Cold War with the Soviet Union. The first atomic bomb
had been tested successfully at the Trinity Site in southeastern
New Mexico in July 1945 and the second and third bombs were dropped
on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945, bringing about
a speedy end to World War II. U.S. officials knew that the Soviet
Union was on a fast track to develop the "bomb" and that
they must develop more sophisticated nuclear weapons to stay ahead
of the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
With the backing of the Executive Branch and Congress, the Army's
Manhattan Engineer District (MED), which designed, developed and
tested the first atomic bomb, embarked on a nuclear testing program
in 1946 at the newly established Pacific Proving Ground in the Marshall
Islands area. The MED was dissolved in 1947 and its duties and functions
were given to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). The DoD joined
the AEC in Joint Task Forces which continued the atmospheric testing
program. This program allowed rapid gains in knowledge about weapons
development, military effects, fallout and radiation effects, biomedical
science, nuclear science, and delivery systems.
AL, a field office of the AEC, opened the Nevada Proving Ground
northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1951 to reduce the cost of nuclear
testing. The cost of transporting supplies, scientific gear, and
materials for housing and testing, and for keeping a work force
in the Pacific was monumental. The name of the Nevada Proving Ground
was changed in 1957 to the Nevada Test Site.
In hindsight, the AEC and the DoD made many mistakes in the testing
program, such as underestimating the effects of fallout and deploying
troops in areas of excessive radiation. Despite the errors in the
early testing efforts, the U.S. surged ahead of all other nations
in nuclear weapons capabilities, and gained the expertise which
now sets the standard for what is "safe."
Although the Soviet Union mounted a massive attempt to gain a distinct
advantage in nuclear military power, the U.S. maintained a deterrent
to nuclear aggression. The U.S. now has a smaller but more sophisticated
nuclear weapons stockpile, which the DOE manages jointly with the
DoD. Through treaties, nuclear testing has been discontinued.
Here are some sample clips from the DVD