"The island of Elugelab is missing!"
Operation Ivy - The first Hydrogen Bomb test
Operation Ivy - 1952 - 1 hour 2 minutes - Pacific, Color - "The
island of Elugelab is missing!" President Eisenhower heard
this short report on the Mike shot in Operation Ivy from Gordon
Dean, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. Mike was the first
full-fledged hydrogen bomb to be tested.
The island where the device was detonated was vaporized. The hole
Mike left was big enough to accommodate several pentagon-size buildings
and deep enough to hold the Empire State Building. Mike's yield
was an incredible 10.4 megatons, signaling the expansion of the
nuclear arsenal from fission to fusion, the same process that occurs
in the Sun.
The detonation of the Mike device was the climax of an intense
debate over what would be the nation's correct response to the startling
news in 1949 that the Soviet Union had detonated a nuclear weapon.
Many wanted the U.S. to develop the means to produce and field a
large number of fission bombs of varying yields which could be used
for tactical purposes. Others believed that the country should institute
a crash program like the Manhattan Project to develop a Super weapon
based on the idea of forcing together or fusing light atoms with
a fissile device to produce enormous amounts of energy.
After a bitter fight among scientific, government and military
officials, the President opted for a crash program to demonstrate
the Super bomb, now called a hydrogen or thermonuclear weapon. Many
designs were evaluated and rejected until the Mike proposal came
along. This concept involved the cooling of hydrogen fuel to a liquid
form, near absolute zero, and fusing the hydrogen nuclei into helium
using the atomic bomb as a trigger.
The Mike device was a 22-foot-long, 5-foot-diameter cylinder housing
canisters of liquid hydrogen fuel. These canisters were surrounded
by the atomic trigger. The Mike shot occurred on November 1, 1952,
and as scientists watched from 40 miles away as the mushroom cloud
rose into the stratosphere, the second generation of nuclear weapons
Mike was followed on November 15, 1952, by the King shot, the largest
fission device ever tested. It was an implosion bomb, but with an
advanced warhead that enabled it to produce 500 kilotons of power.
Here are some sample clips from the DVD