16 July, 2012

16 July 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 513 % Postmaster, N.Y.
16 July, 1945     0915
My dearest Wilma –

Another new week begins and this date completes our 20th month since we left New York harbor – the time from which our overseas time is calculated. What a person can get used to, accept, take for granted – is amazing. One day follows the other just as inexorably as always, and it’s a good thing the human mind has the capacity of leaning upon the future – or it would really go stale. The future, in my case, sweetheart, has meant you, and I wonder if you know how much I’ve leaned upon you during all this time. I can tell you – a great deal. You’ve meant all the difference between letting myself become discouraged, disillusioned, and what-not – and keeping my spirits up, always hoping, hoping – and looking ahead. And I’m still doing it willingly – because I feel the goal ahead is well worth it. I know our love for each other is going to make up for all of this lonesomeness and aloneness – and our appreciation of each other is bound to be so much fuller, dear.

Yesterday it got up around 90°, without a breeze and without an ocean to cool me off. We lay around the house wearing practically no clothes, relaxing and drinking cold lemonade. It was too hot to play tennis and the swimming pool in town is open to civilians only on Sunday. Anyway it’s an indoor pool and not too enjoyable. Finally – in the evening we couldn’t stand hanging around any longer, so several of us went to the movies and saw ‘My Reputation’ – with B. Stanwyck. Have you seen it, dear? There wasn’t much to the picture – but somehow the main theme – the loss of a young woman’s husband and her desire or unconscious road to a new love – was provocative. The married officers in our group all had some remarks to make about it – because they couldn’t help but wonder how their wives would have reacted had they not lasted out the war.

Say – it was nice of the Field Director at Miles Standish to say he’ll be looking for me – even in jest. Boy – wouldn’t it be something if I finally docked in Boston! The Stars and Stripes prints the daily dockings of outfits at both N.Y. and Boston – and does it ever make my mouth water! And everyone else’s, too. In the picture, last night, there were several scenes of a hotel bar, dining, dancing etc. We literally drooled. We all agreed that while we were waiting for our actual trip back to our homes – we’d hit the first hotel bar and sip, sip and sip. Mine? Martinis – of course! The last one I had was at the Dorchester, in London – and before that – the Roosevelt in New York. But don’t worry, sweetheart, I won’t get home pie-eyed – although I should be pretty gay. Will I be gay!! And why not – when I’ll be coming back to my one and only sweetheart. Hold me back, dear – I can’t stand it!

Oh hell – here I am back in Nancy again – but I can get back into the mood with no difficulty at all, at all. But I have to quit now, darling, so be well, be patient and I’ll be getting back. Love to the folks – and you have

All my love for always –


about Trinity

The First Atomic Bomb Test

Trinity was the code name for the first explosion of a nuclear device. This test was conducted by the United States Army in the Jornada del Muerto desert about 35 miles (56 km) southeast of Socorro, New Mexico, at the new White Sands Proving Ground, which incorporated the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range. (The site is now the White Sands Missile Range.) Some feared that the Trinity test might "ignite" the earth's atmosphere, eliminating all life on the planet, though calculations had determined this unlikely. The date of the test, 16 July 1945, is considered to be the beginning of the Atomic Age.

Trinity was a test of an implosion-design plutonium device nicknamed "The Gadget". For the test, The Gadget was lifted to the top of a 100-foot (30 m) bomb tower. The height would give a better indication of how the weapon would behave when dropped from an airplane, as detonation in the air would maximize the amount of energy applied directly to the target (as it expanded in a spherical shape) and would generate less nuclear fallout.

The Gadget was hoisted to the top of this tower

The detonation was initially planned for 4:00 am but was postponed because of rain and lightning from early that morning. It was feared that the danger from radiation and fallout would be greatly increased by rain, and lightning had the scientists concerned about accidental detonation. At 4:45 am, a crucial weather report came in favorably, and, at 5:10 am, the twenty-minute countdown began. Most top-level scientists and military officers were observing from a base camp ten miles (16 km) southwest of the test tower. The final countdown was read by physicist Samuel K. Allison.

At 05:29:45 local time, the device exploded with an energy equivalent to around 20 kilotons of TNT (90 TJ). It left a crater of radioactive glass, in the desert 10 feet (3 m) deep and 1,100 feet (330 m) wide. At the time of detonation, the surrounding mountains were illuminated "brighter than daytime" for one to two seconds, and the heat was reported as "being as hot as an oven" at the base camp. The observed colors of the illumination ranged from purple to green and eventually to white. The roar of the shock wave took 40 seconds to reach the observers. The shock wave was felt over 100 miles (160 km) away, and the mushroom cloud reached 7.5 miles (12 km) in height. In the crater, the desert sand, which is largely made of silica, melted and became a mildly radioactive light green glass, which was named Trinitite.


After the initial euphoria of witnessing the explosion had passed, test director Kenneth Bainbridge commented to Los Alamos director J. Robert Oppenheimer, "Now we are all sons of bitches." Oppenheimer later recalled that, while witnessing the explosion, he thought of a verse from the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad Gita:
If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one...
Years later he would explain that another verse had also entered his head at that time, and in 1965 he was persuaded to quote again for a television broadcast:
We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says,
Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.
I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.

The Alamogordo Air Base issued a 50-word press release in response to what it described as "several inquiries" that had been received concerning an explosion. The release explained that "a remotely located ammunitions magazine containing a considerable amount of high explosives and pyrotechnics exploded," but that "there was no loss of life or limb to anyone." A newspaper article published the same day stated that "the blast was seen and felt throughout an area extending from El Paso to Silver City, Gallup, Socorro, and Albuquerque." The actual cause was not publicly acknowledged until after the August 6 bombing of Hiroshima.

The scientists and military men who were at the Trinity site when the detonation occurred were staggered by what they saw. T. F. Farrell, a brigadier general on the staff of Major Gen. Leslie Groves, the Manhattan Project's military commander, wrote:
The effects could well be called unprecedented, magnificent, beautiful, stupendous and terrifying. No man-made phenomenon of such tremendous power had ever occurred before. The lighting effects beggared description. The whole country was lighted by a searing light with the intensity many times that of the midday sun. It was golden, purple, violet, gray and blue. It lighted every peak, crevasse and ridge of the nearby mountain range with a clarity and beauty that cannot be described but must be seen to be imagined.

Here is the story of the atomic test at the Trinity site in New Mexico
as told by Ben Benjamin, who worked on the test as a young soldier.
From YouTube

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