Timer
Message Area
lblCurrentLayerIndex
lblCurrentImageIndex
lblFade-OutLayer
lblFade-InLayer
lblSponsorAdTimer:
lblHidCurrentSponsorAdIndex =
lblMadeItTo

  < Back to Table Of Contents  < Back to Topic: Create & Innovate Plus Home Made Gifts & Games

article number 658
article date 04-20-2017
copyright 2017 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
All Brains Together—First to Develop the Atom Bomb, Part 10: New Mexico: Theory is Proven . . . With a Bang!.
by William Laurence, Reporter, New York Times
   

From the 1946 book, Dawn Over Zero.

* * *

THE POINT IN SPACE where the atomic bomb was born is now known to the world as Los Alamos. As in the case of Oak Ridge, there was no town by that name on that spot. At the beginning there was only a canyon, named Los Alamos, after its poplars, by its Spanish discoverers. More recently the large mesa overlooking the canyon became the site of the Los Alamos Ranch School for boys, where the pupils, if they had a mind to, could do their algebra on horseback.

Los Alamos is only one of many breath-taking canyons, separated by mesas with steeply sloping sides, often dropping abruptly a sheer hundred and fifty feet to the tree tops or brush on the canyon’s floor.

South of Los Alamos are several other canyons, running parallel to each other on an east-west line to the Rio Grande—Pajarito, Water, Frijoles, Bayo, Pueblo, Guaje, Valle, and Sandia canyons, all part of Los Alamos. Among the plateaus are One-mile Mesa and Two-mile Mesa, South Mesa and Upper South Mesa.

A large ranch west of Parajito Canton, named Anchor Ranch, served as the proving ground or the gun assembly of the bomb.

As the crow flies, Los Alamos lies twenty-five miles northwest of Santa Fe, but there is no way of getting there by a straight route. One must first drive twenty five miles north to the ancient little Spanish-American town of Espanola, then turn back and drive in a south-westerly direction over a tortuous road that winds its way for sixteen miles through the tableland overlooking the precipitous canyons to one’s right.

This road was only a trail when it was taken over by the atomic Scientists. Over it, night and day, came a steady procession of trucks carrying cyclotrons and betatrons, Cockcroft-Walton proton accelerators, and Van de Graaff high-voltage spheres, special gadgets made in hundreds of plants and universities throughout the land, crates of U.235 from all the plants at Oak Ridge, and cargoes of plutonium from the giant piles at Hanford.

Over this road traveled, incognito, many of the world’s great. On it were carried the finished products for Alamogordo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.

It was only a little road, but during the summer of 1945 it became one of the world’s great highways. On it traveled the substance that changed the course of history.

But for this road, Los Alamos is inaccessible to the outside world. The Jemez Mountains surround it on the west and the Sangre de Cristo Range, with the Truchas Peaks rising to a height of 13,800 feet, to the east. Deep canyons bar the approaches from the north and south. All about are monuments of the great past, Indian, Spanish, Mexican, American. To the north are prehistoric ruins.

The Cliff Dwelling Ruins of the Bandelier National Monument are to the south. From Frijoles Canyon westward through the Jemez Mountains is the Valle Grande, the largest extinct volcano ever found, its crater fifteen miles in diameter.

Past Cochiti and Santo Domingo Indian pueblos to the southwest is the old ghost town of Bland. To the east across the Rio Grande is the northern end of Jornada del Muerto, the Journey of Death.

As one progresses from Santa Fe to Espanola, one somehow crosses the line from today to yesterday. Somewhere between Espanola and Los Alamos one floats across the gap between yesterday and tomorrow. One suddenly finds oneself transported into the twenty-first century.

Geographically Los Alamos sprawls across 45,000 acres. Its center of gravity is on the mesa between Los Alamos and Pueblo canyons. Here, surrounded by a heavily guarded barbed-wire fence, is the Technical Area, where the principal research laboratories and plants are located.

In addition to the Tech Area, as it was known, there were twenty other projects, built on the narrow ridges between the canyons, with some located in the canyons themselves.

In the summer of 1945 the Tech Area contained 37 buildings, while the structures on the other sites numbered 201. In addition there were 49 administrative buildings, 52 buildings for the military personnel, 302 apartment buildings containing 620 apartment units, 200 trailers and 52 dormitories.

The population of Los Alamos consisted of 4,000 civilian and 2,000 military personnel, in command of Colonel Gerald R. Tyler.

   
"The population of Los Alamos consisted of 4,000 civilian and 2,000 military personnel . . ."

No place in the world was more heavily guarded than Los Alamos. Its very existence was a top secret. At Hanford and at Oak Ridge it was known among the chosen few as Site-Y. It was the only place where mail was censored and telephone conversations listened in on.

Unlike Oak Ridge and Richland, it had no post office. Letters to the outside world were handed unsealed to the intelligence officer, who read them and forwarded them to Santa Fe. If they contained objectionable matter, they were given back to the sender. Letters to Los Alamos were addressed to P.O. Box 1539, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The population in Los Alamos was divided into two distinct classes, each identified by a badge. The mark of the highest distinction was a white badge, given only to the top scientists. The white badge, accompanied by an identification card, admitted one to the inner circle and to the various sanctums on the place, including the sanctum sanctorum where the bomb was assembled.

By the summer of 1945 the vast majority of the scientists had lived with their families at Los Alamos for about two and a half years. As far as the world knew, they had vanished completely, lost without a trace.

Arriving at the place and finding them all there gave one the sensation of discovering a lost world. The mountains and the canyons and the mesas provided the perfect setting for such a world.

One would descend a steep canyon and find a large structure half buried in the ground. Inside the building were men working with the most explosive material on earth.

I shall never forget my visit to the building where the Harvard cyclotron was installed. There in front of the apparatus was a huge pile of little cubes. I casually picked one up.

“What’s this?” I asked Professor Robert R. ‘Wilson, who was in charge of the work.

“U.235,” he answered.

I looked at the pile. There was enough there to wipe out a city, but the fact that it was cut up in little cubes, separated here and there by neutron-absorbers, kept the mass from becoming critical.

Professor Wilson aroused me from the state of catalepsy that the pile had produced in me by inviting me to the next room for tea, brewed in a chemical retort. Calmly drinking .tea out of a chemical retort while an atomic volcano is erupting in the next room is but one example of the atmosphere in which people lived and worked at Los Alamos.

Los Alamos was the land of the free fast neutron, where one wanted, not to tame it, but, on the contrary, to give it full freedom of action. On these mesas, and down below in the canyons, the neutron ruled the lives of the people. At Hanford it was a slave, imprisoned in a moderator and shorn of most of its strength. At Los Alamos the fast neutron was king.

The principal job at Hanford was to maintain a chain reaction with slow neutrons and put them to work transmuting U.238 into plutonium.

At Los Alamo the principal job was to devise means whereby fast untrammeled neutrons would annihilate the plutonium, or U.235, by liberating its energy through an explosion consuming the shortest possible time. The purpose, in other words, was to create the conditions in which the free untamed neutron could do its work in the most efficient manner contrivable.

This was not a job for physicists and explosive experts alone. It required the co-operative efforts of metallurgists and chemists, mathematicians and astrophysicists, engineers and authorities on ballistics, nuclear physicists and nuclear chemists, theoretical scientists and experimentalists, long-hairs and short-hairs.

In fact, one of the significant outcomes of the Atomic Bomb Project, and particularly the Los Alamos branch, was the bringing together into a smoothly functioning team of the long-hairs and the short-hairs, who in normal peacetime used to growl at each other from a safe distance. Each learned to respect and admire the other.

   
Cubes of U.235 for tests at Los Alamos.

Oppie, as Dr. Oppenheimer was affectionately called in white-badge and blue-badge circles alike, would, by prewar concepts, have been classed as a long-hair. He is one of the top-flight theoretical physicists now living. In his undergraduate days at Harvard he contributed excellent poetry to one of the advanced literary periodicals.

As Dr. Arthur K. Solomon of Harvard says of him in ’Why Smash Atoms?,’ “he has a peculiar power of self-absorption, and the tales of his absent-mindedness are legion.”

Yet when called upon to organize the greatest laboratory ever established anywhere, in which success depended on long-hairs and short-hairs working together in harmony, this absent-minded scholar, who now finds the outlet for his poetic vision through higher mathematics, turned out, in his very quiet and soft-spoken way, to be a veritable dynamo of action, animating the entire project with a vitality never seen in any laboratory. Los Alamos will go down in history as Oppie’s greatest poem.

The welding together of long-hairs and short-hairs was given daily demonstrations at Los Alamos. In their cubicles the theoretical scientists would sit for many hours working with pieces of colored chalk on a blackboard or with pencil on pads of paper.

At frequent intervals one would hear the boom of great explosions on the various proving grounds in the distant canyons. These were in the true sense explosions of ideas in the minds of men.

The mathematical symbols on the blackboards and pads of paper were exploding in the canyons below. Thousands of such ideas exploded simultaneously over Alamogordo, and over Japan.

There were literally hundreds of problems to be solved before the way could be cleared for the fast neutron to do its job unimpeded.
• One of the principal ones was the accurate determination of the critical mass.
• Another, of course, was the problem of the efficiency of the explosion.
• Others involved the proper mechanisms to bring it about.

They would have been difficult enough under any circumstances, even under ideal conditions; but here for a long time the men of Los Alamos had to make bricks without straw.

Worse still, they were called upon to devise ways for making bricks without clay. They had been assigned to make bombs of U.235 and plutonium when even the ground for the plants to produce these substances had not yet been broken.

Yet by the time these substances became available, a vast amount of groundwork had been laid by the use of
substitute materials, and a great deal of information gathered on the habits, behavior, and mode of action of fast neutrons under a variety of conditions.

On the basis of these preliminary facts, the theoretical physicists and mathematicians arrived at a much closer approximation of the critical size. As small quantities of the material began trickling in from Oak Ridge and Hanford, they were subjected to tests to check the accuracy of these extrapolations.

Step by step experiment was thus correlated with theory, and theory with experiment. By the time enough material was available to make a full scale model of the bomb, every part had been worked out to the last detail and all that was left to be done was to insert the active material in its proper place.

“Each component did exactly what it was expected to do,” Dr. Oppenheimer said to me on the morning after the New Mexico test. Failure of any one of these parts would have meant failure of the whole. On the proper performance of each hung the lives of thousands, or tens of thousands.

   
Plutonium core of the bomb is loaded into a car for transportation from Los Alamos to the Trinity site.

That none of the parts failed, however, was no accident. Each one of these was subjected to hundreds of
tests. These tests were in themselves marvels of ingenuity and inventiveness.

One test, devised by Dr. Oppenheimer and Dr. Robert Serber, and carried out with special apparatus designed by Professor Bruno Rossi of Cornell, made it possible to get an approximation of the forces that would develop inside an atomic bomb at the instant of explosion, without the use of any U.235 or plutonium. Since the explosion takes place in a fraction of a microsecond, this was more than taking time by the forelock; it meant catching it by the tail.

The test at Alamogordo climaxed a series of other tests the world has not yet heard about, which in their way were equally spectacular and considerably more daring. As soon as sufficient quantities of the active material to form what the calculations indicated would constitute a critical mass became available, tests were begun to check the accuracy of these calculations.

In one of these tests of critical mass a strange contraption known as "the guillotine" was rigged up. It consisted of a large wooden frame divided by two parallel vertical steel rods. To each of these rods was attached a large block of the active material.

On top between the rods was suspended a smaller block of the substance.

The three blocks together formed a critical mass.

At a given signal the executioner allowed the smaller block to drop through the space between the two larger ones, the three blocks coming together, thus forming a critical mass for a fraction of a second. The guillotine was hooked up with a series of neutron-counters that registered the neutron flux at the time of criticality.

In another series of experiments a pile containing uranium and a moderator was built. The moderator, of course, made it a slow-neutron chain-reacting pile.

Then bit by bit the moderator was removed, thus gradually changing the slow-neutron reaction to a reaction with fast neutrons, approaching more and more closely the conditions prevailing in the bomb.

This model of the atomic bomb was located in one of the semi-underground structures in one of the canyons. The scientists devised a series of extremely sensitive automatic controls that were to stop the reaction if it showed any signs of getting too close to critical.

Outside, in the moonlit canyon, six motorcars with their engines running, their drivers tense at the wheels, were ready for a quick getaway.

In charge of these tests was Dr. O. R. Frisch, the same Dr. Frisch who, with Dr. Meitner, was the first to demonstrate the fission of uranium.

The controls worked. Dr. Frisch and his small band returned to their homes on the mesa at the break of dawn. They were all set for Alamogordo.

The great cloud of fire that rose more than eight miles to the stratosphere over the New Mexico desert symbolized a funeral pyre for the Japanese Empire. The elect few who witnessed the spectacle knew for certain at the instant of the explosion that the new weapon would prove decisive in a relatively short time.

No power on earth, everyone realized, could stand up against the elemental force liberated in those bombs.

Ten minutes after the explosion the following dialogue took place between General Farrell and General Groves:

General Farrell: “The war is over!”

General Groves: “Yes, it is over as soon as we drop one or two on Japan!”

The weeks preceding the test, when the scientists were putting the final touches on "the gadget," witnessed the most dramatic scenes in the history of scientific endeavor. The decision to make the test had opened up a host of serious problems:
• A site had to be found far away from inhabited localities.
• Measures had to be taken to prevent the tremendous thunderbolt, which was expected to be seen and heard for hundreds of miles, from giving away our greatest secret.

Apparatus and techniques had to be devised to study, from a distance of several miles, entirely by automatic controls, phenomena that occur in less than a millionth of a second. These included:
• measurements of what takes place inside the atomic bomb at the time of explosion;
• the amounts and types of energy released;
• the effect, intensity, and extent of the blast;
• the post-explosion radiations on the ground and in the air;
• meteorological observations; and
• a host of other phenomena that took five typewritten pages to enumerate.

   
Los Alamos test structure for performing a test with TNT explosive to calibrate instruments which will study the blast.

The studies were devised to make the bomb tell its story before, during, and after the detonation. For this purpose scores of the most delicate measuring, photographing, and recording devices, old and new, were placed in concrete pillboxes and underground shelters over a radius of many miles.

These devices included a number of high-speed cameras of all types, numerous electronic devices, supersonic detectors, all sorts of instruments for probing inside the infinitesimal world of the atom’s nucleus, devices to measure the intensity of the blast, radiation meters, and a host of other special equipment.

It required about 500 miles of wiring to connect the various electrically operated instruments in the bombproof shelters several miles away with the site of the gadget. Seismographs were placed at various distances to measure the effects of the atomic explosion underground, and specially equipped B-29 Superfortresses went aloft to study the effects in the upper atmosphere.

More than 300 scientists, including a number of Nobel prize winners, were involved in the test. About 250 military personnel were engaged in carrying out the security and protective measures.

A providential warning that came a few days before the test led to hasty last-minute changes designed to prevent a possible catastrophe that had not been foreseen. A bomb containing ordinary explosives, but otherwise an exact duplicate of the atomic gadget, had been set up on the tower as a practice model. A thunderstorm came along and touched it off.

This accident led to protective measures against the possibility that a bolt of lightning might set off the first atomic explosion on earth, possibly at a time when the scientists were still in its vicinity.

The northwestern section of the 2,000-square-mile Alamogordo Air Base was chosen as the test site because of its remoteness from large towns, isolation, inaccessibility, and desirable meteorological characteristics.

The nearest inhabited locality is the village of Carrizozo, population 1,500, about thirty air-line miles due east from the spot selected for the test. Other communities in the locality are Socorro, population 3,500, about thirty miles to the northwest, and Alamogordo, fifty miles to the southeast. The nearest large city is Albuquerque, about 125 miles to the northwest.

Everything relating to the gadget—the spot where it stood on its tower, the time scheduled for its blow-off,
as well as the great god It of the occasion—were referred to as "Zero," the code name for the test.

For everyone concerned, Zero became the center of the universe. Time and space began and ended at Zero. All life centered on Zero. Everyone thought only of Zero and the zero hour, or rather the zero microsecond.

The transfer of the gadget over a distance of more an two hundred miles from Los Alamos to Zero presented a major problem, involving both security and safety. The transportation of this precious stuff, possessing a value inestimable in terms of worldly considerations, was in charge of the Military Intelligence branch at Los Alamos, headed by Captain Thomas O. Jones, formerly a Chicago lawyer.

Several units of the complicated assembly left Los Alamos on Thursday morning, July 12, 1945, in a convoy
accompanied by armed guards and several scientists, and arrived at its destination that same afternoon. Another convoy left Los Alamos at 12.01 Friday morning, July 13, arriving at Zero nine hours later.

Professors Bacher and Kistiakowsky were in charge of the assembly of the principal units of the gadget. Tests by the score were carried out to make certain that every part functioned properly.

A week earlier a group of leading radiologists under the direction of Colonel Warren had begun setting up a network of radiological stations at various distances to measure the radiation effects of the explosion.

Final assembly of the bomb began on the night of July 12, in an old ranch house. Specialty teams, composed of the top men on specific aspects of science, all of which were bound up in the whole, took over their specialized parts of the assembly. In each group was centralized months and even years of channelized endeavor.

   
The atom bomb rests on a hoist at the Trinity test site.

As various component assemblies arrived from distant points, tension among the scientists rose to an increasing pitch. Failure was an ever present possibility. They also knew that one false move would blast them and their entire effort into eternity. And a few were also haunted by the specter of too great a success.

Dr. Bacher was the man charged with the assembly of the vital core. A bad few minutes developed when an important section, after insertion, apparently became tightly wedged and would go no farther.

Dr. Bacher, however, was undismayed, and reassured the group that time would solve the problem. After three minutes, which seemed an eternity, the entire unit, which had been machine-tooled to the finest measurement, gradually slid down to its place and the basic assembly was completed without further incident.

On Saturday, July 14, the unit was elevated to the top of the steel tower. All that day and the next the job of preparation went on, amid lightning flashes and peals of thunder. In addition to the apparatus necessary to cause the detonation, complete instrumentation to determine the “pulse-beat” and all reactions of the bomb was rigged on the tower.

The last men to inspect the tower with its cosmic bomb were Dr. Bainbridge, Dr. Kistiakowsky and Lieutenant Howard C. Bush, of Brooklyn, N. Y., who was in charge of the Military Police Detachment. These three stood watch on top of the tower from one o’clock until a half hour before zero, their silhouettes outlined at intervals by a flash of lightning.

If they thought of the dummy bomb that had been touched off by lightning on the same tower a few days before, they showed no signs of it. They looked very lonely up there, ever so small, yet ever so big, man against the gods.

Before the explosion there had been anxiety on the part of some of those present lest an uncontrollable chain reaction might be started in the atmosphere, though this was contrary to all the known facts about the energies latent in the active substance.

One of the younger scientists was so unnerved that, on the advice of the medical men, he was removed from the scene.

There is a story current among the physicists that one of the thigh-ranking military officials, growing more and more tense as he watched the ball of fire expand at a terrific rate, was heard to exclaim: “My God, the long-hairs have lost control!”

Darkening heavens poured forth rain and lightning right up to the zero hour. The weather blocked out aerial observation of the test. Many of Dr. Oppenheimer’s assistants were disturbed by the conditions, and some even urged that the test, scheduled for four o’clock, be called off altogether for that night.

General Groves and Dr. Oppenheimer kept going out of the control house into the darkness to look at the sky, constantly assuring each other that the one or two visible stars were becoming brighter.

“I attempted to shield him,” General Groves said, “from the evident concern shown by many of his assistants, who were disturbed by the uncertain weather conditions. By three thirty we decided that we could probably fire at five thirty. By four the rain had stopped, but the sky was heavily overcast. Our decision became firmer as time went on.”

Outside Carrizozo a large motorcade of Army trucks and personnel stood waiting. Had the wind suddenly shifted in the direction of that little Spanish-American town, thus threatening to carry the radioactive cloud that way, the men in the motorcade stood ready to dash into every home and carry all the sleeping inhabitants, by force if necessary, to a place of safety.

While the blast undoubtedly aroused the sleeping citizens of Carrizozo, they never knew what further surprise would have come their way if there had been a change in the wind.

As the zero hour for the explosion approached, tension in the control room at S-10,000 reached a tremendous pitch. The several observation points in the area were tied in to the control room by radio, and, with twenty minutes to go, Dr. Allison of Chicago University, assistant director at Los Alamos, took over the radio set and made periodic time announcements.

   
Wiring to the S-10,000 observation bunker at the Trinity test site.

The time signals, “minus twenty minutes, minus fifteen minutes,” and so on and on, increased the tension to the breaking-point. The last few seconds were described by General Farrell as much worse than any he had experienced during zero hour in the front-line trenches in World War I. Dr. Conant said he had never imagined seconds could be so long.

   
Trinity atom bomb blast.
   
Close-up of the Trinity atom bomb blast.

In a report to the War Department General Farrell gives his impressions of those last long seconds before zero, and the eternal moments that followed:

"As the time interval grew smaller and changed from minutes to seconds, the tension increased by leaps and bounds. Everyone in that room knew the awful potentialities of the thing that they thought was about to happen.

"The scientists felt that their figuring must be right and that the bomb had to go off but there was in everyone’s mind a strong measure of doubt. The feeling of many could be expressed by ’Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.’

"We were reaching into the unknown and we did not know what might come of it. It can safely be said that most of those present were praying and praying harder than they had ever prayed before. If the shot were successful, it was a justification the several years of intensive effort of tens of thousands of people—statesmen, scientists, engineers, manufacturers, soldiers, and many others in every walk of life.

"In that brief instant in the remote New Mexico desert, the tremendous effort of the brains and brawn of all these people came suddenly and startlingly to the fullest fruition.

"Dr. Oppenheimer, upon whom had rested a very heavy burden, grew tenser as the last seconds ticked off. He scarcely breathed.

"He held on to a post to steady himself. For the last few seconds he stared directly ahead, and then when the announcer shouted “Now!” and there came this tremendous burst of light followed shortly thereafter by the deep growling roar of the explosion, his face relaxed into an expression of tremendous relief. Several of the observers standing back of the shelter to watch the lighting effects were knocked flat by the blast.

"The tension in the room let up and all started congratulating each other. Everyone sensed “This is it!” No matter what might happen now all knew that the impossible scientific job had been done. Atomic fission would no longer be hidden in the cloisters of the theoretical physicists’ dreams.

"Atomic fission was almost full grown at birth. It was a great new force to be used for good or for evil. There was a feeling in that shelter that those concerned with its nativity should dedicate their lives to the mission that it would always be used for good and never for evil.

"Dr. Conant reached over and shook hands with General Groves. Dr. Bush, who was on the other side of the General, did likewise. Dr. Kistiakowsky threw his arms around Dr. Oppenheimer and embraced him with shouts of glee. Others were equally enthusiastic.

"All the pent-up emotions were released in those few minutes and all seemed to sense immediately that the explosion had far exceeded the most optimistic expectations and wildest hopes of the scientists. . . .

"As to the present war, there was a feeling that no matter what else might happen, we now had the means to insure its speedy conclusion and save thousands of American lives.

"As to the future, there had been brought into being something big and something new that would prove to be immeasurably more important than the discovery of electricity or any of the other great discoveries which have so affected our existence.

"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 searching 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 near-by mountain range with a clarity and beauty that cannot be described but must be seen to be imagined. It was that beauty the great poets dream about but describe most poorly and inadequately.

"Thirty seconds after the explosion, came, first, the air blast, pressing hard against the people and things; to be followed almost immediately by the strong, sustained, awesome roar which warned of doomsday and made us feel that we puny things were blasphemous to dare tamper with the forces heretofore reserved to the Almighty.

"Words are inadequate tools for the job of acquainting those not present with the physical, mental and psychological effects. It had to be witnessed to be realized."

   
Aerial photo of "Zero" after the Trinity blast.

To Dr. Thomas, of the Monsanto Chemical Company, the cloud “resembled a giant brain the convolutions of which were constantly changing.” Only the future will tell whether it symbolized the collective brain that created it or the ultimate explosion of man’s collective mind.

The flash lighted up the sky at Albuquerque and was seen as far as Amarillo, Texas, 450 miles east of Zero. At El Paso, 150 miles to the south, persons saw the flash and heard the blast and two successive echoes. Residents of Silver City, New Mexico, 200 miles to the southwest, and at Gallup, New Mexico, 235 miles to the northwest, reported that their windows rattled, and those at Gallup stated that they had also heard two explosions.

Various reports from a number of other localities listed the explosion as an earthquake, a meteor, or an airplane crash. Members of the crew and passengers aboard a Santa Fe railroad train near Mountainair, about seventy miles to the northeast, thought they saw a bomber explode and burn in the sky.

The only living beings who dared venture near the spot where Zero vanished in a great cloud of atomic fire
were a crew of scientists in two Sherman tanks, the insides of which were lined with lead. In one of these was Dr. Fermi.

They took samples of the earth by means of special scoops manipulated from the inside and made preliminary observations of the site, which, later examination revealed, was depressed over a radius of 400 yards to a depth ranging from ten feet at the periphery to twenty-five feet in the center.

A subsequent examination of the ground revealed that all life, vegetable as well as animal, was destroyed within a radius of about a mile. There was not a rattlesnake left in the region, nor a blade of grass.

The sand within a radius of four hundred yards was transformed into a glasslike substance the color of green jade. A steel rigging tower weighing thirty-two tons, at a distance of eight hundred yards, was turned into a twisted mass of wreckage. The tower at Zero was completely vaporized.

A herd of antelope that had been grazing several miles way had vanished completely. It is believed that they started on a mad dash that ended in the wilds of Mexico. A number of cows at a similar distance developed graying spots on their skins.

   
"The tower at Zero was completely vaporized."
< Back to Top of Page