Spotlight On New Mexico – Trinity Site

On July 16, 1945 at 5:29 a.m. Mountain Time, the world’s first atomic bomb was tested at the Trinity Site. The Trinity Site is located at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.  The site is open to the public only twice a year – the first Saturday in April and October. This year I was one of the hundreds of visitors from all around the world to flock to the site.

This week I am focusing only on the Trinity Site and next week I’ll feature the Schmidt/McDonald house where the bomb was assembled.  Below are personal photos I took during my excursion and photos from the WSMR booklet.

Jumbo.

Jumbo was built to contain the atomic bomb but was never used. The idea was that the bomb would be suspended at the center of Jumbo to contain the plutonium should the chemical reaction fail. If the reaction worked, Jumbo would be vaporized. As the bomb design improved, scientists decided against using Jumbo, they became confident that the bomb would work. Jumbo was then placed under a steel tower approximately 800 yards from ground zero at the Trinity Site. The blast destroyed the tower but good ole Jumbo survived!

Jumbo Trinity Site NM 1945

Photo by White Sands Missile Range

A year later the Army detonated eight 500-pound bombs inside of it which blew the ends off.  Today Jumbo sits at the entrance to ground zero.

Jumbo was originally 25 feet long, 10 feet in diameter and weighted 214 tons.

Jumbo was originally 25 feet long, 10 feet in diameter and weighted 214 tons.

The Steel Tower.

The bomb was assembled on July 13, 1945, it was raised to the top of a 100-foot steel tower. It was not dropped from the tower during detonation but remained stationary on top of the tower where it was detonated.

Steel Tower @ WSMR 1945

Photo by WSMR. 100-ft Steel Tower 1945

Ground Zero Trinity Site NM

The remains of the Steel Tower after the blast.

Fun Fact. The test was scheduled for July 16, at 4 a.m but had to be postponed due to rain and lightning. Yikes!

The Explosion.

The countdown to the explosion started at 5:10 a.m. and at 5:29 Kaboom!

“It looked like a giant magnesium flare which kept on for what seemed like a whole minute but was actually one or two seconds.” wrote Hans Bethe one of the contributing scientists.

“The heat was like opening up an oven door, even at 10 miles.” wrote MP Davis.

Many witnesses remember the sound bouncing off the mountains creating an echoing effect.

Mountains at Trinity Site NM

Imagine the sound of the blast echoing off these mountains at 5:29 am.

After the dust settled.

The shock wave was felt 160 miles away (Albuquerque, Las Cruces), and windows were shattered 120 miles away.

Trinity Site NM

These are the cities which would have felt the effects of the blast

The public had no idea what had happened.

When inquiries were made, they were told by army officials that a munitions storage area had accidentally exploded at the Alamogordo Bombing Range.  The truth about what really occurred was revealed after the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6.

The heat of the blast melted the sand and turned it into a green glassy substance called Trinitite.

Trinitite found at Ground Zero Trinity Site NM

Trinitite found in the ground zero area, contains radioactive elements.

Look for my next article on the Schmidt/McDonald house where the bomb was assembled. If you visited the site and would like to share your experience with readers please post your comments below.

Source: White Sands Missile Range