Einstein's Letter - THE TRINITY TEST

THE TRINITY TEST (Illustration) American History Famous Historical Events STEM World War II Geography Biographies

Jack W. Aeby, a civilian employee at the U.S. Los Alamos Laboratory, was working on the Manhattan Project (the code-name for developing a nuclear bomb) when he took this picture on July 16, 1945.  It is the only-known, colored-still-photo of the Trinity Test.  Image online via Wikimedia Commons.


Less than thirty days after President Truman's decision to use the new weapon, a plutonium bomb was assembled and made ready for testing. (Because there was only enough "weapons-grade uranium" to build one uranium bomb, that design ["Little Boy"] was never tested before the bomb was used.)

The site chosen to test the plutonium design was located 210 miles south of Los Alamos (New Mexico) in an area called Jornada del Muerto ("Journey of Death").

With pictures and movies from the National Archives, the Truman Presidential Library and the U.S. Department of Energy, we can see what happened when the first nuclear bomb was tested. The plutonium device (nicknamed "the gadget" by Los Alamos scientists) was successfully detonated in the "Trinity Test."  It was July 16, 1945.

At first scientists witnessed a fireball. Sixteen milliseconds later the fireball grew into a full-blown "mushroom" cloud. (These notes were made by Luis W. Alvarez, a scientist who witnessed the blast. They depict a drawing of the first "mushroom cloud" ever seen.)

Twenty-four hours later, scientists and Major General LeslieGroves (the Manhattan Project's military leader) inspected "Trinity Crater," the spot where the bomb went off ("ground zero").

There was no question about the bomb's effectiveness. Its heat was so intense at the test tower that Robert Oppenheimer (the project's scientific director) and General Groves observed that sandy soil had melted, forming a kind of glassy crust (called "trinitite").

Now there was no need to delay. On the day of the test, July 16, the remaining components of "Little Boy" (later known as the Hiroshima atomic bomb) were loaded onto the USS Indianapolis. She set sail from San Francisco, headed for Tinian, an American-held island south of Japan. The bomb would be reassembled there, for "delivery" to a Japanese city by a B-29 known as the Enola Gay.

En route to Leyte, after delivering the unassembled bomb, the Indianapolis and her crew met with unspeakable tragedy.  After she was struck by a torpedo - fired from I-58, a Japanese submarine, on 30 July 1945 - the ship capsized, sinking in twelve minutes.

In the Philippine Sea, where the water was filled with hungry sharks, many of the sailors were terrorized for days before they were finally rescued.  Of the 1,196 crew members, only 316 men survived.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jan 01, 2001

Updated Last Revision: Dec 01, 2019

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"THE TRINITY TEST" AwesomeStories.com. Jan 01, 2001. Feb 23, 2020.
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