In 1957 the US Air Force conducted a high altititude test of a low-yield atomic weapon. This test was not that different than much of the other atomic testing occuring at that time, except that 6 individuals–5 volunteers and one photographer–were standing directly underneath the blast in order to prove how ‘safe’ these weapons were. Thanks to the ever thorough US government, there is video of the test and the reactions of these fine gentlemen.
The men in the film were:
- Col. Sidney Bruce
- Lt. Col. Frank P. Ball
- Maj. Norman “Bodie” Bodinger
- Maj. John Hughes
- Don Lutrel
- George Yoshitake (the cameraman, not seen)
This was the test of a 2KT (kiloton) MB-1 nuclear air-to-air rocket launched from an F-89 Scorpion interceptor. The nuclear missile detonated 18,500 ft above their heads. (According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the explosion, part of Operation PLUMBBOB, was actually at 18,500 feet and the video is incorrect in stating the altitude as 10,000 ft.) The video was recorded by the U.S. Air Force, at the behest of Col. Arthur B. “Barney” Oldfield, public information officer for the Continental Air Defense Command in Colorado Springs in order to demonstrate the relative safety of a low-grade nuclear exchange in the atmosphere.
Read more over on Krulwich Wonders, an NPR Science blog.