Trinity Nuclear Test Site
"Now I am become death, the shatterer of worlds." Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Manhattan Project, uttered these words as he witnessed the power of the first atomic bomb explosion at the Trinity Nuclear Test Site in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Following this historic explosion on July 16, 1945, the world entered the nuclear age as the top secret Manhattan Project came to a successful conclusion after employing over 130,000 Americans and using over two billion dollars to develop this atomic weapon.
Backstory and Context
After years of experimentation and development, the Manhattan Project had developed a weapon that could possibly change warfare forever. While the scientists working on this project had conducted numerous studies about the possible effects of detonating a nuclear weapon, uncertainties still plagued the Manhattan Project. For instance, some scientists were hesitant to test the bomb because they feared that it could obliterate the stratosphere and shatter the Earth's crust.
the early morning hours of July 16, 1945, the scientists finally prepared to
test the weapon that they had developed. They suspended the bomb from a
100-foot-high steel tower, where they finished constructing the final pieces of
the weapon. In fact, Robert Oppenheimer climbed to the top of the tower to
assemble the weapon and give it one last inspection. After carefully inspecting
the bomb, Oppenheimer and his nervous colleagues retreated to a safety shelter
five miles from the bomb. The mood inside the shelter was extremely tense as
years of work depended on one, pivotal moment. Brigadier General Thomas Farrell
stated, "Even some of the atheists present were praying that 'the shot'
would be successful." As Oppenheimer anxiously waited, he gripped a post
to steady himself.
At 5:30 a.m., a bright light filled the sky and a shock wave ripped through the desert as the world entered the nuclear age. Cheers filled the safety shelter as the scientists and those involved in the Manhattan Project celebrated the successful detonation. Brigadier General Thomas Farrell reported that Oppenheimer finally relaxed as his colleagues embraced him with hugs.
Following the celebration, the scientists conducted further studies into the results of the explosion. Observers reported that the atomic bomb released a force equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT. Additionally, the extreme heat from the explosion melted the steel tower that held the bomb, and the sand surrounding the bomb turned to glass. Also, the bomb lit the sky over one hundred miles from the point of detonation. Even though the bomb was unlike anything that the world had ever seen, its power was even greater than what the scientists had estimated.
Today, an obelisk commemorates this historic event in the desert outside of Alamogordo, New Mexico. While there is not a large statue or monument, this obelisk marks one of the greatest turning points in warfare and in science.