This month's article has nothing to do with airplanes or flying, but it is historic and nostalgic especially to those of us who lived through that period of time.
On my recent return trip from Arizona I stayed off the Interstate and took US 60 east out of Phoenix through the hill country and into New Mexico. It's interesting to see the real America away from the pristine freeways, out where a different world exists, one filled with unusual places to see.
Thus it was that I stood on this desolate piece of real estate where the history of the world was forever changed. It is now designated as a national historic landmark. To the east, nearby, rise the Sierra Oscura range of mountains, in all other directions for miles there is nothing but flat desert. In front of me stands a stone monument some 14' tall on what was ground zero at Trinity site on the 3200 square mile White Sands Missile Range. The place where the first atomic bomb was detonated. In the predawn hours of July 16, 1945 the device, mounted atop of 100 ft. tall steel tower was blasted off. The tower vaporized and only a trace of one of the legs still exists. The shock wave broke windows 120 miles away and was felt by many at least 160 miles distant. It was described as a giant magnesium flare and as bright as the sun.
I arrived at the north entrance gate shortly before 8:00 am. About 20 cars waited in line in front of me and another 10 or so drove up behind. I thought as I looked at this line that we were like sheep waiting to be nuked. Promptly at 8 the gate opened, printed instructions were handed out and we proceeded another 17 miles south to the site. There surrounding the monument is an approximately 50 yard diamter 6 foot high chain link fence with friendly radioactive signs prominently displayed, most reassuring, I thought. The monument stands in a slightly depressed dip in the ground. The explosion did not make much of a crater. The heat of the blast did melt the desert sand and turned it into a greenish glassy substance that they call Trinitite. The surface has been regraded and all the glass removed, (presumably buried somewhere on the range.)
The army personnel reassured everyone that there was little danger of radiation, but added that pregnant women were advised not to enter the area. This advice comes from the same organization that a bunch of years ago asked me to volunteer to witness the Bikini tests in the Pacific, saying that there was no danger then. Had I accepted their gracious and generous invitation then I'd probably have been gone by this time of some form of cancer.
I thought visiting this site was somewhat of a secret and that few people ever went there. I had tried myself several years ago. But by the time I was leaving around 10:30 am there was a steady stream of cars coming up from the south. There was a total of over 400 cars in the parking area.
I first read about it in the June/July issue of Air & Space magazine of 1992. The site is open only two days a year, the first Saturday of April and October and only for 6 hours. Admission is free.
If you would like more information just look me up. I'm easy to find.
I'm the one that glows in the dark.