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The Day After Trinity
(1980) DVD
The Day After Trinity is a haunting journey through the dawn of the nuclear age, an incisive history of humanity's most dubious achievement and the man behind it--J. Robert Oppenheimer, the principal architect of the atomic bomb. Featuring archival footage and commentary from scientists and soldiers directly involved with the Manhattan Project, this gripping film is a fascinating look at the scope and power of the Nuclear Age.
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The First Athomic Test (Trinity)

The Trinity test took place on the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range, about 230 miles south of the Manhattan Project's headquarters at Los Alamos,  New Mexico. Today this 3,200 square mile range, partly located in the desolate Jornada del Muerto Valley, is named the White Sands Missile Range and is actively used for non-nuclear weapons testing.

Before the war the range was mostly public and private grazing land that had always been sparsely populated. During the war it was even more lonely and deserted because the ranchers had agreed to vacate their homes in January 1942. They left because the War Department wanted the land to use as an artillery and bombing practice area. 

Trinity Test Base Camp

In September 1944, a remote 18 by 24 square mile portion of the north-east corner of the Bombing Range was set aside for the Manhattan Project and the Trinity test by the military.

The selection of this remote location in the Jornada del Muerto Valley for the Trinity test was from an initial list of eight possible test sites.  Besides the Jornada, three of the other seven sites were also located in New Mexico: the Tularosa Basin near Alamogordo, the lava beds (now the El Malpais National Monument) south of Grants, and an area southwest of Cuba and north of Thoreau.  Other possible sites not located in New Mexico were: an Army training area north of Blythe, California, in the Mojave Desert; San Nicolas Island (one of the Channel Islands) off the coast of Southern California; and on Padre Island south of Corpus Christi, Texas, in the Gulf of Mexico. The last choice for the test was in the beautiful San Luis Valley of south- central Colorado, near today's Great Sand Dunes National Monument.

Based on a number of criteria that included availability, distance from Los Alamos, good weather, few or no settlements, and that no Indian land would be used, the choices for the test site were narrowed down to two in the summer of 1944.  First choice was the military training area in southern California. The second choice, was the Jornada del Muerto Valley in New Mexico. The final site selection was made in late August 1944 by Major General Leslie R. Groves, the military head of the Manhattan Project.  When General Groves discovered that in order to use the California location he would need the permission of its commander, General George Patton, Groves quickly decided on the second choice, the Jornada del Muerto. This was because General Groves did not want anything to do with the flamboyant Patton, who Groves had once described as "the most disagreeable man I had ever met."[1]  Despite being second choice the remote Jornada was a good location for the test, because it provided isolation for secrecy and safety, was only 230 miles south of Los Alamos, and was already under military control.  Plus, the Jornada enjoyed relatively
good weather.

The history of the Jornada is in itself quite fascinating, since it was given its name by the Spanish conquerors of New Mexico. The Jornada was a short cut on the Camino Real, the King's Highway that linked old Mexico to Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico.  The Camino Real went north from Mexico City till it joined the Rio Grande near present day El Paso, Texas. Then the trail followed the river valley further north to a point where the river curved to the west, and its valley narrowed and became impassable for the supply wagons.  To avoid this obstacle, the wagons took the dubious detour north across the Jornada del Muerto. Sixty miles of desert, very little water, and numerous hostile Apaches.  Hence the name Jornada del Muerto, which is often translated as the journey of death or as the route of the dead man. It is also interesting to note that in the late 16th century, the Spanish considered their province of New Mexico to include most of North America west of the Mississippi!

RELATED LINKS
Learn About Trinity - The First Atomic Test
The First Atomic Test
Jumbo
The National Atomic Museum
Schmidt-McDonald Ranch House
The Trinity Test
The Awesome Blast
Notes & Bibliography
RECOMMENDED  LITERATURE

100 Suns - By Michael Light - Between July 1945 and November 1962 the United States is known to have conducted 216 atmospheric and underwater nuclear tests. After the Limited Test Ban Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1963, nuclear testing went underground. It became literally invisible—but more frequent: the United States conducted a further 723 underground tests, the last in 1992. 100 Suns documents the era of visible nuclear testing, the atmospheric era, with 100 photographs drawn by Michael Light from the archives at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the U.S. National Archives in Maryland. It includes previously classified material from the clandestine Lookout Mountain Air Force Station based in Hollywood, whose film directors, cameramen and still photographers were sworn to secrecy.

The title, 100 Suns, refers to the response by J. Robert Oppenheimer to the world’s first nuclear explosion in New Mexico when he quoted a passage from the Bhagavad Gita, the classic Vedic text: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst forth at once in the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One... I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” This was Oppenheimer’s attempt to describe the otherwise indescribable. 100 Suns likewise confronts the indescribable by presenting without embellishment the stark evidence of the tests at the moment of detonation. Since the tests were conducted either in Nevada or the Pacific the book is simply divided between the desert and the ocean. Each photograph is presented with the name of the test, its explosive yield in kilotons or megatons, the date and the location. The enormity of the events recorded is contrasted with the understated neutrality of bare data.

Interspersed within the sequence of explosions are pictures of the awestruck witnesses. The evidence of these photographs is terrifying in its implication while at same time profoundly disconcerting as a spectacle. The visual grandeur of such imagery is balanced by the chilling facts provided at the end of the book in the detailed captions, a chronology of the development of nuclear weaponry and an extensive bibliography. A dramatic sequel to Michael Light’s Full Moon, 100 Suns forms an unprecedented historical document.
 
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