These Five Men Volunteered To Let A Nuke Explode Over Them

Sixty five years ago today, the US Department of Defence launched a nuclear missile test in Nevada, as they would hundreds of times again. But this time, five guys and a cameraman were placed right underneath the massive atomic explosion. Why?

The DoD, NPR explains, wanted to show that nuclear warfare was safe, and that an atomic detonation was no more hazardous than watching a sunset or puppy pile. So these poor saps were rounded up to play public propaganda guinea pigs, subjects to an experiment of consequences far above their pay grade.

The footage above shows that test, and is perhaps the most absolutely surreal moment of the Atomic Age. The five men huddle together like college freshmen being hazed with a water hose, shielding their eyes from the sun. One of them tried wearing sunglasses. Meanwhile, a DoD narrator, frothing with nuclear ecstasy, sounds positively orgasmic as he watches the warhead drop from the silvery F-89 and float through the air. Then that air is burned into red mush and hellfire, as the narrator gushes, near orgasm: "It's directly above our heads! Ah Ha Ha! Good, good! There is a huge fireball!" His glee surpasses the ominousness of the actual nuclear bomb. The men then shake hands and agree that the whole show was "such a thrill."

So did they all die of cancer? It's hard to say, but NPR did some archival sleuthing:

Col. Sidney C. Bruce - died in 2005 (age 86) Lt. Col. Frank P. Ball - died in 2003 (age 83) Maj. John Hughes - very common name, but I'm guessing he is Maj. John W. Hughes II (born 1919, same as the above) - died in 1990 (age 71) Maj. Norman Bodinger - unclear (not listed in the database), he may still be alive? Don Lutrel - I think this is a misspelling of "Luttrell." There is a Donald D. Luttrell in the DVA database, US Army CPL, born 1924, died 1987 (age 63). Seems like a possibility.

It was a low yield warhead, and very high up, and of course the Pentagon wouldn't be rushing to go out an admit these men died from radioactive exposure that they were placed into by the Pentagon — but the record of such atomic test bystanders croaking from fallout is strong and storied. It's possible these men died from what they saw 65 years ago, and it's possible they didn't. It's certain, however, that the government handed out hundreds of millions of dollars in the 20th century to victims of its nuclear testing program. This video just happens to show five men and five men only.

America stopped testing atomic bombs in 1992, but we can only hope the perverted schoolboy enthusiasm for nukes died sooner — and stays that way. [NPR]


Comments

    That's some fairly healthy ages. Nukes must be safe? :D

    Then if nukes are safe. Why don't we have a nuclear power debate again. Nuclear powers way safer. (Not joking)

      Yes, because nuclear weapons and nuclear power are the exact same thing. Well done asdfjuma!

      Being under the explosion the fallout would have blown away from them. Being under the fall our is another thing.

      Do you have the weather report for the day. As Nevada is a huge area maybe it was something to do with temperature, height and area of detonation, effect therein of whatever...Were there any casualties like burnt offerings from sky seen scattered randomly in the aftermath exploration for the random winged species. I just love those records - now if look carefully - you may notice that the photo has been doctored - oh are they cardboard life-size props - and the camera - could be run by a trained chimp from has been Tarzan Series, who'd have guessed....? Must be putting a happy smile on those who were involved if they too are still here to tell a tale or two.

        Would have created a hell of an inversion layer - all that post nuclear smog!

    Is that almost-insane-sounding voiceover... Conor Oberst?

      I was about to say that, the voice over sounds like the dude, that was voicing over the Hindenburg disaster, it sort of sounds freakishly chilling to the bone.

    The detonation was so high up that there would have been almost no fallout, the biggest killer. It was high enough that the initial energy and shock wave didn't kill them. The guy with the cigar feels like he's got the biggest balls in the world at the end. It's like something out of Dr Strangelove.

    Im pretty sure only 1 of them was a volunteer and the rest were all prisoners.

    It just proves the statement that everything was safer in those days. No seatbelt, no problem, smoking, no problem, atomic bomb exploding over your head, no problem. Aah they made them tough back then.

    Does anyone else think it odd that the footage of the men and the cloud seem very different, the nuclear explosion like its official, the men like they're extras in a Sgt Bilko epsiode?! You never actually see the cloud above the men, either?! Hmm...

    The only reason I'd like to world to be nuked is so Fallout can be real and I can be apart of it, that would be the only reason or rounding up all the people I don't like in the middle of no where and doing the same.

      I think your therapist is calling on the other line.

      Better watch this one, he'll likely go postal at some point in the near future.

      I know that feeling bro...
      Am already looking for bottlecaps.

    Gleno has the right of it here- They're far enough away from the Gamma ray burst to avoid burns, far enough away from the shockwave, and because of the altitude there's not much material to be turned into toxic fallout except for the casing... So being down there was indeed pretty safe.

    They weren't red shirts, they were safe.

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