Here are the most spectacular and destructive atomic bombs, from the United States, the Soviet Union, and China. Most of them are in crispy HD thanks to the folks at Atom Central, one of my favourite sites. It just boggles my mind how much energy, intelligence, and resources humanity has wasted in these terrifying devices.
Editor’s note: Yes, we know that “atomic” is a misnomer. These are actually nuclear weapons, since the destructive force comes from the fission of rather than the collision of atoms. If you want to get technical, even a stick of TNT is an “atomic” weapon.
All videos are sourced from Atom Central. I made the GIF above stabilizing footage found in this video of the Plumbbob nuclear test series from 1957:
Operation PLUMBBOB was to be an integral part of the continuing national program for developing the means to conduct nuclear warfare in defence of the nation. Largely a joint [Army Evaluation Center/Department of Defence] operation, the program had objectives which ranged beyond those listed in the letter. The AEC needed to test a number of nuclear devices scheduled for early production for the defence stockpile or those important to the design of improved weapons.
The tests are from Plumbob Owens (July 25, 1957), Hood (July 5, 1957), Diablo (July 15, 1957), Wilson (June 18, 1957), Fizeau (September 14, 1957) and Galileo (September 2, 1957).
This is Grable in a wide and close up angle filmed with Cinemascope cameras. Grable the name of the test for the 15-kiloton atomic bomb fired by the 280-mm Atomic Cannon at the Nevada Test Site in 1953 — the only time it was fired. The bomb ended 7 miles from the cannon itself. Only 20 units of the Atomic Cannon — the largest in the US Army arsenal — were ever built. Fortunately, none of them were ever used in battle.
The 15-megaton Castle Bravo (February 28, 1954) is perhaps one of the most famous nuclear explosions and the largest ever conducted by United States. This footage of the explosion at the Bikini Atoll — which gives its name to the swimsuit precisely because of these atomic tests — is mind-blowing.
This is the Hardtack Umbrella test, an 8-kiloton explosion underwater shot in 1958.
This footage is not from Atom Central, but shows the other side of this auto destructive coin: The first hydrogen bomb test by the Soviet Union, in 1953. It was the fifth nuclear test overall for the communist power.
The RDS-6s warhead used a U-235 fissile core surrounded by alternating layers of lithium-6 deuteride spiked with tritium, and a uranium fusion tamper inside a high explosive implosion system. Though not a true thermonuclear weapon the USSR claimed it was, and in conjunction with the fact that it was air-deliverable caused considerable embarasment to the US. The US did not successfuly test a deliverable thermonuclear bomb until 1954.
Two years later, the US was dropping H-Bombs like there was not tomorrow. This series of detonations happened in 1956 over the Pacific Ocean as part of Operation Redwing.
In this atomic race, China also delivered its first H-Bomb shortly after the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom. It was a 3-megaton device, shown here:
From the narration: “When the Soviet Union air dropped its first hydrogen bomb in 1953, the explosive force was 400 kilotons. Our nation during this test used a small size, low weight, mega-ton level bomb to destroy a designated target. This proves once again the Chinese people can do what foreigners can do, and we can do it better!”
More colour footage of atomic bomb tests in Nevada, this one with soldiers exposed to the explosion. Even those who were in trenches were exposed to radiation.
And finally, the biggest atomic bomb of them all, dropped by the Soviet Union on the Arctic Barents Sea: