Eye Witness to Trinity

5:29:45 am, July 16, 1945

35 miles southeast of Socorro, New Mexico in the Jornada del Muerto desert Jack Aeby steadied his camera and in quick succession clicked three frames. At the same time Berlyn Brixner raised his motion picture camera and began filming. Together these men captured  the images of the  first detonation of a nuclear device.

0.016 seconds after detonation

50 years later I met and spoke with these two men. I have great admiration for them both. I also had the fortunate opportunity to meet other civilian scientists and military personnel who had been an eye witness to the Trinity test. They told me their stories, what it was like.The flash of light, the blast of air, the heat and then the unholy spectrum of colors, purple, orange and green roiling and rising in a towering mushroom ascending to the stratosphere.

The implosion-type plutonium device code named “the gadget” exploded with a yield equal to 20 kilotons of TNT. The tower from which it was suspended vaporized. A crater 10 feet deep and 1,100 feet wide where the sand had been melted to radioactive glass was  at the epicenter. The shock wave was felt 100 miles away and the mushroom cloud rose 40,000 feet in seven minutes and reached a height of 7.5 miles before being sheared off by atmospheric winds. This was the birth of the atomic age.

In the early 1990s I was working on a documentary about Los Alamos and the Manhattan Project. I interviewed scores of ordinary (and some extraordinary) citizens that all worked together on a secret project that would end World War II. They shared their memories of that experience and it has helped me to understand those times by hearing it directly from them. Since then I have been able to put some of my atomic ghosts to bed.

This video is a segment of Remembering Los Alamos WWII and the memories of Jack Aeby, Berlyn Brixner, and those who were Eye Witness to Trinity,  5:29:45 am, July 16, 1945. (9 min. length).






About earthstonestation

promoting environmental education, protecting all species and preserving the wild places with art, music and storytelling.
This entry was posted in Fire, history, politics, the hungry brain and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Eye Witness to Trinity

  1. Ink Spot III says:

    Do you happen to know if the Inspector General of the Army was present at Trinity? My father was a WOJG working with the head of the Army IG and we believe he was at Trinity but are not 100 percent sure, but knowing if the IG was there or not would clear it up for us. My father was at a nuclear test site in the desert and witnessed an explosion. The question is, was there more than one? It would have been shortly after he got back from Europe, where he served from November 1944 to approximately June 1945. Thanks for whatever you can find out. A search on the web did not yield what I was looking for.

    • The Trinity Test was the first and only nuclear explosion at White Sands, NM. That was on the 16th of July 1945. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was just several weeks later in early August. Shortly prior to Trinity there was a test explosion using TNT. No other explosions happened there or anywhere after for some years.There were about 120 men present at the Trinity Test, some civilian scientists the rest Army personnel under the direction of Gen. Leslie R. Groves. It is possible the Army IG was present because of rank but actually very few military knew about the Manhattan Project. What is your fathers name? It might ring a bell.

      • Ink Spot III says:

        Oh, thanks for that information. My dad’s name was Jack Rund but I doubt he would have been listed since he wasn’t key personnel. He travelled with the Army IG, THE Army IG to be more specific. So I was thinking if I could find the name of THE Army IG that I would then be able to do a goggle search to see if that person had been present, and then if a = b and b = c, firm up our belief based as well on some thing our father said. But I have been unable to determine who THE Army IG was as there were so many IGs!

        You may find mention of my father in the internet but it isn’t regarding Trinity. He took down some of the depositions of the top Nazis to include Goering, Ribbentrop, and Streicher. He left Europe around June 1945 my mom thinks.

  2. mabbsonsea says:

    Thank you. That’s incredible. I feel chilled at the sheer power of the bomb. It seems somehow blasphemous to call it ‘Trinity’.
    How amazing to have talked with those involved. If you were able sometime to write more about putting your atomic ghosts to bed, that would be really interesting.

    • Alex, R.J. Oppenheimer referenced the name Trinity from a John Dunne poem he loved. The bomb that was developed and then used on Japan was a terrible thing but the way that people came together in a focused cooperative effort, working together was quite impressive.

      • mabbsonsea says:

        Yes, I can see that. But is co-operation in itself a good thing, even if it’s destructive? Maybe if we could give more energy to creative & cross-cultural co-operation in peace-time, we wouldn’t end up fighting & killing so much – & we wouldn’t need a common enemy to bring us together. Easily said, I know.

        • I could not agree more. I should have clarified that the cooperation I found interesting was not necessarily work on the weapon but in building a brand new town and the community they developed.

  3. Jack says:

    Very nicely written again and as usual UD. I remember seeing this documentary as a teenager!

  4. Helen Cherry says:

    Thank you for sharing this…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s