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.
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).