More than 65 years ago, a 1-kiloton bomb ushered Las Vegas and Nevada into the atomic age. Another 99 above-ground nuclear tests followed at the Nevada Test Site, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
On Jan. 27, 1951, a 1-kiloton device was dropped by a B-50 Superfortress over Frenchman Flat at the Nevada Test Site. The mushroom cloud reached an altitude of 17,000 feet. The first test at the Nevada Proving Ground was known as Able, a part of Operation Ranger.
Annie, a 300-foot tower detonation, was fired on March 17, 1953. It was part of Operation Upshot-Knothole carried out in conjunction with Operation Doorstep, the first test related to civil defense involving cars, houses and other structures. Media were allowed to view the 16-kiloton test shot, which was nationally televised. The Annie shot included troop maneuvers and placed over 1,100 servicemen and observers in trenches about two miles southwest of the detonation tower.
At 8:30 a.m. on May 25, 1953, a 280mm M65 atomic cannon fired a 15-kiloton atomic artillery projectile over 6 miles into Frenchman Flat. Shot Grable, named after World War II pinup Betty Grable, was the only time a nuclear device was fired from a cannon during the test series. The 15-kiloton shot had approximately the same yield as Little Boy, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Mannequins dressed in 1950s attire were posed in family settings and placed in structures on May 5, 1955, awaiting a 29-kiloton tower detonation known as Apple-2. The Civil Defense shot, part of Operation Cue, was intended to assess the affects on various building construction types in a nuclear blast. Two of the houses still stand at Area 1 at the site, now known as the Nevada National Security Site, and are part of the NNSS tour.
A balloon was used to deploy Priscilla, a 37-kiloton shot on Frenchman Flat, as a part of Operation Plumbbob. Over 700 pigs were used as test subjects in various experiments to evaluate experimental uniforms, shielding materials and protective cream. Although many survived, the pigs were covered with third-degree burns over 80% of their bodies. Observers consisting primarily of U.S. troops from various service branches watched from trenches 2 1/2 miles from ground zero.
On Aug. 5, 1963, the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed by the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union, banning nuclear weapons testing in outer space, underwater and in the atmosphere.