[Congressional Record Volume 141, Number 115 (Monday, July 17, 1995)]
[Pages S10082-S10085]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mr. DOMENICI. Mr. President, 50 years ago yesterday, July 16, 1945, 
the course of human history was changed forever.
  President Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin were 
preparing for the European peace conference to end the war with Hitler 
and the Axis. There were major questions to be answered. Where would 
the conference by held? The war in the Pacific was still raging; would 
Russia enter into the war against Japan?
  And, then, we learned about the events at Los Alamos, NM. We did not 
know that we had just succeeded in the greatest scientific race of all 
time, let alone the unquestionable magnitude of this achievement that 
would end the Second World War. Until this time, the activities at Los 
Alamos were shrouded in complete secrecy.
  As recounted in several superb articles in New Mexico newspapers, the 
activities at Los Alamos changed the lives of New Mexicans as much as 
they impacted upon the rest of the world.
  During the early morning of July 16, 1945, some of the citizens in 
New Mexico witnessed a sudden illumination in the sky. A friend of mine 
Rowena Baca, was quoted as saying that her ``grandmother thought it was 
the end of the world.'' This shocking irradiation incited Mrs. Baca's 
grandmother to shove her, as well as her cousin, under the bed. From 
underneath the bed, the two children saw the walls and ceiling reflect 
a red color. They were 35 miles from the Trinity sight, where the 
explosion occurred.
  Dolly Oscuro's ranch used to include the land that became the Trinity 
sight. Where the cattle grazed, Mrs. Oscuro remembers looking out her 
window and seeing a rising mushroom cloud.
  Helen and William Wrye, also ranchers, were returning home from a 
long and exhausting trip. They live in the same house that is 20 miles 
from the Trinity sight. They slept through the explosion. The 
radiation, according to Mr. Wrye, caused his beard to quit growing for 
a while. Of course, we are not sure that was the case, but at least 
that is what he perceives.
  Mr. friend, Larry Calloway, who writes for the Albuquerque Journal, 
wrote what is in my opinion an articulate, well-documented, and human 
perspective of the first successfully tested atomic bomb. The article, 
``The Nuclear Age's Blinding Dawn,'' describes in detail the events of 
the night and morning leading up to this first display of atomic power.
  Mr. Calloway's article portrays the human side of this historic day: 
about people such as Joe McKibben who wired the instruments that set 
off the implosion bomb; Berlyn Brizner who served as chief 
photographer; and Jack Aeby, a civilian technician who assisted in 
placing the radiation detectors--just to name a few.
  ``The Nuclear Age's Blinding Dawn'' is worthy reading for all 
Americans. Many times, the specific event in history overshadows the 
individuals who made the event possible. Mr. Calloway tells us about 
the people in New Mexico who made this historic achievement happen.
  Fifty years later, in hindsight, debate continues on the issue of 
whether development and deployment of the atomic bomb was the right 
thing to do. For example, a Smithsonian exhibit featuring the Enola 
Gay, the plane that dropped ``Little Boy'' on Hiroshima, becomes 
controversial. It is probably fair to suggest that the debate will rage 
for another 50 years. However, many believe that their work associated 
with this effort was right.
  On this anniversary, let's turn to other aspects of this event. Our 
entrance into the Nuclear Age is as much about people as it is about 
science. It is the well known people: J. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico 
Fermi, I.I. Rabi, Niels Bohr, Hans Bethe, Luis Alvarez, Emilio Segre, 
Norman Ramsey, Val Fitch, Aage Bohr, A.H. Compton, E.O. Lawrence, and 
James Chadwick, and Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves, to mention a few.
  It is about the citizens of New Mexico who witnessed the Trinity 
  And, it is about the unsung workers and scientists at Los Alamos who 

[[Page S 10083]]
important players in this enormous discovery. They were not alone. They 
were joined by many thousands in the State of Tennessee at Oak Ridge 
and other scientific locations around America. Together they performed 
their duties for a cause they believed in. The employees of New 
Mexico's national laboratories continue this legacy today.
  In honor of these men and women, let us acknowledge their countless 
contributions since that time. Let us give appreciation for their 
dedication and commitment. These are the people who changed the course 
of human history.
  I respectfully ask unanimous consent that the text of Mr. Calloway's 
``The Nuclear Age's Blinding Dawn,'' Fritz Thompson's article ``Locals 
Had Ringside Seat to History,'' and Patrick Armijo's article, ``A-Bomb 
Scientists Bear No Regrets'' be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:
                    The Nuclear Age's Blinding Dawn

       (A half-century ago on July 16, the United States detonated 
     the first atomic bomb. The test, code named Trinity, was the 
     conclusion of the Manhattan Project to build the bomb in a 
     frantic race with Adolf Hitler's scientists. The explosion 
     ushered in the nuclear age, gave rise to New Mexico's modern 
     economy, led to Japan's surrender and set off 50 years of 
     debate about the morality of using such awesome force.)

                          (By Larry Calloway)

       For Joe McKibben, the Nuclear Age came in the back door 
     without knocking. For Jack Aeby, it slipped blindingly 
     through a crack in his welder's goggles. For Berlyn Brixner, 
     it rose in dead silence like an awesome new desert sun.
       After 50 years, they are among the few who remain to tell 
     about the test of the first atomic bomb, made in the secret 
     wartime city of Los Alamos and code named Trinity by lab 
     director J. Robert Oppenheimer. The survivors are among the 
     dwindling few on Earth who have seen any nuclear explosion. 
     It's been 32 years since the last U.S. atmospheric test.
       On that Monday, July 16, 1945, at 5:10 a.m., the senatorial 
     voice of physicist Sam Allison began what's now called a 
     countdown. ``Minus 20 minutes'' boomed over the loudspeakers 
     and shortwave radios in the dark Jornada del Muerto in New 
     Mexico's dry Tularosa Basin.
       By space-age standards, it was a very short countdown, but 
     it was probably the first in the about-to-be-born world of 
     big science. ``Sam seemed to think it was,'' McKibben says. 
     ``He told me, `I think I'm the first person to count 
     backward.' ''
       Just as Allison is remembered for the Trinity countdown, 
     McKibben will probably be remembered as the guy who pushed 
     the button. ``That kind of annoys me,'' says McKibben, 82, 
     folding himself down on a couch in his cluttered study in 
     White Rock. ``I consider it a minor part of my work.''

                         exhaustive preparation

       It wasn't minor at the time, of course. McKibben, a lanky 
     Missouri farm boy-turned-Ph.D physicist, sat at the Trinity 
     control panel. For three months, he had been wiring 
     instruments across 360 square miles of desert around a 100-
     foot steel tower. The fat implosion bomb, 5 feet round, 5 
     tons heavy, squatted in a harness of cables on a platform on 
     top. And the desert floor was scattered with instruments.
       McKibben, of the University of Wisconsin, had spent the 
     night at the tower on guard duty with two Harvard physicists, 
     Trinity director Kenneth Bainbridge and Russian explosives 
     wizard George Kistiakowsky, a former Cossack.
       This was the second night of uneasy thunderstorms with 
     close strikes of lightning in the Jornada.
       McKibben fell asleep under some tarps on the clean linoleum 
     floor at the tower base where the final assembly team had 
     done its job carefully, very carefully.
       And McKibben had a dream. It was simple, peaceful. ``I 
     started dreaming Kistiakowsky had gotten a garden hose and 
     was sprinkling the bomb. Then I woke up and realized there 
     was rain in my face.''

                          everything in place

       Soon the rain paused, and Bainbridge rescheduled the shot 
     for 5:30 a.m. After closing the last open circuits, the three 
     physicists drove south in a jeep as fast as they could on the 
     straight blacktop road.
       They were the last men out of the zone of lethal heat, 
     blast and radiation. The nearest humans were in bunkers 
     called North 10,000, West 10,000 and South 10,000 because 
     they were 10,000 meters (6.2 miles) from Ground Zero.
       ``We got to South 10,000 (the control bunker) at 5:10, and 
     that was the time I needed to throw the first switch,'' 
     McKibben recalls. Allison took up the microphone in the 
     countdown booth. A quick young Harvard physicist named Donald 
     Hornig, who would become President Johnson's science adviser 
     18 years later, took his place near McKibben at an abort 
     switch. Hornig's job was to stop everything if the detonation 
     circuit faltered, in order to save the first precious 
     production of the Hanford, Wash., plutonium plant.
       Kistiakowsky, who would become President Eisenhower's 
     science adviser, was in and out of the crowded room. An 18-
     year-old soldier named Val Fitch was attending British 
     scientist Ernest Titterton at a set of vacuum tubes that 
     would deliver the detonating voltage 6 miles of cable. Fitch 
     would win the 1980 Nobel Prize in physics. Also there was 
     Navy Cmdr. Norris Bradbury, who would become director of the 
     Los Alamos lab from 1945-70.
       McKibben recalls these men but says, ``I didn't see 
     Oppenheimer. I was told that he came in the door and observed 
     me at the controls and went away. Just to see that I was 
     sane.'' And he laughs.
       Hundreds turned their expectant eyes to the unforgiving New 
     Mexico desert; it was a who's who of the scientific world.
       At North 10,000, Berlyn Brixner was in the open on top of 
     the bunker at the controls of a fast movie camera with a 
     blackened viewfinder. ``I was one of the few people given 
     permission to look directly at the bomb at zero time,'' says 
     Brixner, an amiable man of 84 sitting alertly in his 
     minimalist living room in a ponderosa-shaded Los Alamos 
       Brixner's assignment as chief photographer was this: Shoot 
     movies in 16-millimeter black-and-white, from every angle and 
     distance and at every speed, of an unknown event beginning 
     with the brightest flash ever produced on Earth.
       ``The theoretical people had calculated a . . . 10-sun 
     brightness. So that was easy,'' Brixner says. ``All I had to 
     do was go out and point my camera at the sun and take some 
     pictures. Ten times that was easy to calculate.''
       The theoretical people also knew a little about radiation, 
     which fogs film, and Brixner consequently shielded two of his 
     near-tower cameras behind 12-inch-thick leaded glass. Some of 
     his cameras were so fast they shot 100 feet of film in a 
     second. Some were 20 miles away and ran for 10 minutes.
       And now he waited on top of the bunker, gripping the 
     panning mechanism of his movie camera, which like all the 
     others would be turned on by signals from McKibben's control 

                          sneaking a camera in
       At Base Camp, the old David McDonald ranch house 10 miles 
     south of the tower, the box-seat audience included Maj. Gen. 
     Leslie Groves, the hard-driving director of the whole 
     Manhattan Project, and its presidential overseers--Carnegie 
     Institute president Vannevar Bush and Harvard president James 
     Bryant Conant. Among the physicists at Base Camp were I.I. 
     Rabi, a New Yorker who would go on to win a Nobel Prize, and 
     the revered Italian Enrico Fermi, who had led the research on 
     the first nuclear chain reaction. Among the 250 lab workers 
     and 125 soldiers was a young civilian technician named Jack 
     Aeby who was exempt from the draft because he'd suffered from 
       Now 72 and retired from a Los Alamos career in health 
     physics, Aeby sits in his solar home near Espanola and 
     recalls how his job in the weeks leading to the test was to 
     help the Italian physicist Emilio Segre set radiation 
     detectors near the tower. Some of the instruments were hung 
     on barrage balloons tethered 800 yards from the tower. They'd 
     be vaporized in a millisecond after they transmitted their 
     nuclear data.
       Aeby carried his personal 35 millimeter still camera, which 
     Segre got through security, and as the countdown started, he 
     was planning to take a new Anscochrome color transparency 
     picture of the bomb. Aeby had carried a chair out into the 
     darkness and was sitting there with the camera propped on the 
     back and pointed north. He put on his government-issue 
     welding goggles, not noticing in the dark that there was a 
     crack in one lens. And he listened to the countdown on the 
     Base Camp loudspeakers.

                         preparing for the best

       At the VIP viewing area called Compania Hill, 20 miles 
     northwest of the tower and about 10 miles southeast of the 
     village of San Antonio, N.M., two refugee physicists put on 
     sunscreen in the dark. They were Edward Teller of Hungary and 
     Hans Bethe of Germany. Teller would become famous as an 
     advocate of the hydrogen bomb, and Bethe would win the 1967 
     Nobel Prize in physics.
       Teller put on gloves to protect his hands and sunglasses 
     under his welder's goggles, for extra protection. ``I 
     expected it to work,'' Teller, now 87 and bent, said in a 
     June interview.
       Not far away was German Communist refugee Klaus Fuchs, who 
     would be uncovered as a Russian spy five years later.
       Outside the Jornada, of course, New Mexico had eyes and 
     ears. Teller said that many Los Alamos employees, including 
     his secretary Mary Argo, clipped away to Sandia Crest for a 
     direct 100-mile view of the shot that morning.
       And in Potsdam, just outside the rubble of bombed-out 
     Berlin, President Truman waited for coded messages so he 
     could tell Josef Stalin what the Russians already knew.
       But the rest of the world didn't have a clue. Not the B-29 
     pilots who had hit Tokyo, again, with 3,000 conventional 
     bombs that Friday. Not the 750,000 American troops that would 
     be needed in the planned Nov. 1 invasion of Japan.
       A countdown. A bellow of ``Zero!'' Silence. A flash of 
     light brighter than the rising of the sun. Then the shock 
     wave hit, and the blast's roar echoed off the mountains.

[[Page S 10084]]

       At minus 45 seconds, McKibben cut in an automatic timing 
     drum he and Clarence Turner had made to generate the final 20 
     relay signals, including the big one. The drum turned once a 
     second, and McKibben says he had attached a chime that struck 
     once each revolution. So there were 44 chimes before Allison 
     bellowed: ``Zero!''
       It was 5:29.45 a.m. Mountain War Time, the same as Mountain 
     Daylight Time.
       McKibben's bunker was under dirt on the north, and there 
     was a small open door on the south, facing away from the 
       ``Suddenly, I realized there was a hell of a lot more light 
     coming in the back door,'' McKibben says. ``A very brilliant 
     light. It outdid the light I had on the control panel many 
     times over. I looked out the back door and I could see 
     everything brighter than daylight.''
       Aeby had put his Perfex 44 camera on ``bulb'' and in the 
     dark before ``Zero'' opened up the shutter, figuring that way 
     he'd get a good image of the flash. Suddenly, the light cut a 
     sharp white line across his vision. ``I could see that crack 
     for some time afterward,'' he says. It was daylight, and Aeby 
     flung off the goggles to reset his camera. ``I released the 
     shutter, cranked the diaphragm down, changed the shutter 
     speed and fired three times in succession,'' he says. ``I 
     quit at three because I was out of film.''
       Brixner, at North 10,000, was stunned. ``The whole filter 
     seemed to light up as bright as the sun. I was temporarily 
     blinded. I looked to the side. The Oscura Mountains were as 
     bright as day. I saw this tremendous ball of fire, and it was 
     rising. I was just spellbound! I followed it as it rose. Then 
     it dawned on me. I'm the photographer! I've gotta get that 
     ball of fire.'' He jerked the camera up.
       One thing more, he says: ``There was no sound! It all took 
     place in absolute silence.''

                        unique sights and sounds

       By the time the blast hit, 30 seconds after the flash, most 
     of Brixner's 55 cameras in the desert were finished. Some had 
     done their work in a second. There would be 100,000 frames to 
     develop in black and white and a few in temperamental 
       In the silence, McKibben stepped out the back door of South 
     10,000 and looked north over the bunker. ``It was quite a 
     pretty sight. Colored. Purplish. No doubt from the iron in 
     the tower and a lot of soil off the ground that had been 
     vaporized. I was surprised at the enormity of it and 
     immediately felt it had gone big.''
       McKibben ducked behind the bunker just as the shock wave 
     hit. ``Then an amazing thing: It was followed by echoes from 
     the mountains. There was one echo after another. A real 
     symphony of echoes.''
       As the shock wave hit Base Camp, Aeby saw Enrico Fermi with 
     a handful of torn paper. ``He was dribbling it in the air. 
     When the shock wave came it moved the confetti.''
       Fermi had just estimated the yield of the first nuclear 
     explosion at the equivalent of 10,000 tons of TNT. Later 
     measures put the yield nearly twice as much, at 18.6 
     kilotons. And this terrible new energy came from a plutonium 
     ball weighing 13.6 pounds.
       Thes test's success brought elation yet was tempered for 
     many by the knowledge that the world had suddenly taken a 
     hazardous turn.
       Robert Van Gemert of Albuquerque, now 79, who was at Base 
     Camp after the shot, says, ``I'm just amazed how those 
     scientists whipped out so many bottles of gin or whatever 
     they could find. And it was rapidly consumed, I can tell you 
       Writer Lansing Lamont in 1965 recorded secondhand some GI 
     exclamations: ``Buddy, you just saw the end of the war!'' 
     ``Now we've got the world by the tail!''
       At South 10,000, Frank Oppenheimer recalled, his brother 
     probably said, ``It worked!'' Kistiakowsky is supposed to 
     have said to Robert Oppenheimer, ``You owe me 10 dollars'' 
     because of a bet they had. Bainbridge is supposed to have 
     told Oppie, ``Now we are all sons of bitches.''
       At Compania Hill, Teller remembers, ``I was impressed.''
       Hans Bethe, now 89, remembers his first thought was, 
     ``We've done it!'' and his second was, ``What a terrible 
     weapon have we fashioned.''

                         fleeing the radiation

       At North 10,000, Brixner and the others were thinking 
     suddenly only of a kind of hazard the world had never known. 
     ``I was looking up, and I noticed there was a red haze up 
     there, and it seemed to be coming down on us,'' he says.
       ``Pretty soon the radiation monitors said, `The radiation 
     is rising! We've got to evacuate!' I said, `That's fine, but 
     not until I get all the film from my cameras.' '' In the 
     midst of the world's first fallout, somebody helped Brixner 
     throw his last three cameras in an Army car, and they all got 
     out of there fast. Film badges later showed they got low 
     doses--by the standards of the time.
       About 160 men were waiting secretly north of the Jornada 
     with enough vehicles to evacuate the
      small communities in the probable fallout path. Gen. Groves 
     had phoned Gov. John Dempsey before the test to warn him 
     that he might be asked to declare martial law in southwest 
     New Mexico.
       But the radiation readings from people secretly stationed 
     all over New Mexico stayed safe--again by the standards of 
     the time.
       The test was shrouded in secrecy, but, within weeks, the 
     world would know what science had wrought in a lonely stretch 
     of New Mexico desert.
       When Teller returned to his Los Alamos office, he says, 
     Mary Argo ran to him, breaking all the secrecy rules, `` `Mr. 
     Teller! Mr. Teller! Did you ever see such a thing in your 
     life?' I laughed. And she laughed,'' he says with joy in his 
     voice. ``Does that tell you something?''
       At community radio station KRS in Los Alamos, Bob Porton, a 
     GI, was about to rebroadcast the noon news, courtesy of KOB. 
     ``Suddenly, about 30 or 40 scientists all came in and stood 
     around,'' he says. ``We knew something was up.''
       The lead story, Porton says, was this: ``The commanding 
     officer of Alamogordo Air Base announced this morning a huge 
     ammunition dump had blown up, but there were no injuries.''
       ``All these scientists jumped up and down and slapped each 
     other on the back,'' Porton says. ``I was familiar with 
     secrecy. I never asked any questions. But I knew it was 
     something big.''
       It was something big. What they'd heard was the coverup 
     story for the first atomic bomb blast.

                        counting backward again

       Brixner was on his way to Hollywood to get his film 
     developed in secrecy at a studio lab. One reel showed his 
     jerk of the camera.
       Aeby developed his color film that night in Los Alamos, 
     using the complex system of a half dozen Ansco chemicals. The 
     first shot of the bomb was overexposed off the scale, but one 
     of the next three became the only good color picture known of 
     the first atomic explosion.
       Weeks later, Ellen Wilder Bradbury of Santa Fe recalls, the 
     Wilder family tuned in the only radio they had, in their car, 
     to hear a wire recording broadcast over KRS. Ellen was about 
     five and hadn't understood about Hiroshima. And now she was 
     hearing a recording made in the cockpit of Bocks Car, the B-
     29 that dropped ``Fat Man,'' identical in design to the 
     Trinity bomb, on Nagasaki.
       Ellen, who would marry Norris Bradbury's son, recalls the 
     now-lost recording clearly: ``They said, `We've got an 
     opening in the clouds. OK. We're going ahead.' And then they 
     counted down to drop it. And they did say, `Bombs away!' But 
     I had just learned to count, and I was most impressed by the 
     fact that they could count backwards.''

                  Locals Had Ringside Seat to History

                          (By Fritz Thompson)

       Sparkey Harkey and his son, Richard, were standing in the 
     gloom before dawn, waiting for a train at Ancho, N.M., when 
     the bomb went off.
       ``Everything suddenly got brighter than daylight,'' Richard 
     Harkey remembers today. ``My dad thought for sure the steam 
     locomotive had blown up.''.
       Ir was 5:29.45 a.m. on July 16, 1945. Harkey and his father 
     didn't know it then, but they had just witnessed, in that 
     instant 50 years ago, an event that came to change the course 
     of history and to thereafter touch the lives of everyone in 
     the world.
       It was mankind's first detonation of an atomic bomb--at 
     Ground Zero on the empty, foreboding sweep of some of the 
     most desolate land in New Mexico; Jornada del Muerto, it is 
     called, the Journey of Death.
       Awesomely thunderous, the explosion transformed the sand in 
     the desert to green glass, hurled dust and smoke thousands of 
     feet into the sky and startled the bejabbers out of early 
     morning risers in central New Mexico.
       The place where the bomb exploded is called Trinity Site, 
     and it was 50 miles and a mountain range away from the 
     Harkeys, standing as they were on the tracks, mouths agape, 
     bathed in the glow from man's most fearsome and terrible 
     weapon. That they could see a manmade light brighter than the 
     sun from their far vantage point attests to the incredible 
     power unleashed that morning.
       Ancho was not even a whistle-stop then. Sparkey, the 
     stationmaster, was out on the tracks, ready to wave a red 
     flag to stop the train so Richard, then 18, could board and 
     ride to his job in Tucumcari.
       ``It was a blinding flash and it lasted at least a full 
     minute,'' Richard says. ``We didn't know what it was.''
       Was he curious?
       ``Yeah. But when you see something like that you're so 
     flabbergasted that you just let it go.''

                         The sun was coming up

       Ranchers and other residents on both sides of the Oscura 
     Mountains had a ringside seat to the explosion but didn't 
     know it. In one of the best-kept secrets before or since, 
     civilians had no warning.
       The lone exception was the late Jose Miera, proprietor of 
     the Owl Bar in San Antonio, a mere 35 unobstructed miles 
     northwest from Trinity and a popular hangout for the site's 
     scientists and soldiers. Rowena Baca, who runs the family 
     establishment these days, says friendly MPs that night went 
     to her grandfather's house, woke him up, ``and told him to 
     stand in the street out front because he was going to see 
     something he had never seen before.''
       Sure enough.
       Baca remembers that the sky suddenly turned red. It 
     illuminated the inside of the house she was in, reflecting 
     red off the walls and the ceiling.
       ``My grandmother shoved me and my cousin under a bed,'' 
     Baca remembers, ``because she thought it was the end of the 
       At the same moment, a U.S. Navy aviator named John R. Lugo, 
     now of Scottsdale, 

[[Page S 10085]]
     Ariz., was flying a naval transport plane at 10,000 feet some 30 miles 
     east of Albuquerque, en route to the West Coast.
       ``I saw this tremendous explosion to the south of me, 
     roughly 55 miles from my position,'' Lugo recalls. ``My first 
     impression was, like, the sun was coming up in the south. 
     What a ball of fire! It was so bright it lit up the cockpit 
     of the plane.''
       Lugo radioed Albuquerque. He got no explanation for the 
     blast, but was told ``don't fly south.''
       As the sun itself finally rose, rancher Dolly Onsrud of 
     Oscuro woke up, looked out her window and saw a mushroom 
     cloud rising from the other side of the mountains--right 
     about where her cattle-grazing land had been before the U.S. 
     Army took it over three years earlier.
       She had been none too happy about giving up her 36 
     sections, and now it looked as if the government was blowing 
     it up.
       Like Onsrud, most ranchers who witnessed some aspect of the 
     blast are the same ones who were moved off what became White 
     Sands Missile Range. They are still bitter--bitter that the 
     Army never returned the land, bitter that they weren't more 
     generously compensated for giving up their ranches for what 
     they believed was a patriotic duty. And, these days, they 
     would much rather talk about their lost lands than about the 
     first atomic bomb.
       With the passage of half a century, these same people also 
     find it remarkable that the government never warned them 
     about an event that some scientists thought might set off a 
     chain reaction and destroy all humanity.
       The fact was, not many workers at Trinity knew for sure 
     what they were working on. Retired teacher Grace Lucero of 
     San Antonio said soldiers who came to the bar that her 
     husband operated told him they were building a tower. ``They 
     said they didn't know what it was for,'' Lucero says. The 
     tower, everyone later learned, steadied the bomb before it 
     was detonated.
       ``No one knew what was going on out there,'' says Evelyn 
     Fite Tune, who lives on a family ranch 24 miles west of 
     Trinity. ``And of course none of us ever heard of Los Alamos 
     or the atomic bomb.''
       She and her late husband, Dean Fite, were away in Nevada 
     when the blast went off. They couldn't tell from the news 
     accounts of those days exactly where it happened.
       ``Finally, on the way back we went to a movie house in 
     Denver and watched the newsreel,'' she says. ``When they 
     showed the hills around the blast area, my husband said 
     `Hell, that's our ranch!' ''
       Pat Withers lives south of Carrizozo. He is 86 now and has 
     been a rancher all his life. His house is 300 yards from the 
     black and hardened lava flow that's sometimes called the 
       ``The explosion was loud enough that I jumped out of bed,'' 
     he says. ``I thought the malpais had blowed up. It wasn't on 
     fire, so I went back to bed.''
       Few ranchers had an experience to match that of William 
     Wrye, whose house then and now is 20 miles northeast of 
       Wrye and his wife, Helen, had been returning from a tiring 
     trip to Amarillo the night before the explosion. ``We got to 
     Bingham (on U.S. 380) and there were eight or 10 vehicles and 
     all kinds of lights shining up on the clouds. We were stopped 
     by an MP and a flashing red light. After we told them who we 
     were, they let us go on to the ranch. We were so tired we 
     must have slept right through the blast.
       ``Next morning, we were eating breakfast when we saw a 
     couple of soldiers with a little black box out by the stock 
     tank, I went out there and asked what they were doing, and 
     they said they were looking for radioactivity. Well, we had 
     no idea what radioactivity was back then. I told them we 
     didn't even have the radio on.
       ``For four or five days after that, a white substance like 
     flour settled on everything. it got on the posts of the 
     corral and you couldn't see it real well in the daylight, but 
     at night it would glow.''
       Before long, Wrye's whiskers stopped growing. Three or four 
     months later, they came back, but they were white, then 
     later, black.
       Cattle in the area sprouted white hair along the side that 
     had been exposed to the blast. Half the coat on Wrye's black 
     cat turned white.

                            End of innocence

       Out at the north end of the Oscura range, 30 miles from 
     Trinity, rancher Bill Gallacher was 15 years old. He 
     remembers the blast, that it lighted up the sky and the rooms 
     in his house, much brighter than a bolt of lightning. His 
     father, evidently man of few words who was just getting out 
     of bed, simply said ``Damm.''
       ``It was a sort-of-sudden deal,'' Gallacher says, 
     ``especially before you've had your morning coffee.''
       Several ranchers say they never believed the Army cover 
     story that an ammunition dump had blown up. But they didn't 
     guess what it was until the devastation of bombs at Hiroshima 
     and Nagasaki weeks later. Even then, they didn't guess the 
     import of what had been wrought in their backyard.
       Evelyn Fite Tune and her friends and neighbors visited the 
     site soon after. ``We found the hole, we picked up the glass, 
     we climbed the twisted and melted parts of the tower,'' she 
       ``All those people,'' she says, ``grew up and got married 
     and had kids. Nobody that I know of ever turned up sterile.''
       Back at the Wrye Ranch, Helen Wrye goes to the front door, 
     gazing at the sweep of prairie and desert, the Oscuras 
     looming to the south, 20 miles from here to Trinity. She 
     speaks of this dawn of the atomic age, and she sounds 
     wistful. ``People weren't afraid of the government then,'' 
     she says. ``It was a time of innocence. People were trusting. 
     We had never heard of an atomic bomb.''
       She is silhouetted against the sunlight of a bright spring 
       ``It was a happy time to live,'' she says. ``It was a happy 
     time to live.''
                   A-Bomb Scientists Bear No Regrets

                          (By Patrick Armijo)

       Los Alamos.--The view from three Manhattan Project 
     scientists was unanimous Thursday.
       Questioned by Japanese journalists who wanted to know what 
     they felt upon hearing about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the 
     three couldn't hide the pride they have in the work they did 
     50 years ago.
       The retired scientists said their work on the bomb was 
     vital to ending World War II--that bombing Hiroshima and 
     Nagasaki was necessary to end prolonged fighting.
       ``It looked like very quickly it would be the end of the 
     war, which otherwise who knew how long it would drag on?'' 
     Manhattan Project chemist John Balagna told Hiromasa Konishi 
     of Japan America Television.
       Konishi was at the Bradbury Science Museum with several 
     other reporters from Japan, Britain and Australia to hear the 
     Manhattan Project recollections of Balagna, L.D.P. ``Perc'' 
     King and Joseph McKibben.
       Balagna said the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki kept 
     someone from using the even more destructive hydrogen bomb in 
     later years.
       ``The demonstration was so graphic, it put the fear of the 
     Lord in everyone,'' he said. ``That's what kept the Cold War 
       He said he believes invading Japan would have resulted in 
     more loss of life than the bombings.
       The Japanese reporters' perspective differed.
       ``The director Steven Spielberg asked me why the cities 
     were rebuilt and not kept as a memorial to genocide. It was 
     like a genocide. The two bombs killed 200,000 people 
     instantly,'' Konishi said.
       Japan America Television was in Los Alamos working on 
     stories for the 50th anniversary of the bombings.
       Konishi said the bombing of Nagasaki, in particular, was 
     ``a difficult thing for the Japanese people to understand.''
       The Japanese still question the thinking behind the 
     bombings, Konishi said, but his country for the past several 
     years also has been coming to grips with its wartime 
       Itsuki Iwata, Los Angeles bureau chief for The Yomiuri 
     Shibun, a Japanese newspaper, said he has conducted numerous 
     interviews with the Manhattan scientists, and virtually all 
     report they had few moral qualms about using the A-bomb.
       ``The view of the scientists is very much like the point of 
     view you hear today. I think this is a very difficult thing 
     for the scientists to talk about,'' Iwata said.
       For King the problems people face today can't be 
     superimposed onto 1945.
       ``We were terribly worried that Hitler had it (the bomb). 
     It was the inspiration to work very long hours, six days a 
     week,'' he said.
       Balagna, who lost a brother in France about a month after 
     D-Day, said, ``My only regret is that we didn't finish in 
     time to use it on Hitler.''