When this was filmed in 1957, the United States had already detonated approximately 100 nuclear devices, including the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan and the Trinity test in New Mexico. The Soviet Union had detonated 40 of their own, and the United Kingdom was just getting started with 12. While it’s hard to imagine volunteers would actually want to risk their well-being to witness an atomic explosion, the tests were part of an obsession by the United States, Soviet Union and others to learn all they could about nuclear weaponry– not matter the cost–as the video below demonstrates.
Richard Rhodes won a Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction for his work The Making of the Atomic Bomb. At a Long Now Foundation, Rhodes discussed how single weapon profoundly shaped world history for most of a century; and how its disappearance can have equally profound effects.