[Ivy Mike Fireball]The Years of Atmospheric Testing: 1945-1963


From 1945 to 1963 the U.S.A. conducted an extensive campaign of atmospheric nuclear tests, grouped into roughly 20 test "series." After 1963 when the Limited Test Ban Treaty was signed testing for the U.S., Soviet Union, and Great Britain moved underground. France continued atmospheric testing until 1974 and China did so until 1980. This page focuses mainly on U.S. testing because those documents are most readily available.

Summary Table of U.S. Nuclear Test Series
This table shows the year, location, number of detonations, and approximate number of personnel for each of the twenty named atmospheric nuclear test series.

U.S. Nuclear Testing from Project TRINITY to the PLOWSHARE Program
This document gives a historical overview of the U.S. atmospheric nuclear testing program. It lists every detonation by name and summarizes the radiation exposures of test participants. Also available as Adobe Acrobat PDF [592Kb].

Map of. Nuclear Test Sites Worldwide
This map shows the name, approximate location, and years tests were conducted for each site of atmospheric nuclear tests through 1963.

Videos of Nuclear Tests

Note: These video clips were digitized from the best available copies of U.S. Government films. For additional information about these films, see the Historical Nuclear Test Films page at the DOE Nevada Test Site.

[Able Blast]Crossroads ABLE Test [160x120 Quicktime MOV, 1.9 MB]
The ABLE test in 1946 was an air drop of the same Fatman-type weapon dropped on Nagasaki.
[Crossroads BAKER test]Crossroads BAKER Test [160x120 Quicktime MOV, 2.1 MB]
The BAKER test in 1946 was a Fatman-type weapon detonated 96 feet below the surface of the ocean.

[Buster-Jangle Detonation] Buster-Jangle Test [160x120 Quicktime MOV, 3.3 MB]
This video clip shows one of the test detonations from the Buster-Jangle series in Nevada. The narrator describes the visible characteristics of a nuclear detonation.
[Tumbler Snapper Dog] Tumbler-Snapper DOG [160x120 Quicktime MOV, 2.9 MB]
Tumbler-Snapper DOG was a 20 kiloton airdrop detonated on May 1, 1952. Army and Marine troops participated in four of the eight Tumber-Snapper shots, as shown in the two video clips below.
[Desert Rock IV] Desert Rock IV [160x120 Quicktime MOV, 1.9 MB]
Marine troops observed DOG shots at Tumbler-Snapper from trenches just 7,000 yards from ground zero.
[Desert Rock IV dust] Desert Rock IV [160x120 Quicktime MOV, 1.4 MB]
This video shows the blast wave crossing the desert and hitting the troop trenches.

[Mike Fireball Close-up]Ivy MIKE, slow-motion closeup of fireball [160x120 Quicktime MOV, 900 KB]
The Ivy MIKE shot was the first U.S. thermonuclear test using the Teller-Ulam radiation-implosion principle. It used liquid deuterium as the fusion fuel and yielded 10.7 megatons. The fireball reached a diameter of 3.5 miles.
[Ivy MIKE distant fireball and cloud]Ivy MIKE, distant fireball and cloud [160x120 Quicktime MOV, 1.9 MB]
This clip shows a real-time view of MIKE from a safe distance.
[Ivy MIKE Cloud] Ivy MIKE, later cloud stage [160x120 Quicktime MOV, 1.1 MB]
The MIKE cloud eventually rose to a height of 20 miles (into the stratosphere) and spread out to a width of 100 miles.
[Ivy KING] Ivy KING detonation [160x120 Quicktime MOV, 3.1 MB]
Ivy KING was an air-drop of the "Super-Oralloy" all-fission bomb, with a yield of 500 kilotons.

[Castle BRAVO test]Castle BRAVO test [160x120 Quicktime MOV, 2.7 MB]
The Castle BRAVO test on March 1, 1954, yielded 15 megatons, the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated by the United States. By accident the inhabited atolls of Rongelap, Rongerik and Utirik were contaminated with fallout, as was the Japanese fishing trawler Fukuryu Maru or Lucky Dragon. The controversy over fallout that simmered around the Nevada Test Site erupted into international alarm.
[Castle ROMEO test] Castle ROMEO test [160x120 Quicktime MOV, 2.1 MB]
The Castle ROMEO test yielded 11 megatons. It was detonated from a barge in the BRAVO crater.

Atmospheric Test Photo Web Sites

Gallery of Nuclear Test Photos [Mirror--Original server has gone off-line indefinitely.]
This site has a large number of atmospheric nuclear detonation photos as GIF images.

Nevada Test Site Historical Photos and Films
This site has a large number of photos and some video clips showing atmospheric detonations. There is also information on how to order VHS videos of recently declassified DOE nuclear test films.

Other Web Sites about Nuclear Testing

Chart of Global Nuclear Weapons tests, 1945-1996
This year-by-year chart of the number of nuclear weapons tests is one example of the information available at the Brookings Institution's U.S. Nuclear Weapons Cost Study Project.

Table of Known Nuclear Tests Worldwide: 1945-1996
This table breaks down the number of worldwide nuclear tests by country, year, and whether it was atmospheric or underground. There is a wealth of information, particularly about nuclear weapons stockpiles, at the home page for the Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) Nuclear Weapons Program.

Nuclear Test Personnel Review
This page at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency describes the study that was done to catalog radiation exposure to participants in U.S. atmospheric nuclear tests.

Copyright 1995-2000 Gregory Walker (gwalker@jump.net), Creator of Trinity Atomic Web Site
These HTML pages are published under the Open Content License (OPL), which is the non-software equivalent of the (GNU) General Public License. Basically, the license allows anyone to modify and distribute the documents as long as they make it freely available. For more information, visit the OpenContent organization. Here is a plain text copy of the OPL.

Most of the documents, photos, maps and videos presented here are from U.S. Government documents and believed to be in the public domain, unless specifically noted.

Last updated: April 2, 2000.