Birthplace of the Atomic Bomb

A Complete History of the Trinity Test Site


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About the Book

It was not Robert Oppenheimer who built the bomb—it was engineers, chemists and young physicists in their twenties, many not yet having earned a degree. The first atomic bomb was originally conceived as a backup device, a weapon not then currently achievable. The remote Trinity Site—the birthplace of the bomb—was used as a test range for U.S. bombers before the first nuclear device was secretly detonated. After the blast, locals speculated that the flash and rumble were caused by colliding B-29s, while Manhattan Project officials nervously measured high levels of offsite radiation. Drawing on original documents, many recently declassified, the author sheds new light on a pivotal moment in history—now approaching its 75th anniversary—told from the point of view of the men who inaugurated the Atomic Age in the New Mexico desert.

About the Author(s)

William S. Loring worked as a helicopter crew chief and an academic instructor at the Army Aviation School and holds an Airframe and Powerplant license. He lives in Dallas, Texas.

Bibliographic Details

William S. Loring

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 445
Bibliographic Info: 111 photos, maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7551-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3381-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Preface 1
Introduction 2
Prologue: Desert 4

1. 1939–1943 5
2. January to June 1944 17
3. ­Mid-June to ­Mid-August 1944 29
4. Late August to Early November 1944 39
5. Early November through December 1944 54
6. January to ­Mid-February 1945 68
7. Late February to ­Mid-March 1945 82
8. Late March 1945 93
9. Early April to ­Mid-April 1945 105
10. Late April 1945 115
11. Early May 1945, Part I 140
12. Early May 1945, Part II 153
13. ­Mid-May 1945 161
14. Late May to Early June 1945 171
15. Mid to Late June 1945 185
16. July 1945, Week 1 207
17. July 1945, Week 2 222
18. ­Mid-July 1945 240
19. July 15, 1945 255
20. July 16, 1945 268
21. Late July through August 1945 295
22. Remainder of 1945 312
23. 1946 322
24. 1947–1948 333
25. 1949–1951 346
26. 1952–1964 353
27. 1965 to the Present 363

A.  General Groves, General Patton and the ­California-Arizona Maneuver Area 373
B.  Silverplate and the B-29 375
C.  Final Instructions for Town Monitors 377
D.  Post-Blast Press Releases 380
E.  Ratliff Family 381
F.  Firing Circuit and Arming of the Gadget 383
G.  Jumbo 387
H.  Evacuation Force: A Question of Numbers 393
I.  What Happened to Anderson’s Sherman Tanks? 396
Chapter Notes 401
Bibliography 431
Index 433

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Loring tells [an] incredible story… This detailed history of the New Mexico desert outpost that became the site of the world’s first nuclear test will keep readers in suspense… Loring brings to life the scientists, engineers, and military officers who worked under wartime pressure to produce this terrifying success… This precise chronicle covers every contingency the leaders planned for, from building a huge steel containment vessel to recover the plutonium to outfitting Sherman tanks for examining a radioactive environment. This uniquely thorough and richly informative analysis of the Trinity test site illuminates the complex efforts involved in building the bomb and preparing the site, covering nearly everything readers and researchers might want to know.”—Booklist
  • “A detailed history of the Trinity test site, where the first atomic bomb was detonated…. a thorough and technically sound history…recommended”—Choice
  • “Much has been written about the development of atomic weapons, but no previous book quite matches Birthplace of the Atomic Bomb. Along with his detailed text, Loring includes many fascinating photographs with informative captions. His abilities to identify so many obscure aspects of the photos, and deduce so much data from them, testify to his deep knowledge of the subject. This book stands as the ultimate account of the successful detonation of the Gadget”—Stone & Stone
  • “Highly recommended”—Argunners Magazine