Resources: Bomb tests of the 1950s

Some tests were conducted over the Pacific Ocean.
Some tests were conducted over the Pacific Ocean.
Image: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, via
Scientists examining films of nuclear tests from the 1950s recently added several images to

   The disconcerting videos, released by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and available on, show horrific explosions, all conducted by the U.S. government as the country was refining its nuclear arsenal. Here are links and resources about the tests:

Operation Upshot Knothole: Conducted at the Nevada Proving Ground March 17-June 4, 1953, this operation consisted of 11 nuclear tests. It was intended “to test nuclear devices for possible inclusion in the U.S. arsenal, to improve military tactics, equipment and training, and to study civil defense needs,” according to a Defense Nuclear Agency document. 

Operation Castle: This was a series of six-detonation tests at the Atomic Energy Commission's Pacific Proving Ground March 1-May 31, 1954, according to the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Tests were conducted primarily at the Enewetak and Bikini atolls in the Marshall Islands. “Castle represented the end of a drive for a workable thermonuclear weapon and the beginning of the refinement of large-H-bombs into smaller and more efficient weapons,” explains the commander’s report, found on

Operation Teapot: This group of 14 nuclear tests and one non-nuclear detonation was conducted at the Nevada Test Site Feb. 18-June 10, 1955, according to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. “The operation involved an estimated 11,700 Department of Defense personnel who participated in observer programs, tactical maneuvers and scientific studies,” an agency news release explains. "Troop tests were designed to demonstrate military tactics and doctrine and to train command and staff personnel in all phases of planning and conducting combat operations under the anticipated conditions of nuclear warfare."

Operation Plumbbob: Often identified as the most controversial of nuclear tests, Operation Plumbbob was a series of 29 nuclear tests conducted by the U.S. military May 28-Oct. 7, 1957, at the Nevada Test Site. The tests resulted in an “enormous amount of radiation released into the atmosphere during the nuclear testing phase,” explains the Atomic Heritage Foundation. “In addition to civilian exposure, troop exercises conducted near the ground near shot ‘Smoky’ exposed over three thousand servicemen to relatively high levels of radiation. A survey of these servicemen in 1980 found significantly elevated rates of leukemia.” (Also see the account on a Defense Threat Reduction Agency publication.) 

Operation Hardtack: Stunning footage on shows a blast over a beach. Operation Hardtack consisted of 35 nuclear tests conducted at the Pacific Proving Ground April 28-Aug. 18, 1958, according to a U.S. Department of Defense document found on Some of the testing was done at Enewetak Atoll.

Operation Dominic: These 36 atmospheric nuclear detonations were conducted April 25-Dec. 31, 1962, in the Pacific Ocean. Most test shots were detonated in the air after being dropped from a B-52 bomber, according to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The majority -- 24 -- were done over the ocean just south of Christmas Island, a United Kingdom possession 1,200 nautical miles south of Honolulu. Several other detonations were done near Johnston Island, a U.S. possession 780 nautical miles west-southwest of Honolulu.



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