65 years ago this week, six men stood at Ground Zero of an atomic explosion in Nevada. Five of them, all Air Force officers, chose to be there. Only the sixth, the photographer who filmed the footage, didn't volunteer. In the video below, all six men stand directly below a two kiloton nuclear missile detonation taking place at 10,000 feet:
The footage was shot to reassure the American public about the relative safety of a low-grade nuclear exchange in the atmosphere, according to NPR, and the officers all agreed to serve as living examples. And the obvious follow-up question is: where are they now? Journalist Robert Krulwich and science historian Alex Wellerstein did some digging, and according to their research, many of them lived into old age, and at least one is still alive.
The cameraman, George Yoshitake, is now 84 years old. He was interviewed by the New York Times about his experiences filming nuclear testing two years ago. NPR found that Col. Sidney C. Bruce died in 2005 at age 86, Lt. Col. Frank P. Ball died at 83 in 2003, Maj. John Hughes died in 1990 aged 71, and Don Lutrel may have died in 1987 at 63. They couldn't find any information about Maj. Norman Bodinger.
Not so bad for people who stood directly under a nuclear detonation, right? But Krulwich cautions against focusing "on six people as if they represent everyone who was exposed to bomb radiation". In fact, according to Wellerstein, the six men were actually not in the worst possible location during a nuclear blast: "They weren't in a zone to be too affected by the immediate radiation. The bomb was small enough and high enough that it wouldn't have sucked up enough dust to produce much fallout".
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