By Professor Daniel Moran
Last updated 2011-02-17
In the early years of the nuclear era, however, the self-defeating character of nuclear weapons as instruments of war was not yet apparent. American war planners considered atomic bombs to be potentially useful elements of conventional combined-arms operations, and a number of live-fire exercises were conducted to demonstrate the feasibility of the concept.
The first of these, called Desert Rock, took place at Yucca Flat, Nevada, in November, 1951. The fourth of its test detonations ('Shot Dog') is pictured above. The weapon used was roughly comparable to the one dropped on Hiroshima six years before. The men in the picture, from the US Army's 11th Airborne Division, are about seven miles from ground zero.
The aim of Desert Rock, in the words of the American Atomic Energy Commission, was to 'dispel much of the fear and uncertainty surrounding atomic radiation', an objective, it is fair to say, that remains unmet to this day.