Read the statement the US military used to cover up Oppenheimer's first nuclear test, claiming it was an ammo dump blowing up

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Read the statement the US military used to cover up Oppenheimer's first nuclear test, claiming it was an ammo dump blowing up
The massive explosion of Oppenheimer's Trinity test was initially explained away as an ammo dump explosion.Clovis News-Journal/Newspapers.com / National Security Research Center
  • After Oppenheimer tested his first nuclear bomb, local newspapers were fed a lie to explain the blast.
  • The massive blast of the Trinity nuclear test was explained away as an ammo dump explosion.
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Anyone leafing through the newspapers shortly after Robert J. Oppenheimer's first nuclear bomb test on July 16, 1945, might have missed a small news item about the explosion.

Buried on page 6 of New Mexico's Clovis News-Journal was a dull and, as it turns out, largely fictitious news story about an exploded ammo dump.

"Several inquiries have been received concerning a heavy explosion which occurred on the Alamogordo Air Base this morning," it quoted the base's commanding officer, William O. Eareckson, as saying.

The article goes on to say that what locals heard and saw was the result of a "considerable amount of high explosive and pyrotechnics" blowing up. Nobody was hurt, Eareckson said.

The notice appeared between stories about a police car chase and a man who was wanted for issuing a bounced check.

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What the news report failed to mention was that the atomic era had just begun in their own backyard: the Manhattan Project's first-ever nuclear bomb test, known as Trinity.

The Trinity test released a literally blinding explosion and a mushroom cloud seven and a half miles high; a precursor to the devastating nuclear bombs that would later be dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Japan.

The blast "was seen and felt throughout an area extending from El Paso to Silver City, Gallup, Sorocco and Albuquerque," according to an August 31, 1945, report in the El Paso Herald-Post.

The responsibility for drafting a series of press releases explaining this away fell to a New York Times science reporter, William Laurence, according to Vincent C. Jones, who chronicled the test for the US Army Center of Military History.

Laurence was temporarily released from his job at the Times to help the Manhattan Project, Jones wrote.

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In total, Laurence helped draft four press releases — the other three covered potentially catastrophic results such as having to evacuate residents, damage to towns, and draft death notices, per Jones.

Only the one below was ever used.

In its August 31 article, more than a month later, the Herald-Post reported that the blast was actually the "A-bomb," admitting it had been duped by the earlier statement.

It wrote: "This was the story of the half-century, and newsmen didn't know it."

Here's the full text of the New Mexico's Clovis News-Journal article from July 16, 1945:

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Blast occurs at Alamogordo Army Air Base

ALAMOGORDO, N.M., July 16. N --- William O. Eareckson, commanding officer of the Alamogordo army air base made the following statement today: "Several inquiries have been received concerning a heavy explosion which occurred on the Alamogordo Air Base this morning.

"A remotely located ammunition magazine containing a considerable amount of high explosive and pyrotechnics exploded.

"There was no loss of life or injury to anyone, and property damage outside of the explosives magazine itself was negligible.

"Weather conditions affecting the content of gas shells exploded by the balst [sic] may make it desirable for the army to evacuate temporarily a few civilians from their homes."

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