A visit to the federally funded National Museum of Nuclear Science & History is a strange and chilling experience. It is touted as having the "world’s most complete collection of atomic weapons."
The Atomic Age in Albuquerque
With 300 years of history under its belt and surrounded by ancient Pueblos it is easy to forget that Albuquerque is the epicenter of cutting edge technology… both Intel and Sandia National Laboratories are located here. Most astounding, however, is realizing that the Duke City is America’s nuclear weapons capital. Kirtland Air Force Base, just around the corner, is home to the largest storage facility for nuclear weapons in the world.
After viewing the first exhibit, which turned out to be a crash course on radiation ... and then a timeline of discoveries by the pioneers in nuclear physics, medicine, and quantum mechanics ... we stumbled upon this display entitled "Propaganda — The Power of Lies." We still don't get the connection with nuclear science ... but it was quite fascinating. You can read an example here and here. Sound familiar?
Displays lead us through a compact history lesson of what led to the decision to develop the bomb and why we beat the Nazis in its development. Of course Danny was most fascinated with the Nazi memorabilia. Rosenthal tea cups for the Master Race?
There was a collection of items reflecting daily life at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. In addition, we viewed the 48-star American flag that flew over Trinity Base Camp ... 10 miles from the first atomic blast. New Mexico's high winds ... not the atomic blast ... damaged the flag.
We have always felt that Robert Oppenheimer was an intensely strange looking man. Nevertheless, he possessed the intellect to direct the Manhattan Project to s successful conclusion in nearby Los Alamos.
We were fascinated by the two unique automobiles that played a role in the actual atomic bomb test. It was hard to believe that the bomb’s plutonium core was transported from Los Alamos to the secret Trinity site in the back seat of a '42 Plymouth!
This original 1941 Packard Clipper transported physicists, senior officers, and dignitaries from the train station to Los Alamos ... and to the Trinity base camp for the testing of the first atomic bomb. In 2005, this limo was discovered in a Gallup, New Mexico salvage yard ... and restored in time for the Museum's Grand Opening in 2009.
This casing is identical to Little Boy, the first nuclear weapon applied to warfare and dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Little Boy was not tested prior to use in Japan.
This display is identical to Fat Man ... the second and last nuclear weapon used in warfare. On July 16, 1945 the Fat Man prototype was tested at Trinity site in the New Mexico Desert ... giving birth to the Atomic Age. Displays examining the history leading up to the decision to drop the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ... and the consequences of their use from both sides of the debate were presented.
After reviewing the exhibits on the events of the Cold War, it is amazing that we made it through those years. We had forgotten about the Palomares hydrogen bombs incident in 1966, when four nuclear bombs were accidentally jettisoned by a US bomber. What we haven’t forgotten are the "Duck and Cover" drills and the fall out shelters of our childhood. In this recreated fallout shelter, with Civil Defense issued materials needed to survive an enemy attack, Sherry was surprised to see this 6 inch Admiral television … she remembers watching Howdy Dowdy on a less deluxe model.
There was a wide range of modern nuclear bombs and warheads such as this imposing Trident missile ... and one of the smallest nuclear weapons ever developed ... the Davy Crockett warhead.
The heaviness of looking at all the weapons of mass destruction was offset by the assortment of kitschy products exemplifying the impact of the Atomic Age on U.S. culture. We laughed out loud when we saw the Atomic Dish Detergent.
We got a kick out of the collection of atomic-themed comics. Atomic Angels ... a team of smart-talking teenagers trained for "nuclear crisis intervention." Their distinctly flip motto was "even the smallest atomic blast can just about ruin your day!"
Who knew there was such a thing as Atomic Magazine?
What was really cool about the toy atomic ray gun display was that you could actually fire the guns to hear their fabulously creative futuristic sound effects. A barrel of laughs for any knucklehead. Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk!
One of the first peaceful uses of radiation was X-rays. Sherry remembers going to Buster Brown Shoes as a child and stepping up to a shoe fitting fluoroscope similar to this one from the 1930’s … boy what a gimmick!
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