Today in History: U.S.S.R. Explodes its First Atomic Bomb, 1949
On August 29, 1949 — 66 years ago today — the U.S.S.R. successfully detonated its first atomic bomb (code named: “First Lightning”; also known as “RDS-1” or “Device 501”; and as “Joe-1” by the West). The bomb had a yield of 22 kilotons and bore a close resemblance to the plutonium-based “Fat Man” bomb that the U.S. had dropped on Japan in 1945 to effectuate a rapid end to World War II. The resemblance between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. atomic bombs was close, because it was later determined that Soviet espionage had secured details for its bomb from the U.S. atomic bomb development “Manhattan Project” and the “Trinity” test on July 16, 1945 (for more on the “Trinity” test, please see https://plus.google.com/+BradAcker/posts/NhUGZtRVD7C
Klaus Fuchs, a brilliant German scientist who fled to Britain as the Nazis rose to power in the early 1930s, was sent by the British government to the U.S. to collaborate on the the U.S. Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb. On March 1, 1950, Fuchs was convicted of passing atomic bomb secrets from the U.S. Manhattan Project to Soviet intelligence. As Fuchs matured, he had embraced the communist ideology as defined by Karl Marx, and thus was motivated to assist the Soviet Union, which he began to regard as his “true fatherland,” especially after Hitler’s Germany had attacked the Soviet Union. Fuchs received a 14-year prison sentence for treason. On June 13,1959 (after serving 9 years of his sentence), Fuchs was released and allowed to emigrate to Dresdon, East Germany, where he resumed his scientific career. Fuchs died in East Berlin on January 28, 1988 — before the Berlin Wall came down (in late 1989). [The KGB also stated in 1991 that it received additional intelligence from a scientist inside the Los Alamos, New Mexico, atomic research facility.]
On this day in 1949, with the detailed information that Fuchs had provided, the U.S.S.R. tested its copy of the U.S. “Trinity” plutonium-based atomic bomb in a remote site at Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan. To measure the effects of the blast, Soviet scientists constructed buildings, bridges, and other civilian structures around where the blast was to occur. Hundreds of animals were also placed in cages in the vicinity, in order to test the effects of nuclear radiation on human-like animals. Needless to say now, the atomic explosion on this day destroyed the structures and incinerated the animals.
One direct observer from a northern perspective about 9 miles from the blast site recorded his observations:On top of the tower an unbearably bright light blazed up. For a moment or so it dimmed and then with new force began to grow quickly. The white fireball engulfed the tower and the workshop and expanding rapidly, changing color it rushed upwards. The blast wave at the base, sweeping in its path structures, stone houses, machines, rolled like a billow from the center, mixing up stones, logs of wood, pieces of metal and dust into one chaotic mass. The fireball, rising and revolving, turned orange, red. Then dark streaks appeared. Streams of dust, fragments of brick and board were drawn in after it, as into a funnel.
Shortly after the Soviet test, U.S. scientists recorded seismic activity from inside the Soviet Union that could have only come from a nuclear test. Further scientific checking indicated that this conclusion was correct. Armed with conclusive data, U.S. president Harry S. Truman informed the American people on
•PBS Documentary: “Race for the Superbomb” (length 01:56:36).
•History File: “The Soviets — Stalin and the Bomb” (length 23:46). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leVzgLd7wKo
•August 29, 1949: Soviet Union’s first nuclear bomb test (length 01:35). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu36SD7CBz0
• The Cold War: A New History
by John Lewis Gaddis. http://amzn.to/1N1dhmb
•Photo of first atomic blast by the U.S.S.R.
•New York World-Telegram front page reporting on Truman’s announcement that the U.S.S.R. exploded an atomic bomb. Getty Images.
•Google Map/Earth View showing the site of the first U.S.S.R. atomic bomb test explosion.#history #history