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June 12, 2012

Haunting Photographs From an Atomic Bomb Test in the Nevada Desert in 1955

In the spring of 1955, as the Cold War intensified and the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union escalated at a shocking pace, America—as it had many times before—detonated an atomic weapon in the Nevada desert.

The test was not especially noteworthy. The weapon’s “yield” was not dramatically larger or smaller than that of previous A-bombs: the brighter-than-the-sun flash of light, the mushroom cloud and the staggering power unleashed by the weapon were all byproducts familiar to anyone who had either witnessed or paid attention to coverage of earlier tests.

These pictures made in the Nevada desert by LIFE photographer Loomis Dean shortly after a 1955 atomic bomb test. These are not “political” pictures. They are eerily beautiful, unsettling photographs made at the height of the Cold War, when the destructive power of the detonation was jaw-droppingly huge—although miniscule compared to today’s truly terrifying thermonuclear weapons.

In the test, this scorched mannequin indicated that a human at that distance would be burned but alive.

Burned up except for its face, this mannequin was 7,000 feet from the blast.

This lady mannequin’s wig was askew though her a light-colored dress was unburned.

Remains of a house (built for the test more than a mile from ground zero) after an atomic bomb test, Nevada, 1955.

After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955.

After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955.

After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955.

This mannequin was in a house 5,500 feet from the bomb blast.

After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955.

After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955.

After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955.

After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955.

After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955.

After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955.

After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955.

After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955.

Vehicles lined up far from ground zero before a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955.

After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955.

After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955.

After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955.

After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955.

(Photos: Loomis Dean –– The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)




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