Wednesday, January 27, 2021

DAWN ABOVE ZERO (IV part)

The bomb was placed on a 30-meter-high steel tower. Sixteen kilometers to the southeast was the base camp, the residence of the headquarters of the scientific high command, whose chief of operations was Professor R. Bainbridge of Harvard University. Barracks had been built there for the accommodation of men of science, a meeting room, a police station, a stationery and other buildings. Those who composed the vanguard of the atomic sages, led by Professor J.R. Openhaimer of the University of California and director of the Atomic Bomb Project, lived as soldiers at the front, overseeing the enormously complicated details involved in the test.

There, in the early hours of Saturday afternoon, they gathered: Major General Leslie R. Groves, commander in chief of the Atomic Bomb Project; Brigadier GeneralT.F.Cartel, hero of the First World War and lieutenant of General Groves; President James Bryant Conant of Harvard; Dr Vannevar Bush, Director of the Bureau of Scientific Research and Experimentation; Richard Tolman, Dean of the California Institute of Technology; Professor R.F. Bacher of Cornell; Colonel Stafford Rochester; and about 150 other leaders included in the atomic bomb program.


In the base camp there was an abandoned and dry pond, about 150 metres square, surrounded by an embankment about two and a half metres high. Within this embankment the excavators opened a series of trenches, each one a meter deep by two wide and seven and a half in length. At a command given by the radio one minute before the zero hour, all the observers of the base camp were in the trenches assigned to them, with their faces against the ground and their heads in the opposite direction to Zero. But most of us at Hill Company stood.

Three other posts had been established, south, north and west of zero, at a distance of about 10 kilometres from each other. Such posts were known, respectively, by the names. In these places the shelters were much more complete; wooden constructions, with their walls reinforced with cement and protected by a thick layer of earth.

S-10 was the control center. There Professor Openhaimer, as commander-in-chief scientist and his aide-de-camp, Professor Bainbridge, dictated orders and synchronized the activities of the other posts. It was there that the signal set in motion the entire complex mechanism whose consequence would be the largest explosion of energy released on Earth by man. No switch was triggered, no button was pressed to ignite that cosmic fire on our planet..

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