This is what the first live broadcast of an atomic bomb test looked like

Archival footage shows what millions of Americans saw on their TV screens on April 22, 1952 (Image: Getty Images)

On April 22, 1952, millions of people across America turned on their televisions to watch the first live broadcast of an atomic bomb test.

The detonation took place at the Yucca Flat test site in Nevada, about 65 miles from Las Vegas.

At the time, the Las Vegas Sun reported, “Hell broke from the skies over Yucca Flat this morning when America’s latest design atom bomb detonated with enough force to devastate much of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or any major city.”

Now, 70 years from the day, archival footage of the show shows exactly what millions of Americans saw on their TV screens.

The black-and-white film shows an aerial view of the drop area with a target.

Nicknamed the “Big Shot” but officially named Charlie, the device was dropped from a Boeing B-50 Superfortress and was scheduled to take 36 seconds to fall 33,000 feet to earth and then explode.

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However, the TV commentator who did the countdown only got to 20 before the bomb went off.

“The nuke was sighted 430 miles away in southern Idaho,” reported the Las Vegas Sun.

“Out of the flash came a boiling fireball that appeared more brilliant and furious than the A-bomb dropped at Bikini in 1946.

‘The boiling maelstrom slowly rose skyward, burning with a heat one imagined before one felt.’

After the first blast was captured, the television show was cut to show viewers lined up on lounge chairs wearing goggles being struck by the flash of light.

The US military had deployed troops just four miles from the test site, which was less than an hour from “ground zero” within 150 years of the bomb detonating.

Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) TV newsreel cameraman and soldiers watch an explosion of an atomic bomb test, Yucca Flats, Nevada, April 22, 1952. (Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

Members of the press watch as hell breaks out of the sky in Nevada’s Yucca Flats (Image: NARA)

Another 120 paratroopers were dropped through the fallout zone an hour and 40 minutes later.

Brigadier General Frank Dorn was quoted as saying, “Not a single hair was singed, not a single neck twisted, or a single head injured.

“The only ‘victims’ were the guys who got their mouths full of dirt when the bomb went off.”

At that time, the effects of radiation poisoning and the lethal effects of nuclear weapons and their fallout were not fully understood.

General Joseph M. Swing told the Las Vegas Sun in 1952 that he thought his unit “could have safely been closer to the blast than we were this morning.”

The general also suggested that the troops “could have entered the target area in less than half of the 58 minutes ordered by the radiological security units.”

In the 1950s, the spectacle of nuclear testing drew hundreds of people to Las Vegas from across the United States.

More than 825 detonations were conducted at the Yucca Flat test site, most of them underground, testing ended in 1991.

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Justin Scacco

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