(Roughly) Daily

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones”*…


In 1955, the Department of Defense began Operation Teapot, one of dozens of nuclear experiments that have been performed at the Nevada Test Site since the late 1940s. Operation Teapot consisted of 14 separate explosions, each of which provided the DoD with the opportunity to assess various outcomes of interest.

A test called “Wasp,” for example, was meant to show what would happen if a nuclear device detonated at low altitude. For another, called “ESS,” an 8000-pound bomb was exploded underground, to see how large of a crater it would make. (Many of the tests had quotidian names, like “Bee” and “Zucchini,” which are illustrated on an incongruously playful diploma given to participants.)

When it came time for the second-to-last test, called Apple-2, the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA) got involved. The United States was in the grip of the Cold War, and the possibility of an attack on American soil seemed—then, as now—frighteningly real. In the words of journalist June Collins, their mission, called Operation Cue, was meant to “test the effects of an atomic blast upon the things we use in our everyday lives.”…

Learn about part of that effort, “Project 35.5,” and how it tested record-keeping under extreme circumstances: “The U.S. Government Once Nuked a Bunch of File Cabinets.”

See also: “Surviving Doom Town,” a fascinating account of another, similar project (and the source of the photo above.)

* Albert Einstein


As we duck and cover, we might send explosive birthday greetings to Hudson Maxim; he was born on this date in 1853.  An inventor called by Thomas Edison “the most versatile man in America,” he taught and published widely on penmanship, wrote books that spoke to everything from political science to literary criticism, and appeared as King Neptune during the first two years of the Miss America Pageant (in 1921 and 1922), arriving on a great float and presenting the trophy to the winner.

But he is best remembered as an inventor (his creations included an early method of color printing for newspapers).  His most impactful inventions were in the realm of ordinance:  Maxim introduced the first smokeless powder in the U.S., which was quickly adopted by the U.S. Army. Then he invented maximite, a high explosive bursting powder 50% more powerful than dynamite.  When used in torpedoes, maximite resisted both the shock of firing and the greater shock of piercing armor plate without exploding until it was then set off by a delayed-action detonating fuse, another Maxim invention.  Later, he perfected an improved smokeless powder, called stabillite because of its high stability, and motorite, a self-combustive substance to propel torpedoes.  His creations found wide use in World War I, and beyond.

Maxim’s fascination with munitions ran in his family: his brother, Hiram Stevens Maxim, invented the Maxim gun, and his nephew, Hiram Percy Maxim, invented the Maxim Silencer.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 3, 2018 at 1:01 am