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Dossier : Staging American Memories
Blessures et mémoires : le présent face aux traces du passé

Remembering the Atomic Bomb in its Birthplace, New Mexico

Mémoires de la bombe atomique en son berceau, le Nouveau-Mexique
Memorias de la bomba atómica en su cuna, Nuevo México
Lucie Genay

Resúmenes

El 16 de julio de 1945, la « Tierra del encanto » obtuvo una nueva identidad como cuna de la era nuclear cuando la primera bomba atómica estalló en el desierto Jornada del Muerto. Nuevo México fue transformado de manera espectacular por la llegada de la ciencia atómica, en su territorio aislado. La fecha de Trinity no ocupa el mismo lugar en la memoria colectiva que Hiroshima o Nagasaki, pero su importancia histórica toma varias formas según diferentes escalas memoriales. De hecho, este artículo se interesa por el significado de la bomba en la memoria nacional y local, insistiendo en las voces que contribuyen a expresar su herencia y en la manera en que esta herencia se puede escenificar. Pasar de una perspectiva colectiva a una perspectiva individual permite subrayar la importancia del lugar en la construcción de la memoria, y demuestra cómo la historia nuclear de Nuevo México ilustra la interacción entre historia global e historia local.

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Introduction

  • 1 « Truman Primary Resources: Announcing the Bombing of Hiroshima », Harry S. Truman Library, « Army (...)
  • 2 Vincent C. Jones, Manhattan, the Army and the Atomic Bomb, Washington, DC, Center of Military Histo (...)

1The land, flora, fauna and peoples of New Mexico bore witness to the birth of the atomic age on July 16, 1945 when the world’s first atomic bomb exploded in the Jornada del Muerto desert. This explosion represented the climax of the Manhattan Project: a two-billion-dollar atomic research and weapons production complex undertaken by the United States Army Corps of during World War II. Less than a month after this first blast, the descendants of the Trinity-test « Gadget » practically annihilated the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, revealing to the rest of the world the existence of atomic bombs. In the United States, the Manhattan Project is foremost recollected with patriotic pride as the great scientific undertaking that saved the free world from fascism. The scientists who participated in the project were celebrated as the heroes who had put an end to the war when President Truman announced the Hiroshima bombing on the radio. They had fought « the battle of the laboratories » in the shadow of secrecy, on the frontier of science, and they had conquered the mysteries of atomic energy in the name of national security1. The Manhattan Project was immediately recognized as the greatest scientific « gamble » in history, in Truman’s words, that mobilized close to 129 000 men and women across the country2.

2Although the date of July 16, 1945 does not bear the same significance in collective memory as the Japanese bombings, it is immensely significant in global history for it ushered in a new era; an era in which men acquired the capacity to destroy themselves manifold; an era which introduced a new seemingly inexhaustible source of energy that fostered many dreams; and an era which transformed regions of the world into dominions of the nuclear industry. This article focuses on one of these dominions where the paramount design, building, and testing phases of the bomb took place: the state of New Mexico. The « Land of Enchantment » acquired a new identity as the cradle of the nuclear age after the war and underwent a phenomenal transformation as a result of the arrival of atomic science. This article addresses the significance of the atomic bomb both in national and local memories. Renowned, unheard, and repressed voices all contribute to the expression of the bomb’s legacy but from varying angles and with different perspectives. Therefore, the purpose here is to analyze how the dawn of the nuclear age is remembered and staged on these distinct scales, and examine what part the notion of place plays in the construction of this memory and who participates in its construction. The answer provided here will develop in three steps with a zooming motion from collective to individual memory. This paper will first examine collective remembrance and debates on the birth of the nuclear age, then focus on the staging of atomic bomb memories in New Mexico, and finally use the reminiscences of New Mexicans to underscore certain aspects of the local legacy of the Manhattan Project.

Collective remembrance and debates on the birth of the nuclear age

  • 3 Kevin J. Fernlund, « Mining the Atom: The Cold War Comes to the Colorado Plateau, 1948-1958 », New  (...)
  • 4 David W. Moore, « Majority Supports Use of Atomic Bomb on Japan in WWII », Gallup, 5 August 2005, a (...)
  • 5 John Hersey, Hiroshima, New York, NY, Vintage Books, 1989, p. 92.

3In collective memory, the atomic bomb is foremost recalled as the instrument of destruction that almost annihilated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The magnitude of destruction which instantly killed over 180,000 civilians in two single strikes coerced the Japanese emperor into accepting the Allied terms of surrender3. Therefore, the bombings have been widely remembered as putting an end to World War II in a demonstration of America’s newborn atomic supremacy. The Gallup Poll of mid-August 1945 revealed that 85 percent of Americans approved of the bombings4. The subsequent euphoria of victory obscured the ethical issue of the weapon until Hibakushas, literally « explosion-affected persons », the atomic survivors, began to testify about the horror of the bomb5. John Hersey’s article « Hiroshima », first published in The New Yorker in 1946, brought into focus the unease about the bombings and radiation poisoning by telling the story of six survivors with vivid depictions of their experiences. Dread, disgust, and guilt started to seep into collective conscience. The public was first confronted with the extreme violence of the bomb through the potency of Hibakusha literature. The survivors fought with language in their attempts to describe an experience beyond words. Japanese writer and atomic bomb survivor Ōta Yōko expressed the struggle to find words that would be powerful enough to describe the horror and the sense of responsibility she felt as a writer communicating the effects of the bomb in City of Corpses published in 1948, in a conversation with her half-sister upon walking among the corpses:

  • 6 Richard H. Minear (ed.), Hiroshima: Three Witnesses, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 199 (...)

You are really looking at them - how can you? I can’t stand and look at the corpses. » […] I replied, « I’m looking with two sets of eyes – the eyes of a human being and the eyes of a writer. » « Can you write – about something like this? » « Someday I’ll have to. That’s the responsibility of a writer who’s seen it6.

  • 7 Paul S. Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Ag (...)
  • 8 Richard Rhodes, « The Atomic Bomb in the Second World War », in Cynthia C. Kelly (ed.) and the Atom (...)
  • 9 « Truman Primary Resources: Announcing the Bombing of Hiroshima », op. cit.
  • 10 Lansing Lamont, Day of Trinity, New York, NY, Atheneum, 1965, p. 70. And John Hayward (ed.), John D (...)
  • 11 James W. Kunetka, City of Fire: Los Alamos and the Atomic Age, 1943-1945, Albuquerque, NM, Universi (...)
  • 12 Lincoln Barnett, « J. Robert Oppenheimer », LIFE Magazine, 10 October 1949, p. 133. Barnett also re (...)

4In the postwar decade, however, the newly created Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), which was responsible for much of the censorship on the bombings, led a campaign in the United States to modify the public’s perception of the bomb, and to change the atom’s connotation from destruction to health, happiness, and prosperity. Atomic historian Paul Boyer who retraced the history of the bomb in American culture called the hypnotic power of these promises on American society the « nuclear utopia7 ». Despite the AEC’s efforts to make the public focus on the promising aspects of nuclear energy, fear remained its prime feature, branded upon the public’s memory by people with varying agendas. Fear was manipulated by the atomic scientists during their short-lived postwar crusade for international control of atomic energy, but it mostly became an instrument of the U.S. government to pursue the arms race with the Soviet Union. Richard Rhodes, celebrated historian of the atomic bomb, wrote that nuclear weapons became « so cheap, so portable, so holocaustal » that « even nation-states as belligerent as the United States and the Soviet Union preferred to sacrifice a portion of their sovereignty […] rather than be destroyed in their fury8 ». Novels, movies, and music inspired by the fear of a nuclear holocaust still accumulate today. The anxiety created by nuclear weapons shaped their remembrance into an object of the unreal. It has taken a mythical dimension supported by lexical choices that refer to myths, to the power of the sun, or that of God. Truman announced: « It [the bomb] is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power9 ». Historians of the Cold War have largely tapped into mythology to find images and characters that would symbolize mankind’s encounter with nuclear power. The most recurring myths are that of the titan Prometheus who stole fire from the forge of Hephaestus and gave it to humanity, and that of Phaethon, son of the sun god Helios, who demanded to be allowed to drive his father’s chariot of the sun and lost control of the horses turning the ride into one of terror, burning living beings and creating deserts. The myth of Pandora’s box releasing the evils of humanity, the legend of Aladdin’s genie in a bottle or such book titles as Norman Moss’s Men who Play God indicate a propensity to place nuclear weapons in the realm of abstraction because they never were and can never rationally be used again. Likewise, name choices such as « Trinity » contribute to the mythical, almost religious construction of memory. The choice of the codename has been attributed various origins but the most recurrent story is that J. Robert Oppenheimer thought of the name. Journalist and test witness Lansing Lamont reported that he selected it after reading Holy Sonnet 14 by British poet John Donne which referred to the « three person’d God10 ». Historian Marjorie Bell Chambers noted that Oppenheimer’s use of the Trinity should be understood as the Hindu concept that brings together the gods Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Preserver), and Shiva (the destroyer). Oppenheimer was known for having taught himself Sanskrit and quoted a line from a sacred Hindu text, the Bhagavad-Gita: « I am become death, the shatterer of worlds » after witnessing the blast11. He also declared in November 1945, acknowledging his guilty conscience, that « the physicists have known sin12 ».

  • 13 Mary Palevsky, Atomic Fragments: A Daughter's Questions, Berkeley, CA, University of California Pre (...)

5The controversy over the use of the bomb against Japan gained many partakers over the years: a great bulk of the literature on the bomb focuses on the reasons behind the final order and the possible alternatives. Some have argued that it was primarily detonated to impress the Soviets or as a scientific experiment and others claimed that the bomb saved thousands of American and Japanese lives. These polemics often crystallized when atomic memories would be staged in museum exhibits. For instance, the Smithsonian Enola Gay exhibit of 1995 at the National Air and Space Museum divided veteran and anti-nuclear crowds. At one end of the spectrum, veteran organizations asked for a balanced portrayal of Japanese atrocities against American soldiers and the bombings. They opposed the use of pictures which showed the bombing as a vengeful racist act. And at the other end were those who believed the exhibit’s primary goal should be to encourage the public to re-examine the bombings in view of the political and military factors which led to the decision. They wanted a focus on the suffering of civilians, on the physical and psychological impact of nuclear denial and secrecy in America, as well as worldwide environmental and health consequences13. The tension was such that the project was aborted and replaced by a simple display of the B-29 plane that dropped the bomb. The nebula of questions surrounding the debate on whether the bomb was necessary to end the war monopolized the attention and long kept in the dark other aspects of the bomb’s legacy such as the local impact.

Staging atomic bomb memories in New Mexico

  • 14 Norris Bradbury, « Los Alamos – the first 25 years », in Lawrence Badash, Joseph O. Hirschfelder, a (...)
  • 15 Ferenc Morton Szasz, The Day the Sun Rose Twice: The Story of the Trinity Site Nuclear Explosion, J (...)
  • 16 Kyôko Hayashi and Eiko Atake, From Trinity to Trinity, New York, NY, Midpoint Trade Books Inc, 2010 (...)
  • 17 Ibid, p. 14 ; p. 53.

6After the war, one of the pivotal questions was: what would become of the facilities in New Mexico (the Los Alamos laboratory and the Trinity site)? For the former, there were people who thought Los Alamos should be deserted: « Put a fence around it, everybody go away, leave it as a monument of man’s inhumanity to man », but through the efforts of General Groves and Norris Bradbury, the lab was maintained in New Mexico despite its remoteness and other local drawbacks14. In Trinity, when writers and photographers were first allowed at Ground Zero in September 1945, they wanted to take trinitite with them as souvenirs (green glassy material produced by the explosion). Trinity then made the headlines of newspapers and the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce suggested that the site be made into a national monument for the state to benefit from the increased tourism. Others wanted the area to be back in use for grazing as it had been promised to local ranchers in 1941 but, in the end, the Army stopped the project because it needed the land for defense. The transformation of Trinity into a national monument prompted a discussion on the site’s significance but also on how appropriate such a monument would be: a Denver Post reporter suggested in 1969 that « Trinity was America’s guilt symbol, similar to a German concentration camp15 » In 1965, Trinity became a National Historic Landmark and then a National Historic Site in 1975. The site opens its gates to visitors twice a year. A lava obelisk sits imposingly in the middle of the desert where the steel tower stood before the blast. Upon visiting the site, the attitudes of visitors who show patriotic pride or mourning are clear to observe. One unique account of a visit to the site is worth mentioning here. It is that of Kyôko Hayashi, a Nagasaki survivor who wrote of her atomic pilgrimage through New Mexico. She calls Trinity the « Hibakushas’ birthplace » because of the kinship she can feel with the animals and plants that died on that day16. With irony and humor, she wonders how the other visitors would react if she took the Geiger counter that was used by one of the officers and put it against her body because it would start screaming as it would pick up the radiation emanating from her. She also describes her emotions as she discovers how the museums in these places have capitalized on nuclear tourism by selling t-shirts with mushroom clouds on them and pins of « fat man », the Nagasaki bomb17.

  • 18 Personal visit of the Bradbury Science Museum on November 23, 2012.
  • 19 “Report from the Hilltop: Highlights of the Los Alamos Bradbury Science Museum,” 31 May 2013, Natio (...)
  • 20 The Pajarito Plateau Hispanic Homesteaders entered a legal battle for fairer compensation in 1997 i (...)

7In Los Alamos, memory is staged in two museums. The Bradbury Science Museum named after the laboratory’s second director, is meant to appeal to adults and children with very interactive colorful exhibits that promote the role of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Personalities of the Manhattan Project are commemorated on a sort of wall of fame, alongside local workers who played a significant part in the success of the undertaking. A few panels in one corner deal with the environmental issues of nuclear research, they are entitled « What does the lab do to protect its workers and the public from radiological hazards? » or « Restoring contaminated sites18 ». Two anti-war posters focus on the debate over the Japanese bombings next to an impressive billboard bearing the heading « Why the bomb? » which gives the well-known answer « because it saved many lives ». And in another corner of the museum, visitors can give their opinion in a public forum. A few interesting comments were made by visitors who express how thankful they are for the bomb and how much fun they have had in the museum while others are more introspective: « This is a hard place to visit but I felt I had to. Something dreadful happened here19 ». The historical museum, managed by the Los Alamos Historical Society, retraces the successive settlements on the Pajarito Plateau from the first Keres Pueblo Indians to the scientists. The Historical Society brought memory onto the streets of the town by installing a « Homestead Tour » to restore a few signs of the initial inhabitants of the area whose land was condemned by the government in 1942. Almost nothing except the pond and a few log buildings, including Fuller Lodge, remain from that period, so the tour was made to tell the story of local Anglo and Hispanic homesteaders and of the Los Alamos Ranch School for boys founded by Ashley Pond. One stop on the tour is at the Romero Cabin, a symbol of Hispanic Homesteading on the plateau. It was moved from its original location by the lab’s historic preservation specialists in 1985 and rebuilt in downtown Los Alamos. No mention is made of the compensation controversy or of the Pajarito Plateau Homesteaders’ movement20. Apart from these few staged remnants, pre-World War Two local history and memory were virtually obliterated in favor of the scientific achievement and the subsequent growth of a unique company town. Yet for many locals, the traditions and lifestyles that were sacrificed when the landowners gave up their land are fully part of their history of the atomic bomb.

  • 21 New Mexico Magazine, September 1945, August 1947, August 1949, February 1969.
  • 22 Joe Alex Morris, « The Cities of America: Los Alamos », The Saturday Evening Post, Indianapolis, IN (...)
  • 23 Ruth Marshak, « Secret City », in Charlotte Serber and Jane Wilson, Standing by and Making Do: Wome (...)
  • 24 See the description of Apolonia in Phyllis Fisher, Los Alamos Experience, Tokyo ; New York, NY, Jap (...)

8One noteworthy aspect of the town and its relation to memory is how it has fascinated reporters, journalists, and historians since the end of the war, both because of its high historical significance and because of secrecy which created much mystery around it. Headlines in the New Mexico Magazine clearly showed this fascination: « The Secret of Los Alamos; The Secret City of the Scientists; The World’s Most Important Small Town; Los Alamos, Mysteries, Past and Future » among others21. From the onset, the media greatly participated in shaping the reputation of Los Alamos as a peculiar town where residents must get used to signs that read « DANGER. Contaminated site. Do not enter. » and « are no more alarmed by them than you would be by signs saying, ‘Keep off the grass’ », journalist Joe Alex Morris wrote in 1948 to comment on a picture showing children playing in front of a fenced area bearing such a sign22. The community has carefully maintained an aura of mystery to this day and it remains a popular subject for fiction. The most recent example is the television series Manhattan, a drama shot in Santa Fe and premiered in July 2014 which focuses on the lives, secret, and tensions among the scientists on « the Hill » in 1944. The whole town thus appears as a memorial for the Manhattan Project from the very entrance sign that reads « Los Alamos: where discoveries are made! » The literature on Los Alamos is vast and a great part of it has been written by project participants: scientists, their wives, politicians and military men. Their memoirs shaped the town’s memory and image in the nation’s collective conscience. In their narratives, these atomic pioneers repeatedly made the analogy between their experience of going West, to a borderland on the outskirts of the civilized world, and tales on the Frontier, with a strong influence of the Manifest Destiny ideology. Ruth Marshak wrote « I felt akin to the pioneer women accompanying their husbands across the uncharted plains westward, alert to danger, resigned to the fact that they journeyed, for weal of for woe, into the Unknown23 ». In the 1940s, New Mexico still had a reputation as a foreign land due to its catholic Spanish-speaking and Native American populations. The scientists’ mindset was very much influenced by the western narrative genre and the attitude they depicted in their relation toward the native peoples of the region reflects some stereotypical representations. To scientists’ wives, local cultures were seen as providing colorful exoticism and entertainment; a folklore that matched the romantic imagery of southwestern cultures24. Thus, individual memories of the early atomic era merged with national memories and fantasies of westward expansionism. However, to the New Mexican participants in the project, what was the significance of the atomic bomb?

New Mexican reminiscences of the Manhattan Project and its local legacies

  • 25 Ruben Waldo Salazar interviewed in Chamita by Peggy Coyne on February 21, 1996, « Impact Los Alamos (...)
  • 26 Ruben Montoya interviewed by Carlos Vásquez in Santa Fe on August 9, 1994, « Impact Los Alamos », B (...)

9The project in Los Alamos hired profusely from nearby communities for security reasons. Army trucks picked up workers daily on the plazas of their villages in the Española valley. The lab employed construction workers, janitors, cooks and maids from the Hispanic communities of Española, Chimayó, Bernalillo, Las Vegas, N.M., and from the nearby Pueblos of San Ildefonso, Cochiti, Tesuque and Santa Clara. An oral history project called « Impact Los Alamos » was directed by the University of New Mexico in the 1990s to conduct interviews and collect the reminiscences of lab employees who can provide a different view on Los Alamos history and memory. The first generations saw the lab as godsend because of the incredible almost exclusive employment source it represented for the poverty-stricken people of northern New Mexico. Life was difficult and jobs were scarce after the drought and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Breadwinners had to leave the state to find jobs in the copper mines in Colorado, on farms in Arizona, with sheep herders in Montana, or on the railroad in California. Consequently, local populations were glad to have a new employer close to their homes no matter the purpose or the tasks they were asked to do. Ruben Salazar from Chamita asked « If it wasn’t for Los Alamos, where would we all be? In what kind of shape would we be? We would probably not even be here but working elsewhere. » He explained that the main difference between the people in the valley and those in Los Alamos is how much money they have, speculating that Los Alamosans probably have more time for recreation25. And Ruben Montoya noted that he « didn’t pay much attention to the bomb or anything like that » because he « was more interested in [his] immediate job, building roads and utilities26 ». New generations grew more critical as revelations of the effects of radioactivity on health and the environment were released after the 1960s.

  • 27 David Smollar, « First A-Test Site: Bleak Desert Spot », L.A. Times, July 16, 1985, University Libr (...)
  • 28 Barton C. Hacker, The Dragon’s Tail: Radiation Safety in the Manhattan Project, 1942-1946, Berkeley (...)

10In Trinity, although the Army took all necessary precautions to make sure the test would remain secret and told local newspapers that it had been the accidental explosion of an ammunition store, there were local witnesses up to 250 miles away who saw the blast, heard the noise, and felt the shock, but who were also first victims of radioactive fallout. The story that became most famous, almost a legend, was that of Georgia Green, an eighteen-year-old blind music student who felt the flash and asked her brother-in-law who was driving her to Socorro « What’s that? » In San Antonio, Rowena Baca was shoved under her bed by her grandmother because the old lady thought it was the end of the world. Baca said: « I think most of us would just like to forget what was a very scary day ». In Socorro Lee Coker’s « infirm father, hobbling half-way between the house and the outdoor toilet screamed, ‘God Almighty!’ and thought the world was coming to an end ». William Wrye and his wife, Helen, had slept through the event on their ranch but they became aware that something had happened when at breakfast « some soldiers with a black box appeared » and said they were looking for radioactivity. He told them they « didn’t even have the radio on ». Wrye’s sideburns stopped growing that summer and came back white a few months later before returning to black. Half the coat on his black cat turned white and his cattle also « sprouted white hair along one side ». Despite security measures, fallout affected some of the ranching families who lived nearby. When these effects began to show in the summer and fall of 1945, some residents tried to get compensation money and claimed they had suffered various grievances including « a frost-colored ‘atomic calf’ at Alamogordo, born soon after the explosion », a woman who had allegedly lost more than twenty pounds, a man claiming his hair and beard had turned prematurely gray, and a white-spotted black cat in Bingham belonging to Hugh McSmith and re-baptized « Atomic ». A California promoter offered fifty dollars to M. McSmith to display the cat in a side show27. The Army also discovered the Raitliff family shortly after the test. Their dwelling and livestock was located in a place dubbed « Hot Canyon » by the scientists. Their animals displayed burns, bleeding and loss of hair. The medical crew decided against evacuation but monitored them very closely in the following weeks28.

  • 29 Charles Montano interviewed by Carlos Vásquez on April 16, 1996, « Impact Los Alamos », Box 2, CD 1 (...)
  • 30 Elaine Montano interviewed by Carlos Vásquez on April 16, 1996, « Impact Los Alamos », Box 2, CD 5- (...)

11When the gates to Los Alamos opened in 1957, competition for jobs increased, and discrimination in reaching higher positions became more conspicuous. Inequalities widened, and contamination of people and their environment became a real concern. Charles Montano testified that he was at first « caught up in the mystique of being a lab employee, it was just the end of the Manhattan Project era » but the mystique faded with the new generation who « came to advance their individual careers ». Montano said: « I became aware more and more that as a minority, no matter what I did, it was never enough29. » His wife also testified and said that when her husband became an activist, some of her colleagues who did not like what he was doing called her a « wet back » and « a Mexican » who should « go back wherever she came from ». « They didn’t know I was a native of the area and they were from the outside, » she said30. The nuclear industry colonized most of the state with the Sandia labs in Albuquerque, uranium extraction in Grants, two other test sites during the Plowshare program, a radioactive waste disposal site near Carlsbad, and the White Sands Missile Range military reserve expanded. As a result, locals now recollect the Manhattan Project through the prism of its ambivalent legacy in New Mexico: huge economic gains but also social, cultural, and environmental losses. While interviewees express profound gratitude at the lab’s establishment in the state, some of them also allude to the self-sufficient lives they led in their farming communities before World War II. For others, their memory of the Manhattan Project is affected by difficult work experiences or the consequences of nuclear science on their health.

Conclusion

12For New Mexico, the birth of the nuclear age was the moment the state entered into a Devil’s bargain with nuclear science which yielded many benefits at first but with a high price to pay in the long term. The substantial economic gains came with cultural and environmental consequences that soon developed into social and political challenges. Consequently, one can remark that the way the Manhattan Project and the bomb are staged in museums or at Trinity is at odds with their actual, very complex significance in the memory of the local people. Memory is a malleable substance which takes many shapes and is influenced by time, space, and people. The birth of the nuclear age is a compelling example of its malleability because the shock waves of these events reached all corners of the globe and their significance constantly shifts depending on what perspective or whose viewpoint is chosen. Many histories in the American West were crushed by world history during World War II and the Cold War. Part of the complexity of analyzing New Mexico’s nuclear story is precisely due to its being interlocked with the intricacies of world and local histories. Even the most isolated populations and places on the planet could be affected by incidents of an international range and vice versa. In a few years, the Pajarito plateau and the Jornada del Muerte connected New Mexico, one of the remotest places in America, to the world’s global trajectory and for long, the momentousness of what happened there kept local repercussions in the dark. In the state now known as the birthplace of the A-bomb, both collective and individual memories were staged in an effort to attach the region to the nation’s history and promote the scientific successes that were achieved there, but many voices from such microcosms remained unheard because they did not follow to the script or were not previously deemed significant enough.

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Notas

1 « Truman Primary Resources: Announcing the Bombing of Hiroshima », Harry S. Truman Library, « Army press notes », box 4, Papers of Eben A. Ayers, August 6, 1945, PBS American Experience, accessed November 8, 2012. URL: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/truman-hiroshima/.

2 Vincent C. Jones, Manhattan, the Army and the Atomic Bomb, Washington, DC, Center of Military History For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O., 1985, p. 34.

3 Kevin J. Fernlund, « Mining the Atom: The Cold War Comes to the Colorado Plateau, 1948-1958 », New Mexico Historical Review, vol. 69, n° 4, October 1994, p. 347.

4 David W. Moore, « Majority Supports Use of Atomic Bomb on Japan in WWII », Gallup, 5 August 2005, accessed September 15, 2014. URL: http://www.gallup.com/poll/17677/majority-supports-use-atomic-bomb-japan-wwii.aspx.

5 John Hersey, Hiroshima, New York, NY, Vintage Books, 1989, p. 92.

6 Richard H. Minear (ed.), Hiroshima: Three Witnesses, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1990, p. 205. Also see Kyoko Iriye Selden and Mark Selden (eds.), The Atomic Bomb: Voices from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Armonk, NY, M.E. Sharpe, 1989.

7 Paul S. Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age, Pantheon, 1985, p. 114.

8 Richard Rhodes, « The Atomic Bomb in the Second World War », in Cynthia C. Kelly (ed.) and the Atomic Age Foundation, Remembering the Manhattan Project: Perspectives on the Making of the Atomic Bomb and Its Legacy, Hackensack, NJ, World Scientific, 2004, p. 29.

9 « Truman Primary Resources: Announcing the Bombing of Hiroshima », op. cit.

10 Lansing Lamont, Day of Trinity, New York, NY, Atheneum, 1965, p. 70. And John Hayward (ed.), John Donne: Complete Poetry and Selected Prose, New York, NY, Random House, Inc., 1949, p. 285.

11 James W. Kunetka, City of Fire: Los Alamos and the Atomic Age, 1943-1945, Albuquerque, NM, University of New Mexico Press, 1978, p. 170. The full text was: « If the radiance of a thousand suns / were to burst into the sky / that would be like / the splendor of the Mighty One and I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds. » In an interview about Trinity broadcasted in the 1965 documentary The Decision to Drop the Bomb, Oppenheimer replaced the word « shatterer » with « destroyer ».

12 Lincoln Barnett, « J. Robert Oppenheimer », LIFE Magazine, 10 October 1949, p. 133. Barnett also refers to the scientists’ « promethean burden ».

13 Mary Palevsky, Atomic Fragments: A Daughter's Questions, Berkeley, CA, University of California Press, 2000, p. 13.

14 Norris Bradbury, « Los Alamos – the first 25 years », in Lawrence Badash, Joseph O. Hirschfelder, and Herbert P. Broida (eds.), Reminiscences of Los Alamos, 1943-1945, Boston, MA, Reidel P, 1980, p. 163.

15 Ferenc Morton Szasz, The Day the Sun Rose Twice: The Story of the Trinity Site Nuclear Explosion, July 16, 1945, Albuquerque, NM, University of New Mexico Press, 1984, p. 167.

16 Kyôko Hayashi and Eiko Atake, From Trinity to Trinity, New York, NY, Midpoint Trade Books Inc, 2010, p. XXVIII; p. 50.

17 Ibid, p. 14 ; p. 53.

18 Personal visit of the Bradbury Science Museum on November 23, 2012.

19 “Report from the Hilltop: Highlights of the Los Alamos Bradbury Science Museum,” 31 May 2013, National Toxic Land/Labor Conservation Service, 2015, accessed March 1, 2014. URL: http://www.nationaltlcservice.us/2013/05/los-alamos-bradbury-science-museum/.

20 The Pajarito Plateau Hispanic Homesteaders entered a legal battle for fairer compensation in 1997 in a class action lawsuit against LANL and they eventually obtained $10 000 000 in 2003. On the homestead era on the plateau, see Judith Machen, Ellen McGechee, and Dorothy Hoard, Homesteading on the Pajarito Plateau, 1887-1942, Los Alamos, NM, Los Alamos National Laboratory, 2012.

21 New Mexico Magazine, September 1945, August 1947, August 1949, February 1969.

22 Joe Alex Morris, « The Cities of America: Los Alamos », The Saturday Evening Post, Indianapolis, IN, 11 December 1948, Ralph Carlisle Smith Papers on Los Alamos 1924-1957, Albuquerque, NM: Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico, Collection MSS149BC, Box 1, Folders 28, 29, 30.

23 Ruth Marshak, « Secret City », in Charlotte Serber and Jane Wilson, Standing by and Making Do: Women of Wartime Los Alamos, Los Alamos, NM, Los Alamos Historical Society, 1988, p. 2.

24 See the description of Apolonia in Phyllis Fisher, Los Alamos Experience, Tokyo ; New York, NY, Japan Publications, 1985, p. 44.

25 Ruben Waldo Salazar interviewed in Chamita by Peggy Coyne on February 21, 1996, « Impact Los Alamos », Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico, MSS821BC, Box 2, CD 29.

26 Ruben Montoya interviewed by Carlos Vásquez in Santa Fe on August 9, 1994, « Impact Los Alamos », Box 2, CD 11-13.

27 David Smollar, « First A-Test Site: Bleak Desert Spot », L.A. Times, July 16, 1985, University Libraries, University of New Mexico, Center for Southwest Research, MSS552BC, Ferenc M. Szasz Papers, 1894-2005, Box 8, folder 7, Trinity 40th Anniversary, 1985.

Larry Calloway « N.M. Gave Birth to Atomic Bomb », Albuquerque Journal, Sunday September 19,1999, Ferenc M. Szasz Papers, Box 9, Folder 11, Trinity Site Recollections, 1945-1999.

Elvis E. Fleming, Civilian Reaction to the first atomic bomb test, 257, Ferenc M. Szasz Papers, Box 8, Folder 18, Elvis E. Fleming – « Local Reaction to the First Atomic Bomb ».

28 Barton C. Hacker, The Dragon’s Tail: Radiation Safety in the Manhattan Project, 1942-1946, Berkeley, CA, University of California Press, 1987, p. 104-105.

29 Charles Montano interviewed by Carlos Vásquez on April 16, 1996, « Impact Los Alamos », Box 2, CD 1-4.

30 Elaine Montano interviewed by Carlos Vásquez on April 16, 1996, « Impact Los Alamos », Box 2, CD 5-6.

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Referencia electrónica

Lucie Genay, « Remembering the Atomic Bomb in its Birthplace, New Mexico », Les Cahiers de Framespa [En línea], 24 | 2017, Publicado el 22 enero 2017, consultado el 20 agosto 2017. URL : http://framespa.revues.org/4366 ; DOI : 10.4000/framespa.4366

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Autor

Lucie Genay

Lucie Genay est ATER à l’Université de Caen Basse Normandie et doctorante à l’Université Grenoble-Alpes dans le laboratoire ILCEA4, sous la direction de Susanne Berthier-Foglar.
Lucie.Genay@unicaen.fr

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Licence Creative Commons
Les Cahiers de Framespa sont mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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