Ground zero at White Sands Missile Range was illuminated once more in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of Trinity Site during a small ceremony held at the site July 16.
WSMR Commander Brig. Gen. David Trybula gave the keynote address and welcomed guests to the event marking 75 years. The ceremony featured the illumination of the Obelisk that marks Ground Zero for the test.
“Welcome to the commemoration of the test that changed the world,” said Trybula “Few events have changed the course of human history to the extent that the Trinity Test did in mere nanoseconds on this day in 1945. It was here 75 years ago today when history was made, and a new era began.”
“It was here precisely 75 years ago at this very location when history was made, and a new era began.”
The ceremony commemorated the test of the first atomic bomb that was detonated at 5:29 a.m. Mountain War Time on July 16, 1945, at Trinity Site on what was to later become White Sands Missile Range. The 19-kiloton explosion not only led to the end of the war in the Pacific, but also ushered the world into the atomic age.
“White Sands Missile Range is honored to host the site of this historic event and welcome you to today’s ceremony. Today you will have the opportunity to tread in the same steps of some of the greatest scientists in the world who gathered here in 1945,” Trybula said. “Their work definitively opened the atomic age and fundamentally changed the world. Fundamentally because the work that built upon the Trinity Test impacted geopolitics, medicine, energy, defense, and transportation to name but a few, the epitome of testing the future, changing the world.”
Trybula went on to say that what came out of this tumultuous time, is this military base we call White Sands Missile Range, originally known as White Sands Proving Ground, sanctioned by the Secretary of War in February 1945.
“This led to the range’s establishment on July 9, 1945, and just 7 days later occurred the Trinity Test and what we are commemorating today,” he said.
“Let’s look at a portion of the story, starting with the Manhattan Project in 1942. A project conceived and put in place in order to design and build something that had not previously existed,” Trybula said.
“Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves and Doctor J. Robert Oppenheimer were at the forefront of the project. Other facilities were in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Hanford, although contributions to the project came from across the country. Significant was New Mexico’s “Site Y” the code name for the Los Alamos Laboratory that was established in 1943 and its satellite operation in Sandia in Albuquerque.”
While Oppenheimer is amongst the most famous names associated with the Manhattan Project, the project included people from all walks of life. “It took a diverse group of people with a variety of skillsets to take the project from conception to reality. As is still the case today people are our greatest asset,” Trybula said.
“The list of people who contributed to this project is long and each person has their own remarkable story. We have no way of even knowing, much less honoring each individual person who was critical to this project’s success. But that’s really the point, the story of Trinity, it is not just one story. Trinity was the result of the fusion of the collective experiences of thousands of people who sacrificed their time and lent us their expertise to create something remarkable.”
Trybula went on to say that is where this piece of land that we stand upon today comes into play. He said there were other locations that were considered for the test. But in due course, this area would prove the ideal location with its secluded desert terrain within close proximity to Los Alamos.
In addition to the Trinity Site, Trybula pointed out that the Schmidt-McDonald ranch house is important. The house was built in 1913 by German immigrant Frances Schmidt, and in the 1920s the McDonald family took ownership. In 1984 it was restored as close to its appearance of how it looked in 1945.
The house was used in 1945 by scientists and workers, and was most famously used to assemble the plutonium core on July 13, 1945. It was inside the northeast former bedroom that was designated for the assembly. Workbenches and tables were installed to keep dust and sand out of instruments and tools, the windows were covered with plastic. Tape was used to fasten the edges of the plastic and to seal doors and cracks in the walls. Crude and cringe-worthy to today’s scientists, it was merely the creative means of getting the job done with what they had.
“On July 12 the two hemispheres of plutonium were carried in for preparation,” Trybula said. “At the house, Brig. Gen. Thomas Farrell, deputy to Maj. Gen. Leslie Groves, was asked to sign a receipt for the plutonium.”
“This morning, we have taken a quick look back at our beginning 75 years ago, and we are awed by how remarkable - indeed unique – were the times, the technologies, and the talents of that test. But we can also see how that day set the model for the Tens of thousands of times dedicated professionals have since gathered in this remote desert to advance the security of our nation. People from all walks of life continue to unite and overcome all obstacles: physicists and engineers; technicians and scientists; leaders, managers, and administrators; safety experts, meteorologists, instrumentation operators and data collectors; logisticians, road guards, carpenters, and machinists; medical providers, communication experts, photographers, and control center personnel; members of the military, government civilians, academia, industry, ranchers, the media and politicians; all doing their part into the wee hours of the morning to evaluate the latest technology. Truly testing the future and changing the world.”
Unable to attend U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Energy and Armed Services Committees, released the following statement in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the detonation of the first atomic bomb at the Trinity Site in New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin on July 16, 1945.
“Seventy five years ago today, the world as we knew it changed dramatically at a place in central New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin that scientists called the Trinity Site.”
“The Trinity Test was the first detonation of a nuclear weapon in human history. It was the culmination of work by hundreds of thousands of Americans and allied scientists working in sites across the country as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project. This was a scientific and engineering mission on a scale never seen before or since,” Heinrich wrote.
The small ceremony was closed to the public. Video coverage of the event is available to view by going to the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) home page at https://www.dvidshub.net/ where you will find it under the "Recently Aired Events" section.