Sixty years ago Las Vegas was a dusty desert crossroads. Then President Harry S Truman decided to turn 800,000 barren acres of a military bombing range into the Nevada Test Site for atomic weapons. Hundreds of technicians and support crews swarmed into the area to operate the nation’s nuclear proving ground.
The first test began at dawn on Jan. 27, 1951, as a United States B-50 bomber dropped a nuclear warhead from nearly 20,000 feet onto Frenchman Flats in the Nevada desert. The device, codenamed Able, detonated 1060 feet above the desert floor, shaking the earth and echoing through the nearby mountains. The test would be the first of more than 900 documented nuclear detonations that would take place at the Nevada Test Site between 1951 and 1992.