5Operation Fuck the Sky!
A lot of nuclear testing was focused on space. As far as we can tell, this was for the same reason some people in their late twenties have Thundercats fetishes: We were discovering our nuclear capabilities at the same time that we were spending a lot of time thinking about space.
Initially America lucked out because all of the atom bombs fired into the high atmosphere didn't really do anything. Instead of leaving well enough alone, the decision was made to up the caliber. Instead of WWII style atom bombs, in 1962, a hydrogen bomb was dispatched 250 miles into the air from the Pacific Ocean to the Southeast of Hawaii. The most powerful weapon in the world at the time was going to be used to see if a vital aspect of our survival could be messed with. As the Honolulu Advertiser would confirm the following day, the test, named Starfish Prime, was a success.
That warm, patriotic feeling is actually your organs slowly cooking.
The detonation released an enormous electromagnetic pulse that knocked out power in Hawaii 870 miles away and wrecked one-third of all the satellites orbiting the earth at that time. Basically, unless a satellite was hiding behind the earth, it was rendered useless.
Down on earth, the flash could be seen as far as 2,000 miles away. Worst of all from the military's perspective, it didn't fuck up the magnetosphere: it made it briefly thicker.
This is where we're hauled off to become human batteries, right?
Having achieved our probable primary objective of convincing the Russians we were operating on pure Bond-villain logic, the Soviet Union contacted the American foreign ministry in September of the next year to request that nuclear weapons in outer space be banned. On the spectrum of requests that probably shouldn't need to be made, this ranks somewhere around "Don't turn the ocean into lava." It was such a strange, unprecedented request that it took five years to ratify, by which time the U.S. had fired an additional 105 nukes into the upper atmosphere.
"Seriously though, keep an eye on those Ruskies! They want to destroy the world."
4America's Accidental Self-Bombing
For decades, Americans pissed their pants over the possibility that they or their livelihoods would go out in a flash. One American family really got a taste of what that would be like. March 11, 1958 was a normal day at the Gregg residence. Bill Gregg was in his tool shed. His wife was out on the front porch sewing. His daughters were in a play house their Dad had constructed with his bare hands. His son was in the tool shed with his father, learning how to be a goddamned red-blooded American man. Somewhere in the distance an eagle shrieked as it rode an American buffalo to an apple-pie-eating contest at a baseball field.
All this quintessential American scene needs is a flag-waving child and a massive nuclear weapon.
Unbeknownst to the Greggs, seven miles above them a B-47E bomber was transporting an atomic bomb from Savannah, Georgia, to England, and things were not going according to plan. A warning message informed the pilot that the pin that secured the nuclear bomb in place hadn't been set properly, and bombardier Bruce Kulka was sent to check it out. The bomb bay didn't leave much room for anything other than the bomb, so Kulka had to stick his arm down into the bay and literally grope around like a blind man, searching for the unset pin. Upon feeling what he thought was the pin, and was actually the emergency release lever, the bomb dropped to the belly of the plane onto the bomb bay doors, with Kulka riding it like Slim Pickens waving a cowboy hat and hiyaing (ask your parents). Thinking fast, Kulka grabbed onto something inside the plane just as the bomb bay doors gave way, saving his life, and ensuring that the only nuclear bomb ever dropped on America didn't kill anyone.
Though it certainly made an impression.
Fortunately, nuclear weapons don't detonate on impact, so the State of South Carolina wasn't wiped off the map. Also fortunate for the Greggs, the radioactive materials were not inside the bomb at the time of the drop. Still, the detonation managed to wreck their house and their car and injure the entire family of five. Somewhere between six and 14 chickens were killed, which isn't bad for a weapon that technically wasn't loaded.
The Greggs received the incredible compensation of $44,000 and were forced to sue the U.S. government for increased damages, eventually cranking their reward all the way up to $54,000 minus lawyer's fees. Today the site is still marked by a crater 20 feet deep and 75 feet wide.
It's since filled with water, so we guess it's now an old fission hole. Ha! Ha! Ha!