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Hundreds gather for anniversary of atom bomb test

July 16, 2005

By Steve Shoup

TRINITY SITE, New Mexico (Reuters) – Hundreds of people
gathered in a U.S. Army base in the New Mexico desert on
Saturday to quietly mark the anniversary of the first test of
an atomic bomb 60 years ago, where a black obelisk marks the
first Ground Zero.

On July 16, 1945, the first nuclear bomb was tested at the
Trinity Site, now on White Sands Missile Range in central New
Mexico. Less than a month later, World War II ended after the
U.S. military dropped two such bombs on the Japanese cities of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Leading scientists from the top-secret Manhattan Project in
Los Alamos, New Mexico, developed the atomic bombs. Death
estimates from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings vary from
between 100,000 to 200,000.

The range, a U.S. Army base, is usually closed to the
public because of weapons research there, but the Army opened
the site July 16 to mark the anniversary. The shallow crater
left by the bomb was filled in years ago, but the spot is
marked by an obelisk made of black volcanic rock.

Several hundred observers, some whom came as part of bus
tours, moved around the large, remote site throughout the day.

By some estimates, a few thousand turned out for the event.

The military banned signs, sit-ins or other types of
protest at the anniversary gathering, which in the past
occasionally has drawn outright opposition as well as prayer
services. No one waved the flag patriotically, either.

On Saturday, however, one attendee was wearing a T-shirt
with the slogan: “It started here. Let’s stop it here.”

‘END OF THE WAR’

“It’s really awesome just being here, after what happened
here,” said Carmein Soleas, of nearby Socorro. “I remember
Pearl Harbor and the end of the war. (The bombs) killed a lot
of innocent people but saved a lot of soldiers. You don’t know
what would have happened without it.”

One man from Yokusuka, Japan, who declined to give his
name, said his family had lived in Hiroshima. They fled the
city during the war and so survived the attack, he said.

“If it didn’t happen, it would be better,” the man said,
“and I hope there won’t be another like Hiroshima and
Nagasaki.”

Desert grass, shrubs and cactus grow on the arid site, and
some flowers were blooming. Doves and hawks flew by, and a
lizard scampered away from tourists.

Kathy Gallagher, a nurse from Sydney, Australia, who is
working in Socorro, said: “It’s sad that there are still wars
going on today.”

Gallagher said the site didn’t look as bad as she expected.
“It really doesn’t look any different than anything else here,”
she said.

Visitors also toured the nearby McDonald Ranch house, which
was taken over by the Army and where the final assembly of the
bomb was done. Herb Lehr was an electrical engineer then, and
told a crowd of how he helped put the warm, softball-sized
plutonium core into the bomb there just before it was set off.

(Additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein)




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