Did you see the movie Oppenheimer? It won Best Picture this year at the Academy Awards, so I recommend it.

Much of the “action” takes place in New Mexico, with Project Y in Los Alamos and the physicists who were working on the Manhattan Project along with their families relocating to The Land of Enchantment. That scene where they test the very first Atomic Bomb is set in Alamogordo.

Manhattan Project
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All of this was VERY hush-hush; perhaps the most carefully guarded secret project in American history. So secretive that they didn’t tell residents, American citizens, about the tests…or the after-effects. There was a lot of fallout.

“The Downwinders” are those unfortunate people who lived “downwind” from the Trinity Test Site. There were New Mexico families in 1945, the year the bomb was first tested, that lived less than twelve miles from Ground Zero. THOUSANDS of New Mexicans lived within the 50-mile radius where the fallout would have adverse effects.

How bad were the effects? Nobody died as a direct result of the blast itself. But, in the months and years following, the infant mortality rate in the affected area skyrocketed.

explosion nuclear bomb in ocean

The infant mortality rate in the Tularosa Valley alone went from 38.3 deaths per thousand live births to a shocking 100.8 deaths per thousand, according to an FAQ page for the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium.  Other negative outcomes included increased incidence of cancers and thyroid diseases.

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Radioactive Waste Cleanup Continues At Hanford Nuclear Reservation
Jeff T. Green

Two Manhattan Project scientists, Otto Frisch, and Rudolf Peierls, wrote years before the Trinity tests that such a test could not be done “without killing large numbers of civilians”.

So, they knew the dangers but beating the Nazis to get the bomb was of such a high priority that they, of course, went ahead with testing. And, also of course, they didn’t let ANYONE on the outside know about the tests, least of all the New Mexico residents who were mostly farmers in 1945.

After the war, testing continued in multiple places, by the Americans and the Soviets.

WIPP plant in carlsbad new mexico experiences radiation leak
Photo, Getty Images

Maybe you’ve heard about the huge number of people who got cancer while working on the set of the 1945 movie, “The Conqueror”.  Out of the 220 members of the cast and crew, 91 developed cancer, and 46 died “likely due to nuclear fallout during the shoot”, including the film’s star John Wayne. Adding insult to injury, “The Conqueror” was considered John Wayne’s worst movie and one of the worst of the entire decade.

Since 1990 the US Government has been compensating downwinders…the ones who live near the Nevada test site, that is!

The Downwinders in New Mexico have never been included or compensated, even though they were the first humans to be victims of an atomic bomb.

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