Popular Science

Survivors of America’s first atomic bomb test want their place in history

The long road from Trinity to recognition
Visitors at the Trinity Site, April 1, 2017

Visitors at the Trinity Site, April 1, 2017

The obelisk at Trinity stands near the remains of the tower that held the world's first atomic bomb.

Kelsey D. Atherton

On April 1, 2017, the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico opened its Stallion gate to the public, like it does twice every year. For a few hours, visitors are free to wander the Trinity Test Site, where, on July 16, 1945, the United States tested the first atomic bomb in history, forever altering the destructive power available to humans. On the way in, the over 4,600 visitors were greeted by about two dozen protesters, whose signs bore a simple, stark message: The first victims of an atomic bomb are still living.

“I remember just like it happened yesterday,” said Darryl Gilmore, 89, then a student at the University of New Mexico, studying music and business courses. His brother had just returned from the war, and they needed to get him down to Fort Bliss in El Paso so he could process out. Gilmore borrowed the family car for the trip; he drove it back from Albuquerque to his parent’s home in Tularosa along Highway 380, which goes through Socorro and San Antonio and on to Carrizozo. It's the same road people take to visit the Trinity site today. On that day in mid-July 1945, he stopped to check his tires, and then encountered a convoy of six army trucks.

"The lead driver, a sergeant, told me ‘put your windows up on your car, and drive out of here as fast as you can, there’s poison gas in the area,’" recalled Gilmore. "I found out much later that they were prepared to evacuate a bunch of ranch families in that neighborhood from miles around. I found out they didn’t evacuate anybody."

“My folks had gotten up early that morning, before 5 o’clock, and they saw the flash from Tularosa, that explosion,” said Gilmore, “and of course in Albuquerque I didn’t notice it at all. The only thing that came out in the paper that afternoon was a statement that an ammunition dump in the remote corner of the range had exploded, and that’s all the information that

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