This bizarre and tragic bit of nuclear history happened 59 years ago today
In the 1950s, fear of nuclear-armed Soviet bombers led to the creation of the Genie rocket. Fired from an American or Canadian fighter jet, the Genie had no guidance system. The 221-pound warhead was only used once, in a test code-named "John". Amazingly, five men had volunteered to stand directly under the detonation point. The men, Colonel Sidney Bruce, Lt. Colonel Frank P. Ball, Major Norman "Bodie" Bodinger, Major John Hughes, and Don Lutrell, stood their ground as a nuclear explosion went off 3.5 miles above their heads. One man who didn't volunteer to be at ground zero: the man operating the camera, George Yoshitake. According to Yoshitake all six men present, including him, would develop cancer while in their 40s and 50s. Bruce, Ball, Bodinger, and Hughes all died of cancer, while Yoshitake developed stomach cancer and Luttrell developed colon cancer. Above-ground nuclear tests were banned in 1963 by the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, greatly limiting radiation radiation exposure to test personnel.