The Cold War was a 44-year-long period of indirect warfare between NATO-aligned countries (mainly the US) and members of the Warsaw Pact (mainly the USSR). A large part of this was the nuclear arms race, where the USSR and US tried to make as many atomic weapons as swiftly as possible.
Being Cuban, the Cold War instilled a lot of generational trauma into my family, my mother and abuelos living through its heights. This leaves me with an inherent interest in it, in more aspects than just the arms race.
There are a ton
of detonations associated to the nuclear arms race, so I won't cover them all. Instead I'll list them and only cover major ones in-depth.
Operation Sandstone (pictured, bomb "Yoke")
Operation First Lightning / RDS-1
: August 29, 1949
: Semipalatinsk Test Site, Kazakh SSR (Kazakhstan)
: "RDS-1"/"Izdeliye 501"
: Atmospheric (Tower)
: 21 kilotons of TNT / 88 joules
: 1,500+ test animals
RDS-1 was the first Soviet detonation of an atomic bomb. The US and UK didn't expect the USSR to have developed bombs at this point, so this test took them by surprise. The test was detected by a Boeing WB-29 weather recon craft flying from Japan to Alaska.
The bomb was instructed to be made as an exact copy of Fat Man.
Operation Greenhouse (pictured, bomb "George")
RDS-2 + RDS-3
Operation Tumbler–Snapper (pictured, unknown bomb)
: October 3, 1952
: Trimouille Island, Montebello Islands, Australia
: 25 kilotons of TNT / 100 joules
The first British nuclear detonation. This test was conducted to see the effects of a bomb smuggled onto a ship, which was a concern of Britain's at the time.
The Montebello Islands are modernly safe to visit and are home to many endangered species.
Operation Upshot–Knothole (pictured, bomb "Grable")
: Feb 28, Mar 26, Apr 6, Apr 25, May 4, + May 13, 1954
: Namu, Irioj, + Eninmen Islands, Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, + Elugelab Islet, Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands
: "Shrimp", "Runt", "Morgenstern", "Alarm Clock", "Runt II", "Zombie"
: Composite Pu + U
: Dry Surface, Ship
: 15 Mt (Bravo), 11 Mt (Romeo), 110 kt (Koon), 6.9 Mt (Union), 13.5 Mt (Yankee 2), 1.7 Mt (Nectar)
: 1 civilian
Infamous for its Bravo test, Operation Castle was a US test of 6 bombs.
The radiation of Bravo caused severe fallout, requiring surrounding atolls be evacuated, causing the 23 crew of the Japanese fishing boat Daigo Fukuryū Maru
(Lucky Dragon No. 5) to develop acute radiation sickness, leaving its radioman dead in the following 6 months.
The tests caused outrage, with the secret test's cover being blown when other countries discovered high levels of radiation in sea water. Coconut milk and banana plants contained high levels of caesium-137 after the test, and milk was contaminated with strontium-90, causing affected atolls to be evacuated a second time.