I knew I wanted to write about my life for my children and grandchildren, as my mother had done for us. However, my life seemed so mundane compared to those of my parents and grandparents – until I received a forwarded email from a friend asking where I was on a particular date in history. That was all I needed to get my juices going. This is the first of a series of stories linking my life with points in history.
When the first atomic bomb was exploded on July 16, 1945 at 5:45 am MST in the New Mexico desert, on land that is now the White Sands Missile Range, I had just turned three and was asleep in our Santa Monica, California home. 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of this event that changed the course of history.
According to an Associated Press article that appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on July 16, 2015, “When a flash of light beamed from the arid New Mexico desert early on July 16, 1945, residents of the historic Hispanic village of Tularosa felt windows shake and heard dishes fall….The end of the world is here, they thought.”
It would be another three weeks before the world would begin to know the significance of the desert event.
My father, an engineer with the U. S. Army Engineers, was not allowed to join the armed forces before 1945 since his job was deemed essential to the national security.
By January 26 1945, the repair and construction of airports in the western part of the country came to a close, and he joined the Navy Seabees (Naval Construction Force). He left for Camp Pendicott in Rhode Island for basic training on February 24.
Fate intervened and just prior to his battalion leaving for North Africa, he came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized. They left without him and he was assigned to another battalion that was bound for the Pacific. They spent a month at the Naval Construction Battalion Center at Port Hueneme (near Ventura, CA) the West Coast home port of the Navy’s Seabees and he was able to visit us at home (overnight liberties) – much to my delight.
Among the birthday gifts listed for my 3rd birthday was a “telegram from daddy.” He must not have had overnight liberties at that time. I’m sure this was nothing unusual during the war.
Because the Manhattan Project, responsible for the development of the atomic bomb, was still secret, even the Navy did not know what had happened on that morning and my father’s battalion continued their preparations to leave for Okinawa.
While I have never visited the Trinity Test site even though I have lived in New Mexico for over 20 years, I have visited the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos where a replica of “the gadget” is on display and there are extensive exhibits on the history of the Manhattan Project.
I am grateful for my mother’s detailed record-keeping of events during my early years and my reactions to them in Your Child Year by Year: A Development Record and Guide From Birth to the 16th Year, published by The Parents Magazine