A fantastic find from the National Archives by Robert Krulwich for NPR:
They weren’t crazy. They weren’t being punished. All but one volunteered to do this (which makes it all the more astonishing.)
On July 19, 1957, five Air Force officers and one photographer stood together on a patch of ground about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. They’d marked the spot “Ground Zero. Population 5″ on a hand-lettered sign hammered into the soft ground right next to them.
As we watch, directly overhead, two F-89 jets roar into view and one of them shoots off a nuclear missile carrying an atomic warhead.
They wait. There is a countdown. 18,500 feet above them, the missile is intercepted and blows up. Which means, these men intentionally stood directly underneath an exploding 2 kiloton nuclear bomb. One of them, at the key moment (he’s wearing sunglasses), looks up. You have to see this to believe it.