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On August 1, 1958, a few minutes before midnight, an intense flash of white light tore across the night sky illuminating everything it touched for miles around Johnston Island, a tiny atoll located smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The black sky turned blue, and personnel at the air force base instinctively ducked for cover.

The source of the light was a nuclear test conducted high up in the atmosphere. It was one of two conducted under Operation Hardtack to study, among other things, the effect of the earth’s rarefied atmosphere on nuclear detonation, as well as to investigate defensive tactics against ballistic missiles. This particular test, codenamed “Teak”, was the most powerful one at 3.8 megaton—equivalent to 250 Hiroshima-grade nuclear bombs.

Operation Hardtack teak

The fireball from Operation Hardtack “Teak”.


© Amusing Planet, 2020.



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