Monday, February 18, 2013

Jumbo Nuclear Bomb Containment Device Historical Marker: Socorro County

In the small town of Socorro, in West Central New Mexico on Interstate 25 lies an interesting historical find. If you exit the interstate and head a few blocks into town, you will find the quaint central plaza area that is so distinctive in many New Mexico towns that grew to prominence in the 1800's. While in Socorro, I was delighted to come across some World War II history (you can see this location mapped HERE).

Socorro is known for being fairly close in location to the Trinity Site, the testing site for the first atomic bomb, which was developed 150 or so miles further north in Los Alamos. The final testing site for the Manhattan Project was originally intended to include a large steel structure that would house the bomb.
This was going to be done due to the possibility of a misfire of the nuclear core of the bomb, which would result in plutonium being thrown all over the area for many miles.

As the years went by, the scientists involved decided to scrap the containment device, which became known as "Jumbo." By this time, the device, to much effort, had already been delivered. So they decided to suspend it on a tower some 800 feet from the epicenter of the blast and see what happened.

Nothing happened actually, the 8 to 16 inch thick steel casing survived the blast fully intact, unfortunately its tower did not survive.

Eventually the US Army attempted to destroy Jumbo by placing 500 pounds of explosives inside. All the explosives managed to do was blow out the ends of Jumbo. It was then buried in the New Mexico desert. The majority of it now stands at the entrance to the Trinity Site, with this small (I use that term lightly because this piece has to weigh a few tons) piece placed near the central plaza in downtown Socorro. It's a delightfully dark story for such an interesting piece of American history.

If you're interested in hearing more about Jumbo, please check out my sources for this post:

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