It is said that, upon witnessing the detonation of the first atomic bomb, Robert J. Oppenheimer recited the Bhagavad Gita. He uttered the now infamous line, "Now, I am become death, destroyer of worlds". A little earlier in the Bhagavad Gita, is another relevant line. Maybe, Oppenheimer drew inspiration from it as well. It reads, "If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once in the sky, that would be the splendour of the mighty One".
Wendover is roughly 120 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah. It is a border town. Technically, the town is cut in half. West Wendover, Nevada and Wendover, Utah. West Wendover, Nevada boasts a handful of casinos, which are the tent poles of the community's economy. Wendover, Utah is home to the Wendover Airfield. Formerly, the Wendover Army Air Base. Nicknamed "Kingman", established in 1941, the base would eventually be selected by The Manhattan Project to be the test site for the 509th composite group. The group that would eventually fly the "Enola Gay" and "Bockscar" over Japan, dropping the bombs, Little Boy and Fat Man on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, forever changing the world. While the first atomic bomb was tested in New Mexico at the Trinity Site. The soldiers at "Kingman" learned to fly their bombers with payloads of specific size and weight. So, when the eventful call would come there would be no mistakes, seeing as the consequences were so great. The Enola Gay and Bockscar would work with what were called "Test Shapes", the bomb shells that would later become "Little Boy" and "Fat Man". These weapons were tested on the desolate terrains just outside Wendover before they were unleashed on the people of Japan. Today the area is still used for weapons testing. Just south of Wendover is a continuation of Hill Air Force Base. This is where F-22 pilots learn their trade today.
Over the course of the last 18 months, I have been visiting Wendover to document the town and its role in our nation's nuclear weapons history.
This work was featured on Popular Mechanics.
In 1987, the United States entered in the INF Treaty with the Soviet Union. The INF Treaty or Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, was a bilateral agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate certain classes of nuclear weapons and promote transparency between the nations as they looked towards an alliance. 30- 40 Russians were sent to Magna, UT to participate in the the program at the Hercules Plant where many of the missiles were created.
In 2019, the United States withdrew from the INF Treaty under the belief Russia had violated the terms of the agreement.
Below, is an untouched living and working quarters of the Russians that moved to Utah. It was recently moved from Magna to Wendover.