Army Cancels Planned Public Visits to Trinity Bomb Site in April. You Can Blame 'Oppenheimer.'

March 26, 2024
Trinity Site in New Mexico

The Army has canceled the April 6 open house for the public to visit the New Mexico site of the Trinity atomic bomb blast for lack of funds following a crowd surge last October brought on by the blockbuster movie “Oppenheimer.”

In a January posting, the website of the Army’s White Sands Missile Range, where the world’s first atomic explosion went off on July 16, 1945, said that the April open house had been canceled and will not be rescheduled “due to unforeseen circumstances” related to the range’s budget.

A White Sands spokesman said Monday that costs for accommodating the public for free at the site come from discretionary funds, and the funding will not be available for April 6.

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The site of the world’s first test of a nuclear weapon has been open to the public for only one day in April and one day in October annually, since White Sands is still an active missile range.

The White Sands spokesman said that the next open house in October is still on schedule, but the Army is looking at the possibility of making it a paid event for the public.

The last open house on Oct. 21, 2023, was the first since the release in July 2023 of the “Oppenheimer” movie. It received several Academy Awards, including best picture, and brought about renewed interest in the personal and political travails of the theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and the eclectic band of scientists he oversaw in the top secret effort to produce the first atomic weapons.

Ahead of the open house last October, the Army put out an advisory warning that, “due to the release of the movie ‘Oppenheimer’ in July, we are expecting a larger than normal crowd. You may have wait times of up to two hours getting onto the site. If you are not one of the first 5,000 visitors, you might not get through the gate prior to its closure at 2 p.m.”

The movie “Oppenheimer” is controversial in New Mexico for making no mention of the “downwinders” who may have been harmed by the fallout from the Trinity blast, which was estimated to have the force of more than 24 kilotons, or 24,000 tons of TNT.

The site where the Trinity bomb, dubbed the “Gadget” by the scientists, exploded is now marked by a 12-foot tall obelisk made of black lava rock put in place in 1965 and has a metal plaque bearing the inscription: “Trinity Site Where the World’s First Nuclear Device Was Exploded on July 16, 1945.”

In 1975, the National Park Service added a second plaque which states: “This site possesses national significance in commemorating the history of the U.S.A.”

Related: The Trinity Test Site Is Open One More Time This Year. You Might Not Get In.

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