Trinity eyewitness recalls world's first atomic blast

Tue Aug 10, 2010 6:29am EDT
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By Dennis J. Carroll

SANTA FE, Nex Mexico (Reuters Life!) - As a young American soldier during the Korean War, Jim Madrid remembers visiting Japan in 1950 and strolling amid the rubble left by the U.S. atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima five years earlier.

"These little kids came up and kicked me in the legs, yelling 'Buta kitanai, buta kitanai' -- Dirty pig, dirty pig," Madrid recalled. "Go home, go home," they kept saying.

But what the children of Hiroshima did not know was that only days before the bomb exploded over their city, Madrid himself had been a victim of what, in essence, was a surprise nuclear attack by the United States on the residents of southern New Mexico.

"It was early morning on July 16, 1945," Madrid told Reuters in a recent interview. "I was 13, and we were on our way to work at the (Holloman Air Force) base. The GIs there used to give odd jobs to kids, and my mother and brother worked in the kitchen."

Madrid, now 78, remembers squeezing into a car with his brother Phil, his mother, who was driving, and two other women, and heading west from Alamogordo where the Madrids lived.

Shortly after crossing a railroad overpass, Madrid recounted seeing "this huge, huge light coming in from the north. It rose from the heavens, so bright, so extremely bright."

The rising fireball was "the biggest thing I had ever seen in my life. It was rolling, getting fatter and bigger and taller.

"My mother said: "The sun is coming close. The world is coming to an end." She told me to drop to my knees, but I kept looking. If it was the end of the world, I wanted to see it. I was waiting for God to come out from around the ball of fire."   Continued...

<p>Jim Madrid poses for a photo in his home in Lakewood, Colorado, August 9, 2010. REUTERS/Rick Wilking</p>