Cold War Era

‘I could see the Ground THROUGH the Floor of the Cockpit of the Plane.’ The Shocking Story of the T-33 Pilot who Watched a Nuclear Bomb Test without Safety Glasses

‘One of my friends participated in a nuclear air burst test in Nevada. He was flying an instrumented T-33 jet at about 40,000 feet…,’ Bruce Gordon, former USAF fighter pilot.

In the aftermath of World War II and during the height of the Cold War – between 1946 and 1962 – the US detonated more than 200 above-ground and undersea nuclear bombs.

Hundreds of thousands of American soldiers watched nuclear bomb tests during World War II and the Cold War.

Most of them were pilots. Most of them they weren’t wearing safety glasses.

How safely from an airplane can you watch a nuke explode without any safety glasses?

‘I don’t believe there is a safe distance,’ Bruce Gordon, Former F-86, F-100, F-102, F-106 Fighter pilot at US Air Force (1958–1971), on Quora.

‘One of my friends participated in a nuclear air burst test in Nevada. He was flying an instrumented T-33 jet at about 40,000 feet, some miles away. He wrote: “I was flying the plane … I had put a patch over my left eye and was to be looking down, with my head down, into the cockpit. I can remember that I was holding my breath as I heard 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1! Then, everything went white. I mean it was so bright that you could not see the floor of the plane. Then a very odd thing happened, I could actually see through the floor of the cockpit and see the ground below us! Yes, I could see the ground THROUGH the floor of the plane. I could see a bright light even in the eye over which I had put the patch. I find it hard to describe the brightness of the bomb blast. It was not like anything I had ever seen. It was much like how I had envisioned the brightness one would experience if in the presence of God.”

‘He told me that during debriefing he reported being able to see through the floor of the airplane. They told him that several other people had reported the same phenomena.’

Gordon concludes;

‘I think this may be related to the “Livermore Light” that has been reported — but only in a few cases, because not many people have been looking anywhere near the fireball. In the book, “You must be joking, Mr. Fineman”, he was at a nuclear test in the Pacific. He had misplaced his dark glasses, so he just looked away from the blast – at all the other people who were wearing the very dark glasses. He said he could see them as skeletons, with the bones showing. I think there is a lot more to the Livermore Light than we know now….’

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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