Fat Man sent to Nevada atomic museum

By Whitney Lacy

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Trinity 75th anniversary exhibit features mock legacy weapon shell used in nation’s first nuclear test

Fat Man nuclear weapon shell loaded on flatbed
HANDLE WITH CARE — Sandia special material handlers Anthony Leyba, left, and Donald Adams perform a delicate task with an indelicate object. (Photos by John Korbin)

The National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada, will soon honor, with a landmark exhibit, the 75th anniversary of the first U.S. atomic test, known as Trinity.

To help with the commemoration, experts from Sandia, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency came together to move two very rare items from the Manzano Mountain storage area at Sandia’s Albuquerque site to the museum in Las Vegas. One item, weighing more than 10,000 pounds, is an actual Manhattan Project Fat Man weapon shell from 1945.

materials handler helps position Fat Man weapon shell on truck
PIECE OF HISTORY — Special materials handler Anthony Leyba secures the 1945 Fat Man weapon shell on the truck bed.

The first nuclear test in history occurred July 16, 1945, in a desolate region of New Mexico known as Jornada del Muerto, “Route of the Dead,” using a mockup of the Fat Man weapon like the one pictured.

NNSA’s Office of Stockpile Sustainment, members of several Sandia organizations, museum curator Justin Young and U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Braham Bratton were instrumental in making this momentous move happen.

The Trinity exhibit at the National Atomic Testing Museum, with Fat Man on display, opens July 16.

For more on the history of Trinity, see the 2015 Lab News feature (PDF, pg. 6-7) from Sandia Historian Rebecca Ullrich.