27 January 1951

Nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site starts.

‘Able’ was the first air-dropped nuclear device to be exploded on American soil. The test took place on 27 January 1951 at Frenchman Flat, a dry lakebed in the Nevada Test Site. The 1-kiloton explosion launched the fourth U.S. nuclear test series code-named ‘Ranger’, which consisted of five air-dropped nuclear tests in early 1951.

The initial post-war U.S. nuclear tests – including the similarly named Able test on 1 July 1946 at the Bikini atoll – had been conducted at remote atolls in the Pacific Ocean, far from U.S. mainland. With the first Soviet nuclear test in 1949, the United States had lost its monopoly on nuclear weapons. The United States decided to significantly expand nuclear testing programme and chose the Nevada Test Site as the main location for subsequent tests.

Troops participated in nuclear testing with little or no protective clothing.
The Able test was followed by about 100 more atmospheric nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site. By the end of the 1950s, the grave effects of radioactivity on personnel involved in the testing and the surrounding population became evident. Public outrage helped to conclude the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty, which banned all nuclear tests above ground, in the atmosphere, underwater and in outer space. Nuclear weapon testing underground, though, not only continued but increased in numbers. A total of 928 nuclear tests were conducted at the Nevada Test Site, more than anywhere else.