On March 17, 1953, the United States government carried out one of a series of nuclear tests in the desert outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. The tests, appropriately named "Operation Doorstep," involved the creation of an eerily authentic-looking neighborhood made up of two fully furnished model homes, 50 donated automobiles, and numerous mannequin families to populate it – all so it could be blown up.
Looking more like a post-apocalyptic film set than a real-life neighborhood, this test site was set up to measure the impact that a nuclear bomb could have if the US were attacked by their ever-worsening enemy, the Soviet Union. As soon as the Soviet Union perfected their own nuclear weapons, a full-fledged arms race began, and people in the United States were more than a little nervous – they were sent into a full-blown panic. As a result, bomb shelters, lean-tos, and box shelters were being developed en mass – all sporting their own guarantees of protection from the impending nuclear threat. The government, however, had to test these methods out – and apparently the best way to do so was by creating this model neighborhood.
The results are eerie to say the least, as the mannequins that survived the blast look out from beneath the rubble and glass of their blasted-out homes, and photographers and government surveyors determine how well they held up. Below are many of those pictures.
As part of a greater nuclear security program known as Operation Upshot-Knothole, Operation Doorstep was organized to test out just what would happen to the average American neighborhood if tragedy suddenly struck. The experiment included people who were said to be prepared for an attack, as well as those who were ignorant of the impending threat. For instance, some of the mannequin families were set up to be casually enjoying time together in their living rooms, terribly unprepared for their fate, while others were already hiding out in various types of shelters in hopes of demonstrating their effectiveness.
With the beginning of the nuclear age – thanks in large part to the US's detonation of two atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki during wartime in 1945 – global tensions were running high, and when the then-Soviet Union initiated the arms race with the detonation of its own atomic bomb in 1949, tensions between the two world superpowers came to an all-time high.
As a result, the US government began organizing a series of nuclear tests, primarily in Nevada, to determine the effects of a potential nuclear attack and learn how to better prepare the citizens of the United States for their potentially impending doom. One of the most unsettling potentialities that people were afraid of was nuclear fall-out, which a handy US Government-approved pamphlet explains as being "nothing more than particles of matter in the air, made radioactive by nuclear or thermonuclear explosions," explaining that "some of these radioactive particles spill out into the immediate area of the explosion soon after it occurs, but others may be carried by the upper winds for miles." It's when they finally fall to the ground that you get nuclear fall-out.