The map above tracks the deadly fallout from the most devastating of these detonations, code-named "Harry" (or, more accurately, "Dirty Harry"), a bomb that many believe killed movie star John Wayne.... and sent radiation over major population centers, including Chicago. So here's what happened...
In the early 1950s, the U.S. government "practiced" with nuclear bombs in Nevada; dropping them out of planes, exploding them from tall towers, even shooting them out of a gun. Yeah, not kidding about that. For people living in the region, it became a part of the regular routine. They never imagined the government would do anything that might harm them. Then the sheep started acting strange. 20,000 were exposed to excessive radiation in early 1953. They got blisters, wool dropped off, and the ewes began miscarrying—or worse: giving birth to gruesome, deformed lambs.
|Nuclear bomb shot from a gun. Really, we did this.|
Harry was, by far, the worst of the atomic tests, kicking up enormous amounts of radiation into the atmosphere. The government scientists dutifully launched weather balloons (as was the usual procedure) to track the fallout. The map below (adapted from the official report) shows the balloons' path across America. When you have a cloud of radiation dust floating around, the worst thing that can happen is rain—yet that's exactly what happened in Chicago on May 21-22, 1953, just as the toxic cloud passed by. The official report states that the Midwest got, "the highest values (of radiation) reported in that region for the series (of tests)."
|Full track of Harry balloons. LARGER MAP HERE|
Read the full official report here.