In the first half of 1955, the United States performed more than a dozen tests of atomic weapons in Nevada, studying the destructive power of the country's most powerful weapons. These photos, from the 44th nuclear test explosion ever performed on US soil, capture the varied effects.
Photographer Loomis Dean took these pictures of a detonation in Yucca Flat, Nevada, in May 1955. During an era when tourists would travel to Las Vegas specifically to witness the distant mushroom clouds, Dean's photographs showed the impact of these detonations on mannequins, buildings, vehicles, physical infrastructure, and household items. Some of Dean's photos have never before been published, but others appeared in the May 16, 1955 issue of Life, alongside a description of the destroyed million-dollar faux village:
The condition of the figures - one charred, another only scorched, another almost untouched - showed that the blast, equivalent to 35,00 tons of TNT, was discriminating in its effects. As one phase of the atomic test, the village and figures help guide civil defense planning - and make clear that even amid atomic holocaust careful planning could save lives.
That cheery ending didn't anticipate the deadlier weapons that would come into existence, but it might have encouraged the readers, in the event of a nuclear attack, crawl into their refrigerators, à la Indiana Jones.
All photographs by Loomis Dean.