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Harold Agnew on: The "Mike" Test
Harold Agnew Q: How do you remember the "Mike" test?

HA: One thing that impressed me at the Mike shot, we were on an aircraft tender called the Curtis, and we were about 25 miles away. And when it was detonated, it was really hot out there, so everybody just had on a pair of shorts. And something I'll never forget was the heat. Not the blast. It was a little scary, the cloud -- there is an illusion if something is very high you think it's on top of you. And although they were at least 20, 25 miles away. I had the feeling the cloud was on top of me. But the heat just kept coming, just kept coming on and on and on. And it was really scary. And that's why I've advocated that every, five years, all world leaders should strip down and have to witness a multi-megaton shot. It would really put the fear of Allah, or God, or Mohammed, or Buddha, or somebody, in their reins. It's really quite a terrifying experience because the heat doesn't go off. Now on kiloton shots it's a flash and it's over, but on those big shots it's really terrifying, the heat that comes from those. And that, I never will forget that experience of the thermal effects from the very high yield shots.

One thing they did do that concerned me, coming from this heat business, I got to worrying, if our air force ever had to deliver one of these, they would be in real trouble from the blast and from the heat, trying to get away from ten megatons. Again, they could only fly at thirty thousand feet. Well I had seen a movie of the Germans dropping a tank by parachute and I got excited about this and wanted to look into it, and I called a fellow in Washington, a colonel in the Air Force named Paul Butman and said, look, we've got to do some things about our -- they were B-36s I guess then -- you've got to paint the bottom of them white, and we have to do something to slow the bomb down so you can get away from it. And I said, I saw a movie, a war movie, of Germans dropping a tank by parachute. And I said, we've got to find out how they did that. Well, it turned out that after the war, this is after the war, that a man named Knacke, who is German, had invented the ribbon chute -- this is the parachute that is, it's shaped like bands of ribbon woven. And it turned out he was in a naval air station in El Centro, California. So Paul Butman got a B-25 into Albuquerque, and we got in the B-25 and flew to El Centro, and played a cat and mouse game with this guy. We couldn't tell him what we really wanted, but we wanted to know, could he design a parachute that could drop something that weighed maybe ten tons, ten, fifteen, twenty thousand pounds? Thirty thousand pounds. Could you do that? Oh, yes. No problem. And that's how we started the parachute problem, which many of the bombs used to slow them down and now they use them to slow down airplanes when they land, you see the shuttle coming in. In a way I think that all started from the trip that Colonel Butman and I made to El Centro to talk to this guy named Knacke, a German who invented the ribbon chute. There were a lot of things that happened.

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