It’s safe to say that most of us view the detonation of atomic bombs in Japan as one of the greatest atrocities in recent history.
Even if your personal stance on the bombing doesn’t fall too fair to either side, you can probably agree that dropping nuclear bombs should never be cause for celebration.
But if you were Vegas-bound tourist back in the 1950s, you might have sung a different tune. Not even a decade after the horrific Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, government officials managed to convince the general public that atomic bombs weren’t all that dangerous, deliberately flying in the face of strong, painful evidence that proved otherwise. That rhetoric culminated in the creation of nuclear tourism.
Because the Cold War posed a significant threat against the United States at that pivotal point in history, President Truman sanctioned the creation of the Nevada Proving Grounds in 1950, which granted officials permission to begin nuclear testing in the area.
Blasts from the site were easily visible from the Las Vegas strip, and as you can imagine, the detonation of a nuclear weapon was a chilling, fascinating sight to behold. Visitors to Sin City clamored to take it all in.
Vegas entrepreneurs quickly cashed in on public curiosity, and some bars went so far as to create signature “atomic cocktails.” Much of what went on in the nightlife scene hinged around this bizarre tourist trend.
There was even a bomb-themed pageant that took place in 1952 that called for lovely contestants who radiated “loveliness instead of deadly atomic particles.” The winner was then crowned Miss Atomic Bomb.
This all came at what casino owners viewed as an opportune time, since the Strip began its transformation into the entertainment hotspot we know today in the middle of the 20th century.
Over the course of 12 lucrative years, the atomic bomb phenomenon brought $176 million to the burgeoning city, which would be worth about $1,751,013,852 today.
Although Las Vegas is still known for its explosive entertainment, pop superstar residencies and acrobatic spectacles seem tame in comparison.
The U.S. government tested an $8.1 billion nuclear gravity bomb back in 2015, but the event was met with far less fanfare than tests carried out just a few decades ago. Given the more somber perspective from which we view the use of nuclear weaponry today, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like in celebration of the atomic bomb. For a brief moment, however, spectators distanced themselves just enough to revel in the prospect of power.
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