Original Post WWII Era Joint Task Force 7 Operation Sandstone Enewetak Atoll 1948 Atomic Bomb Tests Commemorative Penguin Superlative Automatic Lighter - Unused

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. Now this is a rather dark and morbid commemorative lighter from American history. The lighter itself appears to be an early 1950s model and enameled insignia and engraving on the reverse. The was more than likely made for a key leader or Officer within Task Force 7 who was there when the 3 Atomic Bomb tests were carried out in 1948 in the Enewetak Atoll. The front of the lighter retains a lovely enameled insignia for the JTF7 which features an atom with ARMY NAVY AIR FORCE AEC around it and JOINT TASK FORCE SEVEN at the bottom. The reverse has a crude map of the region marked with Japanese islands with the header ENIWETOK ATOLL. This appears to be a fully functional lighter, though it does not appear to have ever been used as there is no soot buildup and the wick looks untouched. The slide up windscreen is still present and fully functional.

A beautiful example ready for display.

Operation Sandstone was a series of nuclear weapon tests in 1948. It was the third series of American tests, following Trinity in 1945 and Crossroads in 1946, and preceding Ranger. Like the Crossroads tests, the Sandstone tests were carried out at the Pacific Proving Grounds, although at Enewetak Atoll rather than Bikini Atoll. They differed from Crossroads in that they were conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission, with the armed forces having only a supporting role. The purpose of the Sandstone tests was also different: they were primarily tests of new bomb designs rather than of the effects of nuclear weapons. Three tests were carried out in April and May 1948 by Joint Task Force 7, with a work force of 10,366 personnel, of whom 9,890 were military.

The successful testing of the new cores in the Operation Sandstone tests rendered every component of the old weapons obsolete. Even before the third test had been carried out, production of the old cores was halted, and all effort concentrated on the new Mark 4 nuclear bomb, which would become the first mass-produced nuclear weapon. More efficient use of fissionable material as a result of Operation Sandstone would increase the U.S. nuclear stockpile from 56 bombs in June 1948 to 169 in June 1949.

Nuclear weapons were developed during World War II by the Manhattan Project, which created a network of production facilities, and the weapons research and design laboratory at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Two types of bombs were developed: the Mark 1 Little Boy, a gun-type fission weapon using uranium-235, and the Mark 3 Fat Man, an implosion-type nuclear weapon using plutonium.

These weapons were not far removed from their laboratory origins. A great deal of work remained to improve ease of assembly, safety, reliability and storage before they were ready for production. There were also many improvements to their performance that had been suggested or recommended during the war that had not been possible under the pressure of wartime development. Norris Bradbury, who replaced Robert Oppenheimer as director at Los Alamos, felt that "we had, to put it bluntly, lousy bombs."

Plutonium was produced by irradiating uranium-238 in three 250 MW nuclear reactors at the Hanford site. In theory they could produce 0.91 grams (0.032 oz) of plutonium per megawatt-day, or about 20 kilograms (44 lb) per month. In practice, production never approached such a level in 1945, when only between 4 and 6 kilograms (8.8 and 13.2 lb) was produced per month. A Fat Man core required about 6.2 kilograms (14 lb) of plutonium, of which 21% fissioned. Plutonium production fell off during 1946 due to swelling of the reactors' graphite neutron moderators. This is known as the Wigner effect, after its discoverer, the Manhattan Project scientist Eugene Wigner.

These reactors were also required for the production (by irradiation of bismuth-209) of polonium-210, which was used in the initiators, a critical component of the nuclear weapons. Some 62 kilograms (137 lb) of bismuth-209 had to be irradiated for 100 days to produce 600 curies of polonium-210, a little over 132 milligrams (2.04 gr). Because polonium-210 has a half-life of only 138 days, at least one reactor had to be kept running. The oldest unit, B pile, was therefore closed down so that it would be available in the future. Investigation of the problem would take most of 1946 before a fix was found.

Uranium-235 was derived from enrichment of natural uranium at the Y-12 plant and K-25 site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Improvements in the processes and procedures of the electromagnetic and gaseous isotope separation between October 1945 and June 1946 led to an increase in production to around 69 kilograms (152 lb) of uranium-235 per month, which was only enough for one of the very wasteful Little Boys. A Fat Man was 17.5 times as efficient as a Little Boy, but a ton of uranium ore could yield eight times as much uranium-235 as plutonium, and on a per-gram basis, plutonium cost somewhere between four and eight times as much to produce as uranium-235, which at this time cost around $26 per gram.

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