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George Yoshitake: The cameraman who filmed the apocalypse

Yoshitake was part of a top-secret group of filmmakers enlisted by the U.S. Army to record the military’s nuclear tests during the Cold War. “To see the power of these bombs is unbelievable,” he says.

George Yoshitake was an eyewitness to the dawn of the Atomic Age, said William J. Broad in The New York Times. Yoshitake was part of a top-secret group of filmmakers enlisted by the U.S. Army in 1947 to record the military’s myriad nuclear tests during the Cold War. “To see the power of these bombs is unbelievable,” says Yoshitake. The memory of his first hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific is one he’s never been able to shake. “The purple glow in the sky—that was so eerie,” Yoshitake recalls. “And we were not even close, about 20 miles away. It filled the whole sky. It’s frightening, believe me.” He would be even closer, “about five or six miles away,” for later tests in Nevada, and recalls what the fiery blasts did to pigs corralled in the desert. “You could smell the meat burning. If they were humans they would have suffered terribly.”

Now 82, Yoshitake has outlived most of his fellow cameramen. “Quite a few have died from cancer,” he says. “No doubt it was related to the testing.” Having witnessed the hell that nuclear explosions unleash, he questions why the U.S. and Russia still keep so many nuclear warheads at the ready. “Do we really need all these bombs? It’s scary.”

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