What were Doom Towns?

During the Cold War, roughly between 1947 and the early 1990s, the world came to the brink of nuclear annihilation several times. Both the US and the Soviets were developing nukes that were more powerful than the bombs the US dropped on Japan. Moreover, they were almost showing off by testing these bombs and releasing the results.

mushroom cloud on nevada
National Nuclear Security Administration

The threat of mutually assured destruction was at its peak during the 50s and the 60s. While the bombs dropped on Japan practically ended the war, it also ushered in a new era. The amount of unfiltered force and damage was so big that everybody asked the same question: What if this was us? What stops us from dropping the same bombs on each other one day?

crater after blast
Federal Government of the United States

After the war, the United Nations tried to come up with a solution to stop any production of nuclear warheads. However, as both parties did not trust one another, both refused to comply. As a result, the nuclear arms race started.

mushroom cloud after blast
National Nuclear Security Administration

Each block attempted to invent the biggest bomb that can do the biggest damage if a nuclear war started. To test the bombs out, the US found a remote spot. In the deserts of Nevada, the US started to conduct many nuclear bomb tests.

doom towns mannequins

They specifically developed small towns that looked like everyday suburbs with cute little houses, cars, and yards. Inside the houses, there were mannequins, TVs, dishwashers, fridges, tables, and basically general household items.

doom towns mannequins in living room
United States Department of Energy

These were called the Doom Towns. Doom Towns served as basic test spaces for the nukes the US was developing. They also tested whether the mannequins, items, or cars would survive the blast. The officials placed the mannequins in different locations in the houses.

doom towns mannequins under basement

Some mannequins were around the table, some were in the toilet, and some were hiding in the basement. As nuclear annihilation was on the US’ doorstep, there was no telling when the bombs would hit. Therefore, they tried to recreate the everyday actions of an everyday suburbanite to see what would happen.

doom towns mannequin after blast

The Scientists and army officials watched as the bombs detonated and towns turned into wastelands in a second, not from a safe distance. Many people who observed the detonations were not really aware of the radiation spillage the bombs caused. Therefore, as time passed, various deadly diseases showed up in the bomb spectators.

doom towns house
National Nuclear Security Administration

Moreover, the mushroom clouds in the Doom Towns were visible from more than 150 kilometers. Due to the tests, Las Vegas even experienced small-scale earthquakes. However, somehow, Doom Towns managed to become touristic attractions.

the house during blast
National Nuclear Security Administration

In order to see the mushroom cloud and the explosions, people started to rent hotel rooms near the sites. The US used Doom Towns for nearly 40 years. Historians estimate that there were at least 1000 nuclear tests, including the underground ones. Even today, the Nevada Desert is home to some experiments.

the house on fire
National Nuclear Security Administration