The first compact nuclear weapon and an intern known only as Tommy

The Cleo I device, the first really compact nuclear weapon, was delivered to Nevada Test Site for the Teapot Tesla test (7 kilotons), 1955, in two large suitcases. The guy carrying them — and eating lunch on one of them — is known only as “summer intern Tommy.” According to two books on the nuclear tests (“From Berkeley to Berlin” and “Nuclear Weapons Technology 101 for Policy Wonks”), the Cleo was split into two parts, each placed into a reinforced Samsonite suitcase.

Walt Arnold, a mechanical engineer responsible for putting the device together in Nevada, was assisted by a young man named Tommy, an electrical-engineering student from San Jose State University hired as a summer intern. Arnold ordered Tommy to manhandle two hefty suitcases out of the Laboratory’s assembly building and put them into the back of a ‘woody’ station wagon.

Then he gave the intern an Army-issue .45-caliber pistol and told him to guard the suitcases. The intern sat in the back of the vehicle with the Cleo, and a priceless photograph shows Tommy eating a sandwich while using one of the suitcases as a lunch table.

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