Miss Atomic Bomb. Photo by Don English/Las Vegas News Bureau

When Nuclear Tests Were Just Another Sin City Attraction

Photos from 1950s Las Vegas show a city gleefully capitalizing on the touristic appeal of nearby nuclear detonations

Atomic warfare isn’t something most people want to experience in their lifetimes. Yet just a decade after the American military rained down nuclear hell over Japan, Las Vegas entrepreneurs turned atomic tourism into a thing when a testing site opened so close to the Strip that you could take in a taste of nuclear warfare in between games of baccarat and showgirl revues. In fact, hot lady performers and nuclear bomb tests were even cynically combined with a host of chosen showgirls crowned “Miss Atomic Bomb” to help promote the tests.

Revisit this bizarre slice of Las Vegas life in the photos below.

Photographers shooting the atomic testing at News Nob, a rocky outcrop where reporters and VIPs watched the atmospheric tests from above the lakebed. Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau.
Atomic detonation as seen from Fremont Street rooftop. Left: Don English/Las Vegas News Bureau. Right: Las Vegas News Bureau.
Bonnie Gay Jolley in an atomic bathing suit at the Thunderbird Hotel. Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau.
Atomic mushroom cloud seen from the Old Frontier Village. Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau.
Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau
Vintage postcards advertising the explosive views from “Up and Atom” City
Marie Wilson poolside at the Flamingo Hotel, holding a geiger counter. Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau.
Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau
Atomic Ballet at Angel Peak. Left, Center: Las Vegas News Bureau. Right: National Nuclear Security Administration/Nevada Field Office
Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau
Miss Atomic Bomb, Sands Copa Girl, Lee Merlin. Photo: Don English/Las Vegas News Bureau
Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau
Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau
Photo: Las Vegas News Bureau
Photos: Las Vegas News Bureau
Don English/Las Vegas News Bureau