Atomic Petrifaction

Readers regularly write us with questions, comments and suggestions, and our authors respond—in Alta's Letters to the Editor.

Marilyn Monroe by pool

In Cari Beauchamp’s article “Atomic Blonde” (Winter 2018), she incorrectly states that “when the Atomic Energy Commission saw the footage of the explosion of the first hydrogen bomb in 1952, it decided it would petrify the general population. Everything was suddenly top secret.”

While the technical details about the tests were always—and still are—highly classified, the AEC had an active policy of publicizing the nuclear bomb tests to create support for the nuclear weapons program and to warn our enemies. Several tests were broadcast live on TV. Even Time magazine had a mushroom cloud cover photo. There was no concern about “petrifying” the public.

Ms. Beauchamp claims that Marilyn Monroe and the Air Force Lab “played a key role in keeping the nation as ignorant as possible as thermonuclear bomb tests exploded in the South Pacific.” The reality is that the nation was not at all “ignorant” of the bomb tests. It appears that it was just Ms. Beauchamp—and the authors of the book she relied upon.

—Alexander Jason
Pinole, California

Cari Beauchamp responds:

My article focused on the day Marilyn Monroe posed for Harold Lloyd in 1953. I wrote that I learned the backstory of Monroe repeating “I hate a careless man” and of her participation in government trailers urging secrecy from Kevin Hamilton, coauthor of Lookout America! The Secret Film Studio at the Heart of the Cold War. While my closing comments may appear flippant out of context, Hamilton assures me that “Monroe’s involvement in films for Operation Castle stemmed specifically from concerns over the publicizing of the first thermonuclear test. In our book, we document the internal arguments among the AEC and others over making that test public; indeed, it took almost two years for the matter to be settled. Mr. Jason could certainly find more details there if he is curious.”

fast food restaurant In-N-Out Burger is located in five states.
The iconic In-N-Out Burger chain has restaurants in five states.


Hey, waitaminnit, Bucko. You Southern Californians live a waaaay different life than we northerners do, so take care not to paint the entire In-N-Out-blessed state with your “so-so-so brush” (“In-N-Out Is So So-So,”

First of all, we never wait more than 15 minutes to get our order. Why is this? I posit it’s the laissez-faire, whatevs, hair-flip-and-a-giggle lifestyle produced by your warmer climate. Next, when you order fries, ask for crispy—and appreciate the dearth of the sludgy grease that you find on fries most everywhere else. And the onions? Get them grilled. The buns have their own flavor—a gentleness reminiscent of King’s Hawaiian Sweet Bread. Tomatoes? Nobody living in a city—who isn’t a farmers market doyen—knows what a good tomato tastes like. Hype? There is no hype, save that engendered by word of mouth.

So, I invite you to come up to Marin County, Gustatory Gustavo Arellano. “Seek and you shall find…” Matthew 7:7–8. We, along with our Golden State Warriors, can show you how it’s done.

—Sue Sommer
Corte Madera, CA

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