In 1951 the world of nuclear weapons was still relatively new with many unanswered questions. Atomic weapon testing was routinely performed by the United States Military in the South Pacific and Nevada desert. They learned much about the destructive power of these weapons but still had questions about the effects of the lingering radiation and were willing to sacrifice their own men to answer them.
“What good are atomic weapons without full knowledge of what they can do and how we can be protected against their effects?”
Operation Buster Jangle took place at the Nevada Proving Ground and involved around 6,500 troops. The U.S. Army units were moved to a position about 6 miles away from the detonation site of a nuclear bomb. The focus of this test was to learn the effects of nuclear radiation from a distance and also to evaluate the effects of radiation on the personnel involved.
The tests were highly controversial but the results went to serve a scientific purpose about the lingering effects of radiation. The declassified film can be viewed in this clip.