“If the radiance of a thousand suns were to
burst forth at once in the sky, that would
be like the splendor of the Mighty One.”
“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
quoting the Bhagavad Gita,
his thoughts after Trinity 1945
November 1, 1951, Nevada Test Site
While in Army, age 22, volunteered to witness test
“Dog” in Buster-Jangle series, 21 kilotons
Hiroshima was 15 kilotons
From a letter, written October 28, 1951:
“My darling wife,
I have completed my first day at Camp Desert Rock, and it does live up to its name. The camp lies between desert mountains. Really barren!! Hot during day, cold during the night. We are living in tents, the whole camp is tents. Living is lousy, but food is very best I’ve had in the Army. I guess they make in up chow what they lack in everything else, because this is the most primitive area that I have ever seen. We arrived by train late last night. Got bedded down OK. This morning an atomic indoctrination lecture. A very good talk, indeed. In fact, the entire camp is well run. There are a couple thousand of us observers here, and most are high ranking officers and high ranking non-coms. The tent I’m living in has ten of us. Pretty good crowd, too.
We are going to see an A-bomb, the same size as the one they dropped on Hiroshima, dropped from a B-29 on target. This will probably happen Wednesday, Thursday or maybe Friday. We will observe the actual bomb explosion. You can tell this to anybody you want, none of this is secret. Tell my folks and Charlie, too. We are going to see some things in connection with the bomb I can’t tell you about…..
Goodnight my dear, I love you very much.
Your loving husband, Don
P.S. ….They are going to make us close our eyes!!”
Diagnosed at age 50, with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
He died at age 61, in 1990.
He was never warned of the true dangers he faced.
From a doctor’s report, 1983:
“It is of interest that the patient was part of an atomic bomb test team in 1951, and he observed at least one testing and was out into the test area within one hour of the atomic blast. He noticed that area was more or less sterile, and was very dusty.”
This was my father.
Many ulcers, high blood pressure.
My mother had two miscarriages –
nine years span between my brother and I.
My brother has a slight curvature of spine.
My medical history is complicated.
Family life revolved around my dad’s health.
A kitchen cabinet devoted to medicines.
I don’t know if this was a traumatic experience for my father,
but he never recounted his experiences while sober.
He told me:
he was ordered to cover his eyes with his hands;
he saw the bones in his hands like an X-ray
at the flash of detonation.
Hot radioactive dust blasted the soldiers.
They were ordered to ground zero within an hour,
as soon as ground was cool enough to walk on.
He said that it is something one never forgets in one’s lifetime.
He never revealed the secrets he was ordered to keep.
The government never compensated my father.
His form of leukemia is excluded from coverage.
A great fire of 1973 destroyed my dad’s military records:
in St. Louis, at the National Personnel Records Center.
Very few atomic soldiers received compensation,
though most later suffered terrible health:
all sorts of cancers, diabetes, musculoskeletal issues, cataracts,
bone deterioration, rashes, digestive issues, arthritis, fatigue.
A study was done by Sue Rabbitt Roff, for the
British Nuclear Test Veterans Association in 1997.
This poll of 1041 atomic veterans revealed
that 87% of the men interviewed had health problems.
My father remained a patriot,
claiming he did not hold anger at the government.
I maintain a deep distrust of authority.
Many atomic vets’ offspring were miscarried, stillborn.
Many who survived have birth defects, retardation, chronic illness.
There are no funded studies of these rates, so it’s not officially known.
Our government doesn’t seem to want to know.
Roff’s study showed that 15% of the men were infertile.
Among the vets’ offspring, about 40% had health problems.
The study showed about a 15% combined rate of
stillbirths, miscarriages, neonatal / infant deaths.
It showed similar stillbirth / miscarriage rates
for the children of those children.
Some research on mice definitely shows genetic damage.
I hardly feel comforted to learn these things.
I’m grateful I’ve been spared deformity, retardation.
I’m grateful I didn’t have kids.
My father, while in Army, witnessed atomic test
“Dog” in Buster-Jangle series,
November 1, 1951, Nevada Test Site.
He was marched to ground zero within an hour.
He died of leukemia-related cause at age 61.
My medical history is complicated,
as many atomic vet offspring’s are.
My uncle, while in Army, ordered to witness atomic test
“Charlie” in Tumbler-Snapper series,
April 22, 1952, Nevada Test Site.
Instead, he had emergency cyst removal
at Nellis Air Force base hospital.
He never saw the test.
He remains in excellent health to this day. He is 75.
My father’s parents, while Grandpa was mayor, witnessed atomic test
“Annie” or “Ruth” in Upshot-Knothole series…not sure which,
March, 1953, Nevada Test Site.
Patriotic display for honoraries; atomic fervor infected the nation.
My grandmother later suffered fatigue, infections, bone deterioration.
Of these problems, she died at age 74.
Health issues related? Unrelated? She lived hard…but I wonder.
My cousin, while carried in my aunt’s womb, in the mid-1950’s,
in Richland, Washington – next to Hanford Nuclear Reservation,
was exposed to their radioactive releases.
Her father worked there.
She died of cancer residing in her jaw at age 31.
She never smoked.
The unborn are most at risk.
My uncle, while attending Whitman College,
Walla Walla, Washington in 1950’s,
was unknowingly exposed to nearby Hanford’s
invisible, undetectable radiation carried on the breeze.
He died of prostate and bone cancer at age 63.
His two children both have suffered debilitating
musculoskeletal issues since their late 20’s.
My best friend, while growing up,
near Rochester, New York in the 1950’s,
received a big dose of fallout that swept across the nation,
dumped in a rainstorm.
Radioactive grass eaten by cows makes radioactive milk.
He later suffered hyperthyroidism and MS.
Burdened by poor health, he ended his life in 1996 at age 46.
Radioactive atoms shed stray particles.
We can’t see them, smell them, taste them.
Eaten or inhaled, they come to reside in our bodies,
unwelcome guests that won’t leave,
making all sorts of trouble.
It doesn’t take much exposure to cause problems.
Our bodies are permeable; we are vulnerable,
especially the unborn, the children, the next generation.
Daughter of atomic veteran
Father witnessed test “Dog” in Buster-Jangle series, 1951
He died of leukemia-related causes, age 61
As baby, mononucleosis before age one.
As a child, scrawny, sickly, weak, anemic.
As adult, complicated medical history:
– autoimmune thryroiditis / hypothyroid
– underfunctioning adrenal system
– inflammatory skin condition that can lead to cancer,
monitored regularly by dermatologist
– weak digestion
– gluten intolerance
– interstitial cystitis
– somewhat compromised immune system
I must abstain from sugar, caffeine, alcohol
while others indulge with impunity.
Still, I manage health well, and with hormone replacement,
I am able to live normal life.
I am grateful I wasn’t born with defects or retardation,
as many offspring of the exposed are.
I was afraid to have children; I didn’t want to pass effects on,
from generation to generation.