Originally created 02/17/99

Defends use of troops in bomb tests 021799 - The Augusta Chronicle



While I generally agree with most of the sentiments expressed in Allen Johnson's letter, I take exception to the fact that I evidently died before reaching age 40. (Mr. Johnson said none of the "Army ground troops placed one mile from ground zero on a Nevada above-ground atomic blast ... lived to be 40 years old.)

I celebrated my 68th birthday on Feb. 6. In 1952, I was a member of the U.S. Army's "Control Group Alpha" assigned at Camp Desert Rock, Nev. Our mission was to provide support to the Atomic Energy Commission's series of atomic tests code named "Tumbler-Snapper." ...

I worked on a daily basis at both the Frenchman's Flats and the Yucca Flats areas, as well as at lesser known test areas. I witnessed seven detonations of from 10 to 70 kiloton yields. During the actual blasts, I functioned as the "woodchuck" switchboard operator and was stationed in the VIP trench which was located closest to ground zero. ...

Just prior to each of the scheduled "shots," approximately 2,000 military "observers" were brought in. They were briefed on safety, decontamination procedures, etc. They witnessed one test then were returned to normal assignments.

While I have no doubt many of these service members developed serious medical problems later on, I have always doubted their limited exposure to radiation was the sole cause of their ailments. But some ailments, of course, may have been accelerated. Beyond doubt, many servicemen simply exercised the prevalent American "right" of not do-ing what they were told to do.

During the tests, I saw numerous violations of the safety rules and ... decontamination routines. I do not believe it is fair to the military to blame it for conducting those tests. The tests were for the express purpose of determining the psychological effects of the weapon on friendly troops and could not have been conducted in any valid fashion without the participation of military personnel.

From a military standpoint, the tests were mandatory and justified. The safety and decontamination facilities and procedures were adequate and effective. Witness the thousands who participated in the tests and continue to live normal lives.

We are not all dead, nor did we all suffer radiation induced illness. ...

Edward H. Johnson,Augusta