Thursday, August 10, 2017

This Was a Test of the Emergency

This seems appropriate during a week when IMPOTUS has threatened fire and fury against North Korea.

In April 1953, my dad was in the Marines during the Korean War (though not in Korea itself). His unit was sent to a nuclear test in Nevada. In 2004, one of my sisters (Daughter Number Four) interviewed him and got this story about what it was like:

Dad missed the orientation because he was on KP that morning, but his friends told him how the Marines were bused to see the Ground Zero area where the A-Bomb would be set off. They saw houses, animals, and vehicles right around it. Their bus drove right past the tower with the A-bomb on it.

The next day, dad and his fellow Marines were bused to within 4,000 yards of Ground Zero (about 2.25 miles). They were in eight-foot-deep trenches with railroad-tie reinforcement. Their leaders also asked for volunteers who were placed in bunkers at 2,000 yards (a bit over a mile) from Ground Zero.

Dad remembers the countdown. The Marines were packed into the trench, each one facing the back of the guy in front of him. They were ordered to not eat or drink after the test.

When the bomb went off, it was so bright you couldn’t see the walls of the trench. You could just barely see guy in front of you. He knew there would be a loud report at some point. It was like this:

1. Flash
2. The ground moving
3. Boom
4. Stones flying into the trench.

About half of the men in his area were ordered out of the trench to march to Ground Zero. Ahead, they could see that most of the things that had been in the area before the blast were now gone – big trucks, vans. The buildings they did see were flattened.

The Geiger counter guys accompanied them, watching for radioactive exposure. (There were no docimeters, only Geiger counters.) A big fat Captain who was Air Liaison for the Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Companies was eating a candy bar.

They had gone about 500 yards when the Geiger counters went crazy. Everyone turned around and left the area.

As they were marching back along the sides of the field, there were Army-drab buses taking people down to Ground Zero. The area is known as Frenchman Flats. South of it, the fallout went right into ranches.
As an aside, my dad has always semi-jokingly said the nuclear test is responsible for the fact that I have only sisters.

This may be a photo of the explosion that day. It was taken on April 18, 1953, at the Nevada Test Site, and comes from this site

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