Witness Accounts of Human Guinea Pig Trials in the Atomic 1950s


In 1947, two years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the U.S. government formed the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, a Hiroshima-based organization tasked with studying the localized health consequences from the atomic attacks on the victims.1 One of the nagging problems of this still-continuing research effort has been the gap in knowledge of the ‘doses’ (a term to describe the human body impact of irradiation) received by the victims at different distances from the bomb’s blast point, or epicenter…… read more at the source link above.

After you have read the contents of the above link to Andrew’s article, please consider reading the following:

Presidential Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experments (ACHRE), Final Report, Chapter 10 Human Research at the Bomb Tests
The Defense Department’s Medical Experts: Advocates of Troop Maneuvers and Human Experimentation

Source link: http://biotech.law.lsu.edu/research/reports/ACHRE/chap10_2.html

“As we saw in the introduction, in 1949, when AEC and DOD experts met to consider the psychological problems connected to construction of the proposed nuclear-powered airplane, the NEPA project, there was a consensus that America’s atomic war-fighting capability would be crippled unless servicemen were cured of the “mystical” fear of radiation.[3] When routine testing of nuclear weapons began at the test site in Nevada in 1951, the opportunity to take action to deal with this problem presented itself. DOD officials urged that troop maneuvers and training exercises be conducted in connection with the tests. Whole military units would be employed in these exercises, and participation, as part of the duty of the soldier, would not be voluntary. DOD’s medical experts simultaneously urged that the tests be used for training and “indoctrination” about atomic warfare and as an opportunity for research. The psychological and physiological testing of troops to address the fear of radiation was the first of the research to take place; this testing was largely conducted as an occupational rather than an experimental activity.

In a June 27, 1951, memorandum to high DOD officials, Dr. Richard Meiling, the chair of the secretary of defense’s top medical advisory group, the Armed Forces Medical Policy Council, addressed the question of “Military Medical Problems” associated with bomb tests.[4] The memorandum made clear that troops should be placed at bomb tests not so much to examine risk as to demonstrate relative safety.

“Fear of radiation,” Dr. Meiling’s memorandum began, “is almost universal among the uninitiated and unless it is overcome in the military forces it could present a most serious problem if atomic weapons are used.” In fact, “[i]t has been proven repeatedly that persistent ionizing radiation following air bursts does not occur, hence the fear that it presents a dangerous hazard to personnel is groundless.” Dr. Meiling urged that “positive action be taken at the earliest opportunity to demonstrate this fact in a practical manner.”[5]

He continued, a “Regimental Combat Team should be deployed approximately twelve miles from the designated ground zero of an air blast and immediately following the explosion . . . they should move into the burst area in fulfillment of a tactical problem.” The exercise “would clearly demonstrate that persistent ionizing radiation following an air burst atomic explosion presents no hazards to personnel and would effectively dispel a fear that is dangerous and demoralizing but entirely groundless.”[6]

Dr. Meiling’s proposal to put troops at the bomb tests in order to allay their fears may well have been an echo of what the military already had in mind. The Army’s 1950 “Atomic Energy Indoctrination” pamphlet, a primer for soldiers, showed that the military was concerned that misperception of the effect of an air burst could be damaging in combat. “[L]ingering radioactivity will be virtually nonexistent in the case of the normal air burst,”[7] it reassured the soldiers. The greater danger, it told them, was the probability that “an unreasoning fear of lingering radioactivity” would take “an unnecessary toll in American lives.”[8]

While the tests provided an opportunity to allay fears, they simultaneously provided the opportunity to gather data. In this regard, Dr. Meiling appeared to be ahead of his military colleagues in expressing concern that the military was not taking adequate advantage of the bomb tests as an opportunity for “biomedical participation.” In February 1951, in fact, following tests in Nevada, he had urged the DOD to incorporate “biomedical tests” into plans for future bomb tests.[9]

Meiling’s suggestion that planning for biomedical tests be undertaken wound its way through the secretary of defense’s research and development bureaucracy and fell into the lap of the civilian-chaired Joint Panel on the Medical Aspects of Atomic Warfare.[10] Under the chairmanship of Harvard’s Dr. Joseph Aub, the Joint Panel was the gathering place for the small world of government radiation researchers and their private consultants. Its periodic “Program Guidance Reports” laid out the atomic warfare medical research agenda, summarizing work that was ongoing and that which remained. At its meetings, participants heard from the CIA on foreign medical intelligence, debated the need for human experimentation, and learned of the latest developments in radiation injury research, of the blast and heat effects of the bomb, and of instruments needed to measure radiation effects.

In September 1951 the Joint Panel considered a draft report on “biomedical participation” in bomb tests.[11] “It is, of course obvious,” the report noted, “that a test of a new and untried atomic weapon is not a place to have an unlimited number of people milling about and operating independently.” Planning was therefore in order. There were, the document explained, basic criteria for “experimentation” at bomb tests. For example, “Does the experiment have to be done at a bomb detonation; is it impossible or impractical in a laboratory?”[12]

The document turned to “specific problems for future tests.” The list of twenty-nine problems was not intended to be all-inclusive, but was “designed to show the types of problems which should be considered as a legitimate basis for biomedical participation in future weapons tests.” The term human experimentation was not used, and most of the items could be performed without humans.[13] However, the list included several examples of research involving human subjects:

11. Effects of exposure of the eye to the atomic flash . . .

24. Measurements of radioactive isotopes in the body fluids of atomic weapons test personnel . . .

27. The efficiency and suitability of various protective devices and equipment for atomic weapons war . . .

28. Psychophysiological changes after exposure to nuclear explosions.

29. Orientation flights in the vicinity of nuclear explosions for certain combat air crews.[14]

By the end of the decade, human research would be conducted in all these areas.[15]

At the same September meeting, the Joint Panel also considered a “Program Guidance Report” on the kinds of atomic warfare-related research that needed to be conducted, in the laboratory as well as in the field. The areas singled out for immediate and critical attention included the initiation of “troop indoctrination at atomic detonations” and “psychological observations on troops at atom bomb tests.”[16]

A section on “Biomedical Participation in Future Atomic Weapons Tests” concluded that the next step should be

4.1 To complete present program and plan for participation in future tests in light of results from Operation GREENHOUSE [a prior atomic test series]. These plans should include studies on the effect of atomic weapons detonations on a troop unit in normal tactical support [emphasis added].[17]

Thus, while it was well known at the time that troops participated at the bomb tests and were subjected to psychological testing, it now is evident that the DOD’s medical advisers advocated the presence of the troops at the tests for both training and research purposes. The doctors were not alone in attaching high priority to such research. The Joint Panel’s September guidance punctuated, perhaps echoed, the Armed Forces Special Weapons Projects’s midsummer 1951 call for a “systematic research study . . . [to] provide a sound basis for estimating troop reaction to the bomb experience and . . . the indoctrination value of the maneuver.”[18]

The HumRRO Experiments
Just two months later, in November 1951, at a bomb test in the Nevada desert, the Army conducted the first in a series of “atomic exercises.”[19] This exercise was designed primarily to train and indoctrinate troops in the fighting of atomic wars. The exercise also provided an opportunity for psychological and physiological testing of the effects of the experience on the troops.

Desert Rock was an Army encampment in Nevada adjacent to the nuclear test site. At the exercise named Desert Rock I, more than 600 of the 5,000 men present would be studied by psychologists from a newly created Army contractor, the Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO). HumRRO’s research was directed by Dr. Meredith Crawford, who was recruited by the Army from a deanship at Vanderbilt University.[20] The identity of all the participants involved in the “HumRRO experiments,” and the further DOD research discussed later in this chapter, is not known. The numbers of those who participated must be reconstructed from available reports.[21]

The highly publicized bomb test was well attended by military and civilian officials. “Las Vegas, Nevada,” Time magazine reported, “had not seen so many soldiers since World War II. . . . The hotels were jammed with high brass. . . . [o]ut on the desert, 65 miles away 5,000 hand-picked troops were getting their final briefing before Exercise Desert Rock I–the G.I.’s introduction to atomic warfare.”[22] The detonation, Representative Albert Gore (father of the current Vice President), told the New York Times, was “the most spectacular event I have ever witnessed. . . . As I witnessed the accuracy and cataclysmic effect of the explosion, I felt the conviction that it might be used in Korea if the cease-fire negotiations broke down.”[23]

To render the experience more realistic, the observers and participants were told to imagine that aggressor armies had invaded the United States and were now at the California-Nevada border. An atomic bomb would be dropped, with the troops occupying a position seven miles from ground zero. After the detonations they would “attack into the bombed area.”[24]

At their home base, two groups of troops–a control group that would stay at home base and an experimental group that would go to Nevada–had listened to lectures and seen films intended to “indoctrinate” them about the effects of the bomb and radiation safety. Both groups were administered a questionnaire to determine how well they had understood the information provided. Dr. Crawford explained in a 1994 interview that “indoctrination,” which today has a negative connotation, was not intended to suggest misrepresentation of fact, but “had more to do with attitude, feeling and motivation.”[25] At Desert Rock, the experimental group was given a further “non-technical briefing.” They were “reminded that no danger of immediate radiation remains 90 seconds after an air burst; that they would be sufficiently far from ground zero to be perfectly safe without shelter; and that with simple protection they could even be placed quite close to the center of the detonation, with no harm to them.”[26]

After the blast, a questionnaire was again administered to most of the experimental subjects, and physiological measurements including blood pressure and heart rates were taken. The questionnaire was designed to test the success of the “indoctrination.”[27] For example, questions included (answers in parentheses were those the HumRRO report stated were correct):

l. Suppose the A-bomb were used against enemy troops by exploding it 2000 feet from the ground and suppose all enemy troops were killed. How dangerous do you think it would be for our troops to enter the area directly below the explosion within a day? (Not dangerous at all). . . .

6. If an A-bomb were exploded at 2000 feet, under what conditions would it be safe to move into the spot directly below, right after the explosion? (Safe if you wore regular field clothing.)[28]

These answers were not correct. Answers to questions like the above depend on weather conditions, the yield of the weapon, and the assumptions about the degree of risk from low levels of exposure. For example, while an airburst (where the fireball does not touch the ground) may result in little fallout in the immediate area of the blast, it does not result in none; if rain is present, a substantial amount of fallout may be localized.

Similarly, whereas the 1946 Bikini bomb tests at Operation Crossroads in the Pacific had caused contamination so severe that many of the surviving ships were scrapped, the question and answer provided said:

Some of the ships in the Bikini tests had to be sunk because they were too radioactive to be used again.


In a 1995 review of the 1951 questionnaire, the Defense Department found that “changes/corrections/clarifications” would be in order for nine of the thirty questions.[30]

In January 1952, the Army surgeon general expressed “continuing interest in the conduct of psychiatric observations,” offering funds for “Psychiatric Research in Connection with Atomic Weapons Tests Involving Troop Participation.”[31] In March 1952, however, the Army and the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project (AFSWP), which coordinated nuclear weapons activities for the DOD, provided critical reflections on Desert Rock I. “[O]ne is inevitably drawn to the conclusion,” the Army reported, “that the results, though measurable, were highly indeterminate and unconvincing. The limitations of evaluation were inherent in the problem. Handicapped by a preconceived notion that there would be no reaction, it took on the form of a gigantic experiment whose results were already known. No well controlled studies could be undertaken which could presume even superficial validity. . . .”[32] In a letter to the AEC, the AFSWP went further. Owing to the “tactically unrealistic distance of seven miles to which all participating troops were required to withdraw for the detonation,”[33] troops might get the wrong impression about nuclear warfare.

In 1994, Dr. Crawford reflected on the logic of testing for panic in an environment that was thought to be too safe. “No troops,” Dr. Crawford recalled, “were exposed anywhere where anybody thought there was any danger, so you might ask the question, so what? I’ve asked that question myself and I’ve thought about it. It was the first HumRRO project. It was really pretty well agreed upon before I got up here from Tennessee . . . so we did what we could.”[34]

Despite the reservations about the 1951 study, on May 25, 1952, the Army conducted its second HumRRO experiment at the exercise called Desert Rock IV. It was similar in methodology to the first experiment and involved about 700 soldiers who witnessed the shot and 900 who served in the control group as nonparticipants.[35] This time, to add more realism, the troops witnessed the blast, an 11-kiloton weapon that was set off from the top of a tower, from four miles from ground zero. By the end of the second research effort, there was even more reason to question the utility of the experiments. HumRRO’s report on Desert Rock IV stated that while knowledge increased as a result of the indoctrination, the actual maneuver experience did not produce significant improvement in test scores and decreases were actually reported on some questions.[36]

In both Desert Rock I and Desert Rock IV, the Army hoped that the troops who witnessed the blasts would disseminate information to the troops who stayed at home base. However, the troops who participated in the exercises were warned that discussion of their experiences could bring severe punishment, and the researchers found that communication was at a minimum.[37] Moreover, those who stayed home, HumRRO found, “showed no evidence of great interest, of extensive discussion, or of any important benefit from dissemination as a result of the atomic maneuver.”[38] Meanwhile, the experience that the participants had been warned not to discuss and that was of little interest to their comrades was front-page news throughout the country. “When they returned to camp,” Time reported of the first Desert Rock exercise, “the men were quickly herded into showers. Some were given test forms to fill out. Did you sweat? Did your heart beat fast at any time? Did you lose bladder control? Most of the answers were no.”[39]

Without any direct comment on the results of the Desert Rock I and IV experiments, in September 1952, the Joint Panel urged that the psychological research continue:

It is possible that inclination to panic in the face of AW [atomic warfare] and RW [radiological warfare] may prove high. It seems advisable, therefore, to increase research efforts in the scientific study of panic and its results, and to seek means for prophylaxis. . . . The panel supports the point of view that troop participation in tests of atomic weapons is valuable. As many men as possible ought to be exposed to this experience under safe conditions. Psychological evaluation is difficult and results can be expected to appear superficially trivial, but the matter is of such extreme importance that the research should be persisted in, utilizing every opportunity.[40]

Indeed, a third set of experiments was carried out in April 1953, at Desert Rock V; this time, the number of participants is unknown.[41]

The final HumRRO bomb test study was conducted in 1957 at Operation Plumbbob.[42] No formal report was prepared, but the experience was recorded in a personalized recollection by a HumRRO staffer.[43] Weather-related delays, the departure of HumRRO staff, the continued redesign of the exercises, and the failure of a fifth of the troops to return from a weekend pass in time for the events took their toll. The researchers were not given the script used in the indoctrination lectures to the troops. Thus, it was impossible for the researchers to know whether incorrect responses were due to “lack of inclusion of the topic in the orientation or to ineffective instruction.”[44] The research was to include exercises such as crawling over contaminated ground.[45] But, yet again, the researchers found that the safety rules in force precluded important study: “shock . . . and panic . . . would not be observed.”[46]

There is no question that HumRRO activities were research involving human subjects; the projects involved an experimental design in which soldier-subjects were assigned either to an experimental or a control condition. Available evidence suggests, however, that the Army did not treat HumRRO as a discretionary research activity but as an element of the training exercise in which soldiers were participating in the course of normal duty. The HumRRO subjects were apparently not volunteers. Dr. Crawford in 1994 said of the HumRRO subjects, “Whether they were requested to formally give their consent is pretty unknowable because in the Army or any other military service people generally do what they’re asked to do, told to do.”[47] Indeed, as HumRRO’s initial report stated, the primary purpose of the atomic exercise was training; “research was necessarily of secondary importance.”[48] However, Dr. Crawford felt confident that the risks were disclosed. Because of the “number and intensity of briefings . . . [n]o soldier, to our knowledge, went into the test situation with no idea about what to expect. They were adequately informed.”[49]

We now know that in 1952 the Defense Department’s medical experts were simultaneously locked in discussion of the need for psychological studies and other human research at bomb tests and, as we saw in chapter 1, the need for a policy to govern human experimentation related to atomic, biological, and chemical warfare. In October of that year, the Armed Forces Medical Policy Council recommended that the Nuremberg Code be adopted, as it was by Secretary Charles Wilson in 1953. What is still missing is information that might show how, as seems to be the case, the same experts could have been having these discussions without communicating the essence of them to those responsible for conducting the human research at the tests. There is no evidence that the investigators responsible for HumRRO were informed about the Wilson memo. Dr. Crawford, for example, when queried in 1994, reported that he did not know of the 1953 Wilson memorandum. It is possible that HumRRO was not viewed as being subject to the requirements stated in the Wilson memo despite the fact that it was human research relating to atomic warfare. Although the experimental variable was participation at a bomb test, arguably, the troops would have been present at the test in any event, along with many thousands of other soldiers who were not subjects in the HumRRO research.

Atomic Effects Experiments
At the same time that the third set of HumRRO experiments was being conducted, in April 1953 at Desert Rock V, the Army called on several dozen “volunteers for Atomic Effects Experiments.”[50] According to the Army, all were officers familiar with the “experimental explosion involved” and were able to personally judge “the probability of significant variations in [weapon] yield.” They were instructed to choose the distance from ground zero they would like to occupy in a foxhole at the time of detonation, as long as it was no closer than 1,500 yards. If the surviving documentation is the measure, these officers, and perhaps officer volunteers in the subsequent Desert Rock series, were the only subjects of bomb-test research who signed forms saying that they were voluntarily undertaking risk.[51] The exposures were meant to set a standard for developing “troop exposure programs and for confirming safety doctrine for tactical use of atomic weapons.”[52]

An Army report on the volunteers at Desert Rock V concluded that there would be “little more to be gained by placing volunteer groups in forward positions on future shots.”[53] An April 24, 1953, Army memorandum recommended termination of the program “as little will be gained in repeatedly placing volunteers in trenches 2000 yards from ground zero.”[54] However, officer volunteers were called on again at the next Desert Rock exercises at the 1955 nuclear test series called Operation Teapot. Following Teapot, the Army recommended that further experiments be conducted in which the volunteers would be moved closer to ground zero, “until thresholds of intolerability are ascertained.”[55] This “use of human volunteers under conditions of calculated risk,” the Army told the AFSWP, “is essential in the final phase of both the physiological and psychological aspects of the overall program.”[56]

In response, the AFSWP pointed out that the injury threshold could not be determined “without eventually exceeding it.”[57] The Army was essentially proposing human beings be exposed to the detonation’s blast effects to the point of injury. The proposal, an AFSWP memo explained, would not pass muster under the rules of the Nevada Test Site and was otherwise unacceptable:

In particular, it is significant that the long range effect on the human system of sub-lethal doses of nuclear radiation is an unknown field. Exposure of volunteers to doses higher than those now thought safe may not produce immediate deleterious effects; but may result in numerous complaints from relatives, claims against the Government, and unfavorable public opinion, in the event that deaths and incapacitation occur with the passage of time.[58]

If the Army wanted more data on blast effects, AFSWP declared, it should proceed with laboratory experiments, for which money would be made available. The AFSWP was not opposed to the kinds of activities that had previously taken place at Desert Rock. But those activities, AFSWP’s memo observed in passing, “cannot be expected to produce data of scientific value.”[59]

The Desert Rock experience was apparently repeated, again with officer volunteers, in the next Nevada test series, the 1957 Operation Plumbbob. Although the total number of officers involved in all of the “officer volunteer” experiments is not known, it is probably fewer than one hundred.

The Flashblindness Experiments
Beginning with the 1946 Bikini tests, experiments with living things became a staple of bomb tests. At Operation Crossroads, animals were penned on the decks of target ships to study the effects of radiation. In the 1948 Sandstone series at the Marshall Islands Enewetak Atoll, seeds, grains, and fungi were added. In 1949, the AEC and the DOD began to coordinate the planning of the biomedical experiments at tests and set up a Biomedical Test Planning and Screening Committee to review proposals.[60] Presumably, the human experiments at bomb tests should have been filtered through this or some other review process designated to consider experiments. Yet, in only one case–flashblindness experiments–did this happen.

With Dr. Meiling’s 1951 call for renewed DOD effort at biomedical experimentation came a revival of the DOD-AEC joint biomedical planning. From the start, the AEC doubted DOD’s willingness to cooperate.[61] In a January 1952 letter to Shields Warren, Los Alamos’s Thomas Shipman complained that the committee was limited to reviewing proposals from civilian groups, and not the military: “[I]f,” he wrote, the “AEC can not exercise a measure of control in this matter, they might better withdraw from the picture completely and permit the military to continue on its own sweet way without the somewhat ludicrous spectacle of an impotent committee’s snapping its heels like a puppy dog.”[62] In retrospect, Shipman wrote to Warren’s successor in June 1956, the military’s refusal to participate “reduced that committee to impotence.”[63]

Whatever its effectiveness, in 1952 the biomedical research screening group did consider at least one of the military’s flashblindness experiments.[64] Flashblindness–the temporary loss of vision from exposure to the flash–was a serious problem for all the armed services, but particularly for the Air Force. Pilots flying hundreds of miles an hour in combat could not afford to lose concentration and vision even temporarily.[65]

The flashblindness experiments began at the 1951 Operation Buster-Jangle, the series that included Desert Rock I, with the testing of subjects who “orbit[ed] at an altitude of 15,000 feet in an Air Force C-54 approximately 9 miles from the atomic detonation. . . .”[66] The test subjects were exposed to three detonations during the operation, after which changes in their visual acuity were measured.[67] Although these experiments were conducted at bomb tests that potentially exposed the subjects to ionizing radiation, the purpose of the experiment was to measure the thermal effects of the visible light flash, not the effects of ionizing radiation.

When another experiment was proposed for Operation Tumbler-Snapper, the 1952 Nevada tests, the AEC sought a “release of AEC responsibility” on grounds that “there is a possibility that permanent eye damage may result.”[68] It is not clear how the military responded, but the experiment proceeded. Twelve subjects witnessed the detonation from a darkened trailer about sixteen kilometers from the point of detonation.[69] Each of the human “observers” placed his face in a hood; half wore protective goggles, while the other half had both eyes exposed.[70] A fraction of a second before the explosion, a shutter opened, exposing the left eye to the flash.[71] Two subjects incurred retinal burns, at which point the project for that test series was terminated.[72]The final report recorded that both subjects had “completely recovered.”[73]

At the 1953 tests, the Department of Defense engaged in further flashblindness study.[74] During this experiment, “twelve subjects [dark-adapted] in a light-tight trailer were exposed to five nuclear detonation flashes at distances of from 7 to 14 miles.”[75]

The flashblindness experiments were the only human experiments conducted under the biomedical part of the bomb-test program and the only human experiments where immediate injury was recorded. They were also the only experiments where there is evidence of any connection to the 1953 Wilson memorandum applying the Nuremberg Code to human experimentation.

Recently recovered documents show that upon a 1954 review of a report showing the injuries at the 1952 experiment, AFSWP medical staff immediately declared that “a definite need exists for guidance in the use of human volunteers as experimental subjects.”[76] Further inquiry revealed that a Top Secret policy on the subject existed. That policy detailed “very definite and specific steps” that had to be taken before volunteers could be used in human experimentation. But, the AFSWP wrote, “No serious attempt has been made to disseminate the information to those experimenters who had a definite need-to-know.”[77]

Nonetheless, some form of consent was obtained from at least some of the flashblindness subjects. In a 1994 interview, Colonel John Pickering, who in the 1950s was an Air Force researcher with the School of Aviation Medicine, recalled participating as a subject in one of the first tests where the bomb was observed from a trailer, and his written consent was required. “When the time came for ophthalmologists to describe what they thought could or could not happen, and we were asked to sign a consent form, just as you do now in the hospital for surgery, I signed one.”[78] There is no documentation showing whether subsequent flashblindness experiments, which followed upon the issuance of the secretary of defense’s 1953 memorandum, required informed and written consent. However, given the recollection of Colonel Pickering and the military tradition of providing for voluntary participation in biomedical experimentation, this may well have been the case. (A report on a flashblindness experiment at the 1957 Plumbbob test uses the term volunteers;[79] a report on 1962 “studies” at Dominic I provides no further information.)[80]

In early 1954 the Air Force’s School of Aviation Medicine reported that animal studies and injuries at bomb tests (to nonexperimental participants) had shown that potential for eye damage was substantially worse than had been understood.[81] Studies of flashblindness with humans continued in both field and laboratory tests through the 1960s and into the 1970s. These experiments tested prototype versions of eye protection equipment, and the results were used to recommend requirements for eye protection for those exposed to atomic explosions.[82]

Research on Protective Clothing
In late 1951, following the first Desert Rock exercise, the government conducted Operation Jangle, a nuclear test series that detonated two nuclear weapons, one on the surface and one buried seventeen feet underground. The two Jangle shots were tests where the weapon’s fireball touched the ground. When a nuclear weapon’s fireball touches the ground it creates much more local fallout than an explosion that bursts in the air. Consequently, these tests posed some potential hazard to civilians who lived near the test site and to test observers and participants.

Two weeks before Jangle the DOD requested an additional 500 observers at each of the Jangle shots, to acclimate the troops to nuclear weapons. The AEC advised against the additional participants, declaring that “[t]his [the first detonation] was an experiment which had never been performed before and the radiological hazards were unpredictable.” In the AEC’s view, no one should approach ground zero for three or four days after the surface shot.[83]

The AEC seems to have been successful in persuading the Department of Defense not to include the extra observers, but the DOD did not agree to the AEC’s suggestion on approaching ground zero. Four hours after the first shot, the DOD conducted research involving troops who were accompanied by radiation safety monitors.[84] Eight teams of men walked over contaminated ground for one hour to determine the effectiveness of protective clothing against nuclear contamination.[85] Similar tests were conducted after the second shot at Jangle, but this time after a longer period. Five days after the shallow underground shot, men crawled over contaminated ground, again to determine the effectiveness of protective clothing.[86] Other men rode armored vehicles through contaminated areas to check the shielding effects of tanks and to check the effectiveness of air-filtering devices.[87] According to the final report, the protective clothing was “adequate to prevent contact between radioactive dust and the skin of the wearer.”[88]

The information on this research is limited. The only mention of the subjects in the report reads, “The volunteer enlisted men, too numerous to mention by name, who participated in the evaluation of protective clothing were of great assistance which is gratefully acknowledged.”[89] It is likely that at the time these men were not viewed as subjects of scientific research but rather as men who had volunteered for a hazardous or risky assignment. We know nothing about what these men were told about the risks or whether they felt they could have refused the assignment if they had an interest in doing so.

The Jangle activities are a good illustration of difficulties in drawing boundaries in the military between activities that are research involving human subjects and activities that are not. Although the Jangle evaluation was likely not considered an instance of human research at the time, it has many similarities to ground-crawling activity conducted several years later, not in conjunction with a nuclear test, that was treated as research involving human subjects. In 1958 ninety soldiers at Camp Stoneman, in Pittsburg, California, were asked to perform “typical army tactical maneuvers” on soil that had been contaminated with radioactive lanthanum.[91] The soldiers were then monitored for their exposure to study beta contamination from this nonpenetrating form of radiation. In 1963 soldiers were again asked to maneuver on ground contaminated with artificial fallout, this time at Camp McCoy in Wisconsin.[91]

The plans for the 1958 maneuvers, which were administered by the Navy’s Radiological Defense Laboratory, had been submitted for secretarial approval, as was required for biomedical experiments involving Navy personnel.[92] In accordance with the Navy rules, the soldiers signed “written statements of voluntary participation.”[93] During the 1963 experiments the Army processed the activity under its 1962 regulation on human experimentation (AR 70-25).[94] This rule, a public codification of the secretary of defense’s 1953 Nuremberg Code rule, also required secretarial review and written consent.[95]

Cloud-Penetration Experiments

What are the dangers to be encountered by the personnel who fly through the cloud?–How much radiation can they stand?–How much heat can the aircraft take?–Can the ground crews immediately service the aircraft for another flight?–If so, what precautions are necessary to insure their safety?[96]

The Air Force felt that it was essential to answer these questions. To do so, it carried out experiments, including some with animals and a few with humans.

At the first atomic tests the military used remote-controlled aircraft, called “drones,” to enter and gather samples from atomic clouds in order to estimate the yield and learn the characteristics of the weapon being tested. Military pilots did, however, “track” mushroom clouds, gathering information and plotting the cloud’s path in order to warn civilian aircraft. During a 1948 test, a cloud tracker piloted by Colonel Paul Fackler inadvertently got too close to a cloud. But after the accident, Colonel Fackler commented, “‘No one keeled over dead and no one got sick.'”[97] Colonel Fackler’s experience, an Air Force history later recorded, showed that manned flight through an atomic cloud “would not necessarily result in a lingering and horrible death.”[98]

Some of the trackers had “sniffers” on their aircraft to collect small samples. The Air Force conducted experimental sampling missions at 1951 tests and later permanently replaced the drones with manned aircraft because drones were difficult to use, and they often did not get the quality samples of the atomic cloud that Atomic Energy Commission scientists desired. By Operation Teapot (1955), the AEC considered the testing of a nuclear device “largely useless” unless sampler aircraft were used to obtain fission debris that would be used to estimate the nuclear weapon’s performance.[99]

As the sampling mission became routine, a new mission in the clouds began. At Teapot the Air Force performed the first manned “early cloud penetration.” The phrase was used by the Air Force to refer to missions conducted as soon as minutes after detonation of the test weapon. The main purpose was to discover the radiation and turbulence levels within the cloud at early times after detonation.

Like the first sampling missions, the first early cloud-penetration missions were conducted by unmanned drone aircraft. In 1951 Colonel (now General) E. A. Pinson, an Air Force scientist who had earlier conducted tracer experiments on himself and other scientists, placed mice aboard a drone aircraft; in 1953 he flew mice, monkeys, and instrumentation in drone aircraft through atomic clouds. Pinson concluded that the radiation risk from flying manned aircraft through atomic clouds could be controlled by monitoring the external gamma dose.[100] But the Air Force was not convinced and asked Pinson to follow up the animal experiments with studies with humans during Operation Teapot (1955) and Operation Redwing (1956) to confirm the results. This research appears to have involved a small number of subjects, perhaps in the range of a dozen or so.

Pinson designed the human experiments to “learn exactly how much radiation penetrates into the human system”[101] when humans flew through a mushroom cloud. The Air Force had pilots swallow film contained in small watertight capsules. The film was attached to a string held in their mouths, so that it could be retrieved at the end of the mission.[102] When the film was retrieved, the researchers compared the exposures measured inside the human body with those measured on the outside. They found that the doses measured outside the body were essentially identical to the doses inside the body; this was a critical finding, because it meant that surface measurements would be “representative of the whole-body dose.”[103]

For the experiment, the AEC test manager for Teapot waived the AEC’s test-exposure limit of 3.9 roentgens and permitted four Air Force officers to receive up to 15 roentgens whole-body radiation.[104] The exemption was “based on the importance of [the project] to the Military Effects Test program and the fact that radiation up to 15 R may be necessary for its successful accomplishment.”[105] When the air crews entered the atomic clouds, they measured dose rates of radiation as high as 1,800 rad per hour. Since the crews were in the cloud for such a short period of time, however, the actual doses were much lower than 1,800 R.[106] The maximum reported dose received on a single mission was 17 R,[107] higher than the 15 R authorized for the project. Since the air crews flew on several missions, two of the crew members received more than 17 R.[108]

A year later, at Operation Redwing, where the atomic and hydrogen bombs were tested, the Air Force conducted another series of experimental cloud penetrations. Part of the Redwing experiment was to measure the hazard from inhaling or ingesting radioactive particles while flying through a mushroom cloud. When mice and monkeys were flown through clouds during earlier tests they were placed in ventilated cages to determine the hazard from inhaling radioactive particles. The studies found that the hazard from inhalation was less than 1 percent of the external radiation hazard. As General Pinson put it, “In other words, if the internal hazard were to become significant, the external hazard would be overwhelming.”[109] To confirm this finding, Pinson undertook a similar experiment with humans, and again, as with the Teapot experiment, Pinson was a subject as well as a researcher. To perform the experiment, no filters were installed in the penetration aircraft.[110] Again, it is estimated that about a dozen subjects were involved.

The military this time set the authorized dosage (the maximum dosage to which Pinson could plan to have people exposed) at 25 R and a limiting dosage (in which case a report had to be filed) at 50 R.[111] During the experiment “maximum radiation dose rates as high as 800 r/hr were encountered, and several flights yielded total radiation doses to the crew of 15 r.”[112] (To measure the internal dose of radiation the scientists analyzed urine samples and used whole-body counters.)

The project, as Pinson’s final report noted, marked the transition from animal experimentation to human measurement:

Although a considerable amount of experimentation had been done with small animals which were flown through nuclear clouds, the early cloud-penetration project of Operation Redwing was the first instance in which humans were studied in a similar situation.[113]

The results confirmed those of the animal experiments. The internal hazard of radiation was insignificant relative to the external hazard. Consequently, the researchers recommended “that no action be taken to develop filters for aircraft pressurization systems nor to develop devices to protect flight crews from the inhalation of fission products.”[114]

Experimental Purpose: Military Tactics, Money, and Morale
Why was the Air Force interested in showing that atomic clouds could be penetrated soon after a detonation?

Most important, the military wanted to assure itself that it was safe for combat pilots to fly through atomic clouds, if need arose during atomic war. But the research did not make much of a scientific contribution. Researchers had already established the levels of radiation in atomic clouds by flying drone aircraft through them, and there was nothing pathbreaking about humans being exposed to levels of radiation under 25 R. General Pinson later noted, “there are no research people that I know of that gave a damn [about manned early cloud-penetration experiments], because this is . . . a negligible contribution to research and scien[ce]–scientifically, you know, this contributes less than I suspect anything I’ve ever done . . . its only virtue is the practical use of it.”[115]

From the scientific perspective the data would not likely be of great use; from an immediate practical perspective human data were felt to be essential for reassurance. Should the Air Force have been satisfied with the wealth of data it had from the drone experiments? In retrospect Pinson found the question difficult. “There’s reason to say, ‘Well, you should have been satisfied with the data that had been gathered with the drones.’ But, you know, these are hard-nosed, practical people that–that put their life on the line and in military combat . . . where the hazards are far greater than in this modest exposure to radiation.”[116]

The budget also played a key role in cloud-penetration research, as well as the related decontamination experiments, which will be discussed shortly. The Defense Department declared that the knowledge gained through its cloud-penetration experiments would save “the taxpayers thousands upon thousands of dollars” because there would be no need to develop special protective clothing or equipment, which had been thought to be necessary.[117]

As in the case of the HumRRO experiments and the troop maneuvers, indoctrination and morale were important forces behind the experimentation. “Perhaps the most important problem of all,” a popular men’s magazine of the day wrote about the Teapot experience, “might be a psychological resistance of combat pilots and crews flying into the unknown dangers of hot, radio-active areas.”[118] The press, therefore, depicted the Teapot experiment as a message to the world–pilots can fly through atomic clouds safely.

Research, Consent, and Volunteerism
Like the HumRRO experiments, the cloud flythrough experiments were treated as occupational, rather than experimental, activities. None of the participants signed consent forms, and waivers to dose limits were sought, and approved, under the process followed for the nonexperimental flythrough activities. In 1995 General Pinson said that he had not been aware of the ethical standards declared in the 1953 secretary of defense memorandum. If he had been, he “would have gotten written consent from the people that were involved in this.”[119]

A 1963 Air Force history of the cloud-sampling program does not describe the process of crew and pilot selection, but does provide a perspective:

The Strategic Air Command pilots picked to fly the F-84G sampler aircraft were pleased to learn that they were doing something useful, . . . not serving as guinea pigs as they seriously believed when first called upon to do the sampling.[120]

Did the personnel understand the risks? Some of them surely did. The aircraft carried airmen and scientific observers. Because the scientific observers were the very scientists who designed the experiments, they certainly understood the radiation risks as well as anyone could be expected to. In this way, the cloud flythrough experiments exemplified the ethic of researcher self-experimentation. As Pinson recalled in 1995, “If you are going to do something like this and you think it’s safe to do it, then you shouldn’t ask somebody else to do it. The way you convince other people that at least you think it’s all right, is do it yourself.”[121]

The nonscientists were briefed and informed that the risks from their radiation exposure would be minimal.[122] A pilot in the cloud-tracking activities recalled one of the briefings: “The scientists line up at a briefing session and tell you there’s no danger if you will follow their instructions carefully. In fact, they almost guarantee it.”[123]

But many of the pilots seemed to have been neither worried at the prospect of risk nor excited at the prospect of glory. Pinson, for example, described the attitude of the pilot who flew his aircraft as “matter of fact.”[124] And at Operation Teapot, Captain Paul M. Crumley, project officer for the early cloud penetrations, stated, “We consider these flights routine. Neither the pilots nor observers are unduly concerned over the fact that no one else has flown into an atomic cloud so soon after detonation.”[125]

Decontamination Experiments
In conjunction with the Teapot cloud flythrough experiment, the military also conducted an experiment on ground crews “to determine how soon these same aircraft could be reserviced and made ready to fly again.”[126] The Air Force used the contaminated aircraft from the early cloud-penetration experiment.[127] The research sparked a debate between the Air Force and the AEC over the costs and benefits of safety measures, a debate that was itself resolved by further experimentation.

In one part of the “experimental procedure,” personnel (the number involved is not reported) rubbed their gloved hands over a contaminated fuselage, and in another part “the bare hand was also rubbed over a surface whose detailed contamination was known and a radioautograph of the hand surfaces [was] made.”[128] None of the “survey team” exceeded the AEC’s gamma exposure limit of 3.9 R.[129] Concluding that aircraft did not need to be “washed down” or decontaminated after they flew through the atomic clouds, Colonel William Kieffer, deputy commander of the Air Force Special Weapons Center, proposed that decontamination procedures be eliminated except in extreme circumstances. This change in procedures might cause overexposures, Kieffer wrote, but they would be acceptable as long as “dangerous” dosages would be avoided.[130]

The proposal was not warmly received by the AEC. Los Alamos’s Thomas Shipman complained that the goal should be to reduce exposures to zero.[131] Harold Plank, a Los Alamos scientist who was in charge of the cloud-sampling project and who rode along on many of the cloud-sampling missions, said, “Kieffer simply could not understand the philosophy which regards every radiation exposure as injurious but accepts minimum exposures for critical jobs.”[132]

Kieffer suggested a compromise; test the proposal with only one or two sampler aircraft.[133] Plank objected, but the AEC test manager promised to “do everything possible to obtain a waiver of AEC operating radiological safety requirements.”[134] The Air Force carried out the study during the 1957 Operation Plumbbob. An additional plane was flown through the atomic clouds created by five “events” to determine the hazard from the Air Force’s proposed procedures.[135] The study showed that decontamination would be necessary to prevent overexposures at test sites.[136] In the end, the Air Force was unsuccessful in its attempt to change the decontamination procedures for sampler aircraft.

We do not know how the Air Force viewed this activity. Given that it did not treat the cloud flythroughs as an experiment, it is unlikely that the Air Force considered the ground personnel activity to be an experiment. There is no record of what the ground personnel were told or whether they were volunteers.


1 . See Department of Energy, Announced United States Nuclear Tests: July 1945 Through December 1992 (Springfield, Va.: National Technical Information Service, May 1993); Department of Energy, Expanded Test Information for Nuclear Tests With Unannounced Simultaneous Detonation (Springfield, Va.: National Technical Information Service, 20 June 1994).

2 . Thomas L. Shipman, Los Alamos Laboratory Health Division Leader, to Dr. Harry G. Ehrmentraut, Committee on Medical Sciences, Research and Development Board, Department of Defense, 25 July 1951 (“Dr. Robert Grier has passed on to me . . .”) (ACHRE No. DOE-033195-B), 2.

3 . See the July 1949 transcript of a meeting convened by the NEPA [Nuclear Energy for the Propulsion of Aircraft] Medical Advisory Panel to discuss the “Psychological Problem of Crew Selection Relative to the Special Hazards of Irradiation Exposure,” 27. NEPA Medical Advisory Panel, Subcommittee IX, proceedings of 22 July 1949 (ACHRE No. DOD-121494-A-2).

4 . Richard L. Meiling, Chairman, Armed Forces Medical Policy Council, to the Deputy Secretary of Defense et al., 27 June 1951 (“Military Medical Problems Associated with Military Participation in Atomic Energy Commission Tests”) (ACHRE No. DOD-122794-B), 1.

5 . Ibid.

6 . Ibid.

7 . Department of the Army, September 1950 (“Atomic Energy Indoctrination”) (ACHRE No. DOD-020395-D), 73.

8 . Ibid.

9 . Richard L. Meiling, Chairman, Armed Forces Medical Policy Council, to the Chairman, Research and Development Board, 23 February 1951 (“Department of Defense Biomedical Participation in Atomic Weapons Tests”) (ACHRE No. NARA-071194-A), 1.

10 . The Joint Panel was created in 1949 by the Committee on Medical Sciences and the Committee on Atomic Energy, which were committees of the Research and Development Board. (See the Introduction and chapter 1 for further discussions of the Joint Panel.)

11 . The agenda noted that while civilians were polled in the preparation of the draft, “very few” responded. The draft was therefore ” offered not as a proposed statement, to be accepted after only minor revisions, but as a general guide to the type of paper which is expected of the Joint Panel.” Joint Panel on the Medical Aspects of Atomic Warfare, 20 September 1951 (“Agenda, 8th Meeting, Item 3 – Preparation of Statement on Biomedical Participation in Future Weapons Tests”) (ACHRE No. DOD-072294-B), 1-2.

12 . Joint Panel on the Medical Aspects of Atomic Warfare, 20 September 1951 (“Biomedical Participation in Future Atomic Weapons Tests [Attachment to Agenda, 8th Meeting]”) (ACHRE No. DOD-072294-B), 2. The quoted language appears to have come from Dr. Thomas Shipman of Los Alamos. See Thomas Shipman, Los Alamos Laboratory Health Division Leader, to Shields Warren, Director, AEC Division of Biology and Medicine, 15 September 1951 (“Permissible Exposures, Test Operations”) (ACHRE No. DOE-120894-C).

13 . The draft stated a concern that “actual animal exposures should be limited as much as possible,” but did not expressly address human experimentation. Joint Panel on the Medical Aspects of Atomic Warfare, 20 September 1951, (“Biomedical Participation in Future Atomic Weapons Tests”), 3.

14 . Ibid., 5-7.

15 . We discuss the data gathering on radioisotopes in the body fluids in chapter 13, in the context of a discussion of secret human data gathering on fallout.

16 . Joint Panel on Medical Aspects of Atomic Warfare, 20 September 1951 (“Program Guidance Report”) (ACHRE No. DOD-072294-B), 23.

17 . Ibid., 20. A further section on “Psychological Studies” recommended the following:

4.1.3 Continue studies in psychology of panic.

4.1.4 Seek technics [sic] for reducing apprehension and for producing psychologic resistance to fear and panic, especially in presence of radiation hazard (emotional vaccination).

4.1.5 Spread knowledge of radiation tolerance, technics [sic] of avoidance, and possibility of therapy through military and civilian populations and measure their acceptance.

4.1.6 Prepare to make psychologic observations at and after bomb tests.

Ibid., 14.

18 . Colonel Michael Buckley, Acting Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, Research and Development, to Chief of Army Field Forces, Fort Monroe, Virginia, 20 August 1951 (“Proposed Study of Behavior of Troops Exposed to A-Bomb”) (ACHRE No. NARA-013195-A), 1.

19 . Peter A. Bordes et al., February 1953 (“DESERT ROCK I: A Psychological Study of Troop Reactions to an Atomic Explosion [HumRRO-TR-1]”) (ACHRE No. CORP-111694-A), 3.

20 . Dr. Meredith Crawford, interview by Dan Guttman and Patrick Fitzgerald (ACHRE), transcript of audio recording, 1 December 1994 (ACHRE Research Project Series, Interview Program File, Targeted Interview Project), 6-7. Dr. Crawford was recruited to head the new HumRRO by psychologist Harry Harlow, an Army adviser who was famed for his work with monkeys. HumRRO was a private contractor created at the Army’s behest and initially affiliated with George Washington University. In the 1951 experiments, HumRRO worked with the Operations Research Organization (ORO), which was affiliated with Johns Hopkins University.

21 . In 1994, Dr. Crawford prepared a retrospective memorandum titled “HumRRO Research During Four Army Training Exercises.” Based on the 1953 report, “A Psychological Study of Troop Reactions to an Atomic Explosion,” Dr. Crawford estimated that 633 service personnel were involved in the maneuvers at Desert Rock I. Meredith P. Crawford to William C. Osborn, 27 January 1994 (“HumRRO Research During Four Army Training Exercises Involving Atomic Weapons–1951-1957”) (ACHRE No. CORP-112294-B), 8. In addition, hundreds of additional troops were involved as the “nonparticipant” group (which did not attend the test maneuvers, but was given psychological tests). The “experimental paradigm” for the HumRRO tests is described in this 1994 memorandum. Ibid., 4.

22 . “Armed Forces: Exercise Desert Rock,” Time, 12 November 1951, 21-22.

23 . New York Times, 1 November 1951, 4.

24 . Bordes et al., “DESERT ROCK I: A Psychological Study of Troop Reactions to an Atomic Explosion,” 6.

25 . Interview with Crawford, 1 December 1994, 57.

26 . Bordes et al., “DESERT ROCK I: A Psychological Study of Troop Reactions to an Atomic Explosion,” 5.

27 . Ibid., 103.

28 . Ibid., 107-108.

29 . Interestingly, the troops evidently did not buy the “correct” answer; only about 40 percent of the troops at the maneuver were reported to have been correctly indoctrinated. Bordes et al., “DESERT ROCK I: A Psychological Study of Troop Reactions to an Atomic Explosion,” 130.

30 . The Committee asked the DOD to review the 1951 questionnaire and comment on whether the information presented regarding the effect of an airburst is, based on DOD’s current expert understanding, still correct. DOD provided “changes/corrections/clarifications” on nine items. In the case of items 1 and 6, quoted in the text, DOD commented:

1) As stated, the answer is wrong. The ground zero hazard 1 day after an atomic explosion depends on the yield. At 20 kt, there would be no fallout for a burst at 2000 feet, but there would be induced activity. . . .

6) There is the same problem with this answer as with 1, above.

In one case the DOD reported that the 1951 questionnaire erred on what might be called the side of caution; where a 1951 answer stated that a posited detonation would not kill anybody beyond the range of three miles, the answer today would be one mile. Department of Defense, Radiation Experiments Command Center, 26 April 1995 (“ACHRE Request 032795-A, HumRRO Questionnaire and Air Burst Material”) (ACHRE No. DOD-042695-A), 1.

31 . Colonel R. G. Prentiss, Executive Officer, Office of the Army Surgeon General, to Chief, Army Field Forces, Fort Monroe, Virginia, 9 January 1952 (“Psychiatric Research in Connection with Atomic Weapon Tests Involving Troop Participation”) (ACHRE No. DOD-080594-A), 1. The memo recorded:

1. For your information in connection with planning for future exercises and operations in which atomic weapons tests will be used and troops will participate, this office has a continuing interest in the conduct of psychiatric observations regarding the effects of the weapons on the participating troops.

2. Funds for the conduct of psychiatric observations which may be approved for future atomic weapons tests will be made available through the Surgeon General.

The memorandum bears concurrences from the “Medical Research and Development Board,” “Medical Plans and Operations,” “Fiscal Division,” and “Chief, Psychiatry and Neurology Consultants Division.” It is not clear what role Army psychiatrists (i.e., medical doctors) played in the implementation of the “psychological” experiments.

32 . Major P. C. Casperson, for the Chief of Army Field Forces, to First Army et. al., 7 March 1952 (“Extracts, Final Report Exercise DESERT ROCK I”) (ACHRE No. NARA-013195-A), 122. In an age of “polls and questionnaires,” the report suggested, the overpsychologized troops may have been putting the psychologists on:

The psychological evaluators, of whom there were many and various, were perhaps too obvious and eager. This is an era of polls and questionnaires and here was a new and untried field with unlimited possibilities. The ultimate response, finally, was a humorous and deliberate program in the troops to confuse the psychological people with fictitious reactions.


33 . Brigadier General A. R. Luedecke, AFSWP, to Director, AEC Division of Military Application, 7 March 1952 (“Reference is made to your letter of 28 December 1951 . . .”) (ACHRE No. NARA-010495-A), 2.

34 . Interview with Crawford, 1 December 1994, 12-13.

35 . Dr. Crawford’s 1994 reconstruction of events estimated that 672 soldiers witnessed the shot, and 914 served in the control group as nonparticipants. Crawford to Osborn, 27 January 1994, 10.

36 . Motivation, Morale, and Leadership Division, Department of the Army, August 1953 (“Desert Rock IV: Reactions of an Armored Infantry Battalion to an Atomic Bomb Maneuver [HumRRO-TR-2]”) (ACHRE No. CORP-111694-A), ix, 17.

37 . Benjamin W. White, 1 August 1953 (“Desert Rock V: Reactions of Troop Participants and Forward Volunteer Officer Groups to Atomic Exercises”) (ACHRE No. CORP-111694-A), 10.

38 . Department of the Army, “Desert Rock IV: Reactions of an Armored Infantry Battalion to an Atomic Bomb Maneuver [HumRRO-TR-2],” 72.

39 . “Armed Forces: Exercise Desert Rock,” Time, 12 November 1951, 22. At Desert Rock I, physiological testing, including the use of a polygraph, sought to measure anxiety before and after D-Day. Bordes et al., “DESERT ROCK I,” chapter 6. At Desert Rock IV, before and after “sweat tests” measured troops’ hand sweating as a possible index of fear. Department of the Army, “Desert Rock IV: Reactions of an Armored Infantry Battalion to an Atomic Bomb Maneuver [HumRRO-TR-2],” 10.

40 . Joint Panel on the Medical Aspects of Atomic Warfare, 9 September 1952 (“Minutes: 9, 10, 11 and 12 September 1952, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory”) (ACHRE No. DOD-072294-B), 3-4. The panel’s statement was in the form of a motion to be transmitted to the DOD Research and Development Board’s Committee on Human Resources, to which the advisory role on the HumRRO effort was being turned over.

41 . The available research reports do not indicate the numbers of participants in the research.

42 . Defense Nuclear Agency, 8 August 1995 (“Atmospheric Test Series/Activities Matrix”) (ACHRE No. DOD-081195-A).

43 . Robert D. Baldwin, March 1958 (“Staff Memorandum: Experiences at Desert Rock VIII”) (ACHRE No. CORP-111694-A). Also at Plumbbob was an experiment to test the efficiency of fallout shelters. Sixteen men were confined in four shelters to collect fallout samples, so that their ability to collect samples could be studied and so that they could be studied for the psychological effect of confinement. The study concluded that the shelters were well suited for both manned stations at nuclear weapons tests and for single-family fallout shelters. J. D. Sartor et al., 23 April 1963 (“The Design and Performance of a Fallout-Tested Manned Shelter Station and Its Suitability as a Single-Family Shelter [USNRDL-TR-647]”) (ACHRE No. CORP-032395-A). See also Nevada Test Organization, Office of Test Information, 24 July 1957 (“For Immediate Release”) (ACHRE No. DOE-033195-B); Nevada Test Organization, Office of Test Information, 15 July 1957 (“For Immediate Release”) (ACHRE No. DOD-030895-F).

44 . Baldwin, “Experiences at Desert Rock VIII,” 39.

45 . Ibid., 12. The troops were not to be told the amount of contamination present, which would depend upon actual fallout amounts. The course was marked by radiation hazard markers, which might or might not reflect the actual fallout. Ibid., 23.

46 . Ibid., 7.

47 . Interview with Crawford, 1 December 1994, 52.

48 . Bordes et al., “DESERT ROCK I: A Psychological Study of Troop Reactions to an Atomic Explosion,” 20.

49 . Crawford to Osborn, 27 January 1994, 15.

50 . CG Cp Desert Rock to CG Sixth Army, 28 March 1953 (“Reference message G3, OCAFF No. 423”) (ACHRE No. NARA-013195-A), 1. The office volunteers participated in three detonations in the 1953 “Upshot-Knothole” series–shots Nancy, Badger, and Simon. “DNA Fact Sheet Operation Upshot-Knothole,” January 1992.

51 . Captain Robert A. Hinners, USN, Headquarters, Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, 25 April 1953 (“Report of Participation in Selected Volunteer Program of Desert Rock V-7”) (ACHRE No. DOE-033195-B), 2.

In an 11 February 1953 letter, the Army informed the Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy of the “steps being taken by the Army in connection with exposure of troops at tests of atomic weapons.” Lieutenant General L. L. Lemnitzer, Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Research, to Honorable Carl T. Durham, House of Representatives, 11 February 1953 (“The Secretary of the Army has asked that the Joint Committee . . .”) (ACHRE No. NARA-112594-A), 1. The Army explained that deployment in foxholes at as close to 1,500 yards was needed to confirm that commanders could risk troops at this distance. The Army assured the committee that experts deemed it “highly improbable that troops will suffer any injury under these conditions.” Ibid., 2.

Assurance was given to Congress that no more than twelve volunteers would be used at one shot. G3 DEPTAR, to CG Cp Desert Rock, 15 April 1953 (“Reference your msg AMCDR-DPCO 0498”) (ACHRE No. NARA-013194-A), 1.

52 . Brigadier General Carl H. Jark, for the Assistant Chief of Staff, Organization and Training Division, to Distribution, 20 February 1953 (“Instructions for Positioning DA [Department of Army] Personnel at Continental Atomic Tests [Attachment to 20 February 1953 memo]”) (ACHRE No. NARA-120694-A), 2.

53 . White, “Desert Rock V: Reactions of Troop Participants and Forward Volunteer Officer Groups to Atomic Exercises,” iii.

54 . CG Sixth Army Presidio of SFran Calif, to OCAFF Ft Monroe Va, 24 April 1953 (“Reference Desert Rock msg AMCDR-CG-04237”) (ACHRE No. NARA-013195-A), 1.

55 . Major R. C. Morris, for the Commanding General, to Chief of Research and Development, 15 November 1955 (“Amendment to Proposed Project Regarding Blast Injury Evaluation”) (ACHRE No. DOD-030895-F), 1.

56 . Major Benjamin I. Hill, for the Director, Terminal Ballistics Laboratory, to Chief, Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, 13 December 1955 (“Amendment to Proposed CONARC Project Regarding Blast Injury Evaluation”) (ACHRE No. DOD-030895-F), 1.

57 . Colonel Irving L. Branch, for the Chief, AFSWP, to Chief of Research and Development, Department of the Army, 20 January 1956 (“Annex ‘A’ to 2nd Endorsement: Detailed Explanation of AFSWP Comments on Feasibility of Human Volunteer Program”) (ACHRE No. DOD-030895-F), 1.

58 . Ibid.

59 . Colonel Irving L. Branch, for the Chief, AFSWP, to Chief of Research and Development, Department of the Army, 20 January 1956 (“Amendment to Proposed Project Regarding Blast Injury Evaluation”) (ACHRE No. DOD-030895-F), 1-2.

60 . National Military Establishment, Military Liaison Committee, to the Atomic Energy Commission, 24 March 1949 (“Planning for 1951 Atomic Bomb Tests”) (ACHRE No. DOE-120894-C).

61 . Howard Brown to Shields Warren, 20 August 1951 (“Larry Tuttle advised that he had learned from his agents in AFSWP . . .”) (ACHRE No. DOE-040395-A), 1.

62 . Thomas L. Shipman, Los Alamos Health Division Leader, to Shields Warren, Director, AEC Division of Biology and Medicine, 20 January 1952 (“Since Wright’s return from the meeting in Washington . . .”) (ACHRE No. DOE-120894-C), 2.

63 . Thomas Shipman, Los Alamos Laboratory Health Division Leader, to Charles Dunham, Director, AEC Division of Biology and Medicine, 9 June 1956 (“This is a rather belated reply . . .”) (ACHRE No. DOE-120894-C), 1. In response to the suggestion that Los Alamos participate in another effort, Shipman urged that the committee should

either be given some real responsibility or will at least be able to speak in a loud, strong voice against any proposed program which appears to be poorly or inadequately planned . . . or which appears to be an out and out waste of the taxpayers’ money.


64 . T. L. Shipman to Alvin Graves, 9 August 1952 (“Meeting of Biomedical Test Planning and Screening Committee”) (ACHRE No. DOE-120894-C), 1. DOD records show flashblindness research at Buster-Jangle (1951), Tumbler-Snapper (1952), Upshot-Knothole (1953), Plumbbob (1953), Hardtrack II (1958), and Dominic I (1962), in Defense Nuclear Agency, 8 August 1995, “Atmospheric Test Series/Activities Matrix.”

65 . The topic of the bomb’s effect on vision merited instruction. The 1951 HumRRO questionnaire included: “Watching an A-bomb explode five miles away can cause permanent blindness. (False).” Bordes et al., “DESERT ROCK I: A Psychological Study of Troop Reactions to an Atomic Explosion”), 109. In a 1995 comment on this question, DOD noted that “[i]n the strictest sense the correct answer is ‘true’. Some permanent retinal damage will occur, but complete vision loss will not.” Department of Defense, Radiation Experiments Command Center (“ACHRE Request 032795-A, HumRRO Questionnaire and Air Burst Material”), 1.

66 . Colonel Victor A. Byrnes, USAF (MC), 15 March 1952 (“Operation BUSTER: Project 4.3, Flash Blindness”) (ACHRE No. DOD-121594-C-4), 2.

67 . The objectives were

(a) To evaluate the visual handicap which might be expected in military personnel exposed, during daylight operations, to the flash of an atomic detonation.

(b) To evaluate devices developed for the purpose of protecting the eye against visual impairment resulting from excessive exposure to light.

Ibid., p.1. 68 . J. C. Clark, Deputy Test Director, to Colonel Kenner Hertford, Director, Office of Test Operations, 5 March 1952 (“Attached is an outline of approved Project 4.5 . . .”) (ACHRE No. DOE-020795-C), 1. The letter noted that at Buster-Jangle the AEC had sought and received “release of AEC responsibility” in the event of such damage and requested the same release for Tumbler-Snapper.

69 . Defense Nuclear Agency, 1952 (“Operation Tumbler-Snapper”) (ACHRE No. DOD-102194-C), 92.

70 . Ibid.

71 . Colonel Victor A. Byrnes, March 1953 (“Operation Snapper, Project 4.5: Flash Blindness, Report to the Test Director”) (ACHRE No. DOD-121994-C), 12.

72 . Ibid., 15.

73 . Ibid. The DOD reported that it does not have the ability to retrieve the names of experimental subjects. Thus, the long-term outcome of those involved in flashblindness tests (estimated by DOD to approximate 100) is not known to the Committee.

74 . Colonel Victor A. Byrnes, USAF (MC), et al., 30 November 1955 (“Operation Upshot-Knothole, Project 4.5: Ocular Effects of Thermal Radiation from Atomic Detonation–Flashblindness and Chorioretinal Burns”) (ACHRE No. DOD-121994-C), 3.

75 . Ibid.

76 . Colonel Irving L. Branch, USAF, Acting Chief of Staff, to Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health and Medicine), 5 March 1954 (“Status of Human Volunteers in Bio-medical Experimentation”) (ACHRE No. DOD-042595-A), 2.

77 . Ibid, 3.

78 . Colonel John Pickering; interview by John Harbert and Gil Whittemore (ACHRE), transcript of audio recording, 2 November 1994 (ACHRE Research Project Series, Interview Program File, Targeted Interview Project), 55. DOD did not locate any documents showing written consent.

79 . Defense Atomic Support Agency, 15 August 1962 (“Operation Plumbbob: Technical Summary of Military Effects, Programs 1-9”) (ACHRE No. DOD-100794-A),137

80 . Defense Nuclear Agency, 1962 (“Operation Dominic I: Report of DOD Participation”) (ACHRE No. DOE-082294-A).

81 . John R. McGraw, Deputy Commandant, USAF, to Director, AEC, 20 March 1954 (“Examination of the Retina of Individuals Exposed to Recent Atomic Detonation”) (ACHRE No. DOE-090994-C). The memorandum stated that it “can be assumed that all persons who viewed the actual fireball” of a recent hydrogen bomb test “without eye protection have received permanent chorio-retinal damage.” The memorandum went on to recommend that “[p]opulations and observers within an approximate radius of 100 miles from ground zero should be surveyed.”

82 . See, for example, Byrnes, “Operation Snapper, Project 4.5,” 16-17.

83 . Roy B. Snapp, Secretary, AEC, minutes of meeting no. 623, 6 November 1951 (ACHRE No. DOE-033195-B), 526.

84 . Defense Nuclear Agency, 23 June 1982 (“Shots Sugar and Jangle: The Final Tests of the Buster-Jangle Series”) (ACHRE No. DOE-082294-C), 46.

85 . John R. Hendrickson, July 1952 (“Operation Jangle, Project 6.3-1: Evaluation of Military Individual and Collective Protection Devices and Clothing”) (ACHRE No. DOE-121594-C-14), 5.

86 . Ibid.

87 . Ibid., 5, 20.

88 . Ibid., 19.

89 . Ibid., v.

90 . U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory, 26 May 1958 (“Supplement [1] to AEC-313 [2-57] USNRDL”) (ACHRE No. DOD-091494-A), 1.

91 . Lieutenant Colonel Gordon L. Jacks, CmlC Commanding, to TSG, DA, 12 April 1963 (“Beta Hazard Experiment Using Volunteer Military Personnel”) (ACHRE No. DOD-122294-B), 1.

92 . Commanding Officer and Director, U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory, to Secretary of the Navy, 26 May 1958 (“Authorization for use of radioisotopes on human volunteers, request for”) (ACHRE No. DOD-091494-A), 1.

93 . Ibid.

94 . Jacks to TSG, 12 April 1963, 1.

95 . “Research and Development: Use of Volunteers as Subjects of Research,” AR 70-25 (1962).

96 . Office of Information Services, Air Force Special Weapons Center, to Headquarters, Air Research Development Command, 27 January 1956 (“Early Cloud Penetration”) (ACHRE No. DOE-122894-B), 1.

97 . Air Force Systems Command, January 1963 (“History of Air Force Atomic Cloud Sampling [AFSC Historical Publication Series 61-142-1]”) (ACHRE No. DOD-082294-A), 23.

98 . Ibid., 229.

99 . Air Force Systems Command, “History of Air Force Atomic Cloud Sampling,” 121.

100 . E. A. Pinson [attr.], 1956 [attr.] (“Gentlemen: this morning I will discuss the following topics . . .”) (ACHRE No. DOE-033195-B), 3.

101 . Harold Clark, “I Flew Through an Atomic Hell,” Argosy, December 1955, 63.

102 . J. E. Banks et al., 30 April 1958 (“Operation Teapot: Manned Penetrations of Atomic Clouds, Project 2.8b”) (ACHRE No. DOE-111694-A), 18.

103 . The researchers found: “There appears to be no significant difference between the dose received inside and outside of the body. This indicates that the radiation which reaches the body surface is of sufficiently high energy that it is not greatly attenuated by the body. If this is the case, then measurements made on the surface of the body are representative of the whole-body dose.” Ibid.

104 . James Reeves, Test Manager, to Colonel H. E. Parsons, Deputy for Military Operations, 11 April 1955 (“Radiation Dosage–Project 2.8, Operation Teapot”) (ACHRE No. DOE-122894-A), 1.

105 . Ibid.

106 . Banks et al., “Operation Teapot, Manned Penetrations of Atomic Clouds Project 2.8b,” 5.

107 . Ibid.

108 . One received 21.8 R and another received 21.7 R. Undated document (“On-Site Personnel Overexposure”) (ACHRE No. CORP-091394-A), 6.

109 . Pinson [attr.], 1956 [attr.], “Gentlemen: this morning I will discuss the following topics . . . ,” 3.

110 . “The aircraft were B-57Bs. No special filters were installed in the cockpit pressurization system. The pilots and technical observers were given free choice of the setting of their oxygen controls.” Colonel E. A. Pinson et al., 24 February 1960 (“Operation Redwing–Project 2.66a: Early Cloud Penetrations”) (ACHRE DOE-122894-B), 41.

111 . William Ogle, Headquarters, Task Group 7.1, to Commander Joint Task Force Seven, 8 November 1955 (“Maximum Permissible Radiation Exposure for Personnel Participating in Projects 2.66 and 11.2, Operation Redwing”) (ACHRE No. DOE-013195-A), 2.

112 . Pinson et al., “Operation Redwing–Project 2.66a: Early Cloud Penetrations,” 5.

113 . Ibid., 41.

114 . Ibid., 51.

115 . E. A. Pinson, interviewed by Patrick Fitzgerald (ACHRE), transcript of audio recording, 21 March 1995 (ACHRE Research Project Series, Interview Program File, Targeted Interview Project), 106.

116 . Ibid., 121.

117 . Office of Information Services to Headquarters, Air Research Development Command, 27 January 1956, 3.

118 . Clarke, “I Flew Through an Atomic Hell,” 62.

119 . Interview with Pinson, 21 March 1995, 94.

120 . Air Force Systems Command, “History of Air Force Atomic Cloud Sampling,” 66.

121 . Interview with Pinson, 21 March 1995, 15.

122 . Pinson [attr.], 1956 [attr.], “Gentlemen: this morning I will discuss the following topics . . . ,” 8.

123 . Raymond Thompson, “A Select Group of ARDC Men Collects Samples from the Mushrooms,” Baltimore Sun–Magazine Section, 1 May 1955, 17.

124 . Interview with Pinson, 21 March 1995, 38.

125 . “Center Scientists Fly Through Atom Clouds,” Atomic Flyer, 29 April 1955 (ACHRE No. DOE-122894-B), 1.

126 . Office of Information Services to Headquarters, Air Research Development Command, 27 January 1956, 2.

127 . Captain Paul M. Crumley et al., 11 October 1957 (“Operation Teapot–Project 2.8a: Contact Radiation Hazard Associated with Contaminated Aircraft [WT-1122]”) (ACHRE No. DOE-111694-A), 9.

128 . Ibid., 20.

129 . Ibid., 21.

130 . Colonel W. B. Kieffer, Deputy Commander, Air Force Special Weapons Center, to K. F. Hertford, Manager, AEC Albuquerque Operations Office, 21 March 1957 (“Recent discussion within the Air Force Special Weapons Center . . .”) (ACHRE No. DOE-033195-B), 2.

131 . Thomas Shipman, Los Alamos Laboratory Health Division Leader, to Al Graves, J-Division Leader, 29 March 1957 (“Decontamination of Aircraft at Tests”) (ACHRE No. DOE-040595-A), 1. Thomas Shipman also argued that the new procedures could compromise the scientific projects.

Without decontamination there will be inevitable migration of contamination carrying activity to other areas where it may be very undesirable. This letter has completely overlooked the fact that people working at tests invariably have neighbors with special requirements.

Ibid., 2.

132 . Harold F. Plank, to Alvin C. Graves, Los Alamos Laboratory J-Division Leader, 24 April 1957 (“Col. Kieffer’s Proposal for the Decontamination of Sampling Aircraft”) (ACHRE No. DOE-040595-A), 2.

133 . Colonel W. B. Kieffer, Deputy Commander, Air Force Special Weapons Center, to Colonel Wignall, 22 April 1957 (“Decontamination of Sampler Aircraft at Plumbbob”) (ACHRE No. DOE-040595-A), 1.

134 . James Reeves, Test Manager, Nevada Test Organization, to Commander, Air Force Special Weapons Center, Attention: Colonel W. B. Kieffer, Deputy Commander, 14 May 1957 (“Reference is made to your letter of March 21, 1957 . . . “) (ACHRE No. DOE-032895-A), 2.

135 . First Lieutenant William J. Jameson, 7 October 1957 (“Aircraft Decontamination Study”) (ACHRE No. DOE-022395-B), 1.

136 . The decontamination experiment had several further components. Lead vests were tested and found to provide a 6.0 percent reduction in exposure levels for air crews. In addition, the experiment tested the consequences of using a fork lift to remove air crews from contaminated planes versus the consequences of letting them climb out with a standard ladder. It concluded that the fork lift was unnecessary. Ibid., 5-6.

Also at Plumbbob a project was undertaken “to measure the radiation dose, both from neutrons and gamma rays, received by an air crew delivering an MB-1 rocket.” The report on the research states: “The Joint Chiefs of Staff approved the conduct of a test as a part of Operation Plumbbob in order to obtain the necessary experimental measurements.” The report indicates that six studies were involved. Captain Kermit C. Kaericher and First Lieutenant James E. Banks, 11 October 1957 (“Operation PLUMBBOB–Project 2.9: Nuclear Radiation Received by Aircrews Firing the MB-1 Rocket”) (ACHRE No. DOD-082294-A), 9.

137 . The Advisory Committee is also aware of three more research activities involving atomic veterans. As noted, the body fluid sampling research is discussed in chapter 13. In addition, as mentioned in endnotes in this chapter, the Advisory Committee notes experiments involving fallout shelters and the measurement of radiation exposure to air crews delivering the MB-1 rocket. The inclusion of the subjects of these three types of experiments, however, does not change our estimate that human research in connection with bomb tests involved no more than 3,000 subjects.

138 . DOD records did not permit the identification of individuals who participated in particular research projects, and remaining reports do not always indicate the number of subjects. The basis for the very rough estimate of 2,000 to 3,000 research subjects in the activities reviewed by the Committee including those noted in endnote 137 is (l) 1,500 to 2,200 test-site subjects in the psychological and physiological testing, based on reports, as cited in this chapter, for three experiments and an estimated maximum of 800 for the fourth; (2) a dozen test-site subjects in the 1955 body-fluid-sampling research, as cited in the report on this research referenced in chapter 13, and an assumed comparable number for the 1956 research, for which no similar figures appear available; (3) about 100 participants in the flashblindness research, an estimate DOD provided to the Committee; (4) in the range of perhaps one dozen or two dozen participants in aircrew experiments, and perhaps a dozen to several dozen participants in decontamination experiments; (5) perhaps several dozen participants in the protective equipment research; (6) sixteen participants in shelter research; and (7) several dozen participants in the officer volunteer program. See further endnotes for citations related to particular research.

139 . The permissible level of risk to which humans could be exposed in connection with bomb tests lay at the balance point of several factors. Radiation was not the only risk at issue; harm from blast and thermal burn were also possible.

140 . Barton C. Hacker, Elements of Controversy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 118.

141 . Marion W. Boyer, AEC General Manager, to Honorable Robert LeBaron, Chairman, Military Liaison Committee, 10 January 1951 (“As you know, one of the important problems . . .”) (ACHRE No. DOE-040395-B-1).

142 . Shipman to Warren, 15 September 1951, 1.

143 . Shields Warren, Director, AEC Division of Biology and Medicine, to Carroll Tyler, Manager, Sante Fe Operations Office, 11 October 1951 (“Permissible Levels of Radiation Exposure for Test Personnel”) (ACHRE No. DOE-013195-A), 1.

144 . Warren’s concern was not radiation risk, but injury from the blast. Shields Warren, Director, AEC Division of Biology and Medicine, to Brigadier General K. E. Fields, Director, Division of Military Application, 25 March 1952 (“Draft Staff Paper on Troop Participation in Operation Tumbler-Snapper”) (ACHRE No. DOE-040395-A), 1.

145 . Gordon Dean, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, to Brigadier General H. B. Loper, Chief, Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, 2 April 1952 (“Reference is made to letter of March 7, 1952 . . . “) (ACHRE No. DOD-100694-A), 2.

146 . Captain Harry H. Haight to General Fields, 21 August 1952 (“Exercise–Desert Rock IV”) (ACHRE No. DOE-013195-A), 1. According to this review of Desert Rock activities, “The military importance of permitting major personnel exposures or decreases in drifting distances is not evident from the report. For the Commission to prescribe one limitation for the test personnel and allow greater latitude for the DOD would seem to be unwise and unnecessary. The Commission should strongly object to any special dispensation to the DOD which could possibly result in personnel casualties whether immediate or delayed.” Ibid.

147 . Colonel John C. Oakes, by direction of the Chief of Staff, to Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, 5 June 1952 (“Indoctrination of Personnel in Atomic Warfare Operations”) (ACHRE No. NARA-112594-A), 1.

148 . C. D. Eddleman, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, 15 December 1952 (“Complete Discussion” [attachment to “Positioning of Troops at Atomic Weapons Tests”]), 1. In a 1953 memorandum to an AEC committee created to study the Nevada Test Site, Division of Biology and Medicine Director John Bugher similarly wrote:

While it may be stated with considerable certainty that no significant injury is going to result to any individual participating in test operations at the levels mentioned [3.9 R], and while it is true that the same thing would probably have to be said were the limits to be set two or three times as high, it nevertheless is true that there is no threshold to significant injury in this field, and the legal position of the Commission at once deteriorates if there is deliberate departure from . . . the accepted permissible limit.

John C. Bugher, Director, AEC Division of Biology and Medicine, to Members of the Committee to Study NPG, 8 September 1953 (“Interpretation of the Standards of Radiological Exposure”) (ACHRE No. DOE-040395-A), 3-4.

149 . M. W. Boyer, AEC General Manager, to Major General H. B. Loper, Chief, AFSWP, 8 January 1953 (“Reference is made to letter from Chief . . .”) (ACHRE No. DOE-121594-C-8), 2.

150 . Jark to Distribution, 20 February 1953, “Instructions for Positioning DA [Department of Army] Personnel at Continental Atomic Tests,” 1.

151 . Ibid., 2-3.

152 . General Cooney presented this view at a July 1951 conference on Past and Future Atomic Tests. Major Sven A. Bach, Development Branch, Research and Development Division, 12 July 1951 (“Conference at OCAFF, Fort Monroe, Virginia, re Past and Future Atomic Weapons Tests”) (ACHRE No. NARA-042295-C), 1.

153 . Atomic Energy Commission, minutes of meeting no. 862, 13 May 1953 (ACHRE DOE-013195-A), 2.

154 . Ibid.

155 . Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, to Chief of Naval Operations, 14 February 1952 (“Radiological Defense Training, comments and recommendations on”) (ACHRE No. DOD-080295-B), 1. The proposal would have limited “the dosage of all personnel to 0.3 roentgens per week.” Chief of Naval Operations to Chief, Bureau of Medicine, 23 January 1952 (“Atomic Defense Training”) (ACHRE No. DOD-080295-B), 1. The proposal originated with the Pacific Fleet. See Commander, Mine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, to Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 17 December 1951 (“Radiological Defense Training”) (ACHRE No. DOD-080295-B), 1. In counseling against the use of “area contamination,” BuMed solicited advice from the AEC on an isotope that “would have such characteristics that the internal hazard involved would be minimized even though amounts to be used would produce as much as 10 mr/hr, gamma radiation, three feet from the surface of the contaminated area.” Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, to Director, AEC Division of Biology and Medicine, February 1952 (“Radiological Defense Training, use of radioisotopes in”) (ACHRE No. DOD-080295-B), 1.

156 . Shipman’s comments were specifically directed at the establishment of standards for exposure to the general public. Thomas L. Shipman, Los Alamos Laboratory Health Division Leader, to Gordon Dunning, AEC Division of Biology and Medicine, 14 August 1956 (“Thanks for sending the draft concerning exposure . . .”) (ACHRE No. DOE-022195-C), 1.

157 . Department of Energy, Announced United States Nuclear Tests: July 1945 Through December 1992 (Springfield, Va.: National Technical Information Service, May 1993), 65 (shot Climax in 1953). In the early days, when entirely new types of experimental weapons were being rapidly developed and tested, it was not uncommon for a particular yield to exceed estimates by 50 percent or more. In an October 1957 memorandum to AEC Division of Biology and Medicine director Charles Dunham, Shipman explained that the unpredictability of weapons effects was making biomedical experimentation increasingly difficult. “All too often preshot estimates of yields etc. are just enough in error to make the results of effects tests useless.” Thomas L. Shipman, Los Alamos Laboratory Health Division Leader, to Charles Dunham, AEC Division of Biology and Medicine, 7 October 1957 (“Payne Harris is planning to attend the meeting . . .”) (ACHRE No. DOE-120894-C), 2.

158 . T. L. Shipman, Los Alamos Laboratory Health Division Leader, to Alvin C. Graves, J-Division Leader, 6 August 1956 (“Permissible Exposures”) (ACHRE No. DOE-021095-B), 1.

159 . Summary information provided by DOD in August 1995 provides a total of 216,507 participants in atmospheric tests, beginning with Trinity in 1945 and concluding with Dominic II in 1962. This tabulation shows about 1,200 instances of exposure in excess of 5 rem. The “total dose may have been measured by one or more film badges, may have been reconstructed, or may be the sum of both film badge data and reconstruction.” Some individuals participated in more than one test. Defense Nuclear Agency, 8 August 1995 (“Summary of External Doses for DOD Atmospheric Nuclear Test Participants as of 24 February 1994”) (ACHRE No. DOD-081195-A). See also testimony of Major General Ken Hagemann: Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, Human Radiation and Other Scientific Experiments: The Federal Government’s Role, 103d Cong., 2d Sess., 25 January 1994, 49-50.

Coincident with the beginning of epidemiological studies discussed in the text above, and growing congressional and public interest in the atomic vets, the Defense Department undertook an information-gathering effort called the “NTPR” (Nuclear Test Personnel Review). The NTPR includes a database, which seeks to include those who participated at tests in an effort to reconstruct the doses they received at tests, and a multivolume history of the bomb tests, which is available in many libraries.

160 . Stafford L. Warren, Radiological Safety Consultant, Joint Task Force One, to Admiral Parsons, 6 January 1947 (“Hazards from Residual Radioactivity on the Crossroads Target Vessels”) (ACHRE No. DOE-033195-B), 2.

161 . Jonathan M. Weisgall, Operation Crossroads: The Atomic Tests at Bikini Atoll (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1994), 210-214, 270-271. Only fragmentary records of the Medico-Legal Board remain.

162 . The Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory, the new research laboratory, was established at the Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco, the port to which some ships contaminated in the 1946 Crossroads tests were sent.

163 . George M. Lyon, Assistant Chief Medical Director for Research and Education, to Committee on Veterans Medical Problems, National Research Council, 8 December 1952 (“Medical Research Programs of the Veterans Administration”) (ACHRE No. VA-052594-A), 553.

164 . Ibid.

165 . Ibid.

166 . J. J. Fee, Commander, USN, as quoted in Weisgall, Operation Crossroads, 273-274.

167 . Lyon to Committee on Veterans Medical Problems, 8 December 1952, 554.

168 . Ibid.

169 . Ibid.

170 . Ibid. The report was retrieved by the VA at the time of the Advisory Committee’s formation in 1994. In an April 1994 statement to the Committee, VA Secretary Jesse Brown stated his determination to find the facts related to the Confidential Division. To this end the VA reviewed significant amounts of documentary information and called on its inspector general to conduct a further review.

171 . Ibid., 554.

172 . Ibid., 553-554.

173 . Major General Herbert B. Loper, Chief, AFSWP, to the Administrator, Veterans Administration, Attention: George M. Lyon, 8 August 1952 (“This activity has received information . . .”) (ACHRE No. DOD-100694-A), 1.

174 . Ibid. The specific rule or policy that provided for the record keeping referred to in this letter was not located. Thus, it is not clear whether the record keeping referred only to nuclear war-related exposures or more generally to exposures at bomb tests or other nuclear weapons-related activities as well.

175 . William Middleton, VA Chief Medical Director, to the VA Administrator, 13 May 1959 (“Recommendation for Administrator’s Exceptional Service Award”) (ACHRE No. VA-102594-A), 1.

176 . Ibid.

177 . “12 January 1995 Review of Effort to Identify Involvement with Radiation Exposure of Human Subjects,” Inspector General, Department of Veterans Affairs. The inspector general (IG) found that “an ‘Atomic Medicine Division’ was discussed as a means to deal with potential claims from veterans as a result of exposure to radiation from atomic bomb testing and to be the focal point for VA civil defense planning and support in case of nuclear war. However, claims did not materialize at that time and evidence indicates that the Division was not activated.” Stephen A. Trodden, VA Inspector General, to VA Chief of Staff, 12 January 1995 (“Review of Effort to Identify Involvement with Radiation Exposure of Human Subjects”) (ACHRE No. VA-011795-A), 1.

With regard to the 1952 history prepared by Dr. Lyon for the National Research Council, which has been previously quoted in the text, the IG stated that “the reference to the Atomic Medicine Division should not be taken literally as documentation that a Division was ever established.” Ibid., 4.

178 . In communications with Defense Department officials two alternatives were offered: (l) that the records may have been confidential medical examination data taken from participants in Crossroads, pursuant to a regulation providing for such exams; (2) that the records may have related to exposures of military scientists or technicians who worked at the Manhattan Project and were confidential because they contained weapons design or production-related data.

Navy regulations in 1947 provided that

All personnel, both military and civilian, who may be exposed to radiation or radioactive hazard, will be required to have a complete physical examination prior to commencing such duty. Special medical records separate from the normal individuals’ health records will be set up and they will be classified as confidential, until declassification is permitted.

Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, 31 January 1947 (“Appendix B–Current Directives; Subject: Safety Regulations for Work in Target Vessels formerly JTF-1”) (ACHRE No. DOD-020795-A), B-22. The Navy was not able to locate the records referred to.

The VA told the Committee that “the volume of classified records that are unaccounted for by the VA is too small to have constituted a defense against liability claims.” Susan H. Mather, M.D., M.P.H., letter to Dan Guttman (ACHRE), 17 July 1995. Based on discussions with the VA, the basis for this statement appears to be the fact that there were more than 200,000 test participants, and the safe maintained by Dr. Lyon (in which secret documents would presumably have been kept) was relatively small. In the absence of the documents themselves, the VA’s statement appears to be only one of several possible speculative alternatives. For example, the VA also explained that few claims eventuated in the period of Dr. Lyon’s service; thus, the magnitude of necessary filekeeping may not have been great. Alternatively, documents kept by Dr. Lyon could have been summary documents, which referred to materials in other files. Finally, the VA’s statement is also consistent with the possibility that files were kept but that their contents were deemed inadequate to constitute a defense against potential claims.

179 . NEPA Medical Advisory Panel, Subcommittee IX, proceedings of 22 July 1949 (ACHRE No. DOD-121494-A-2), 17-18. The meeting is further discussed in the Introduction.

180 . Ibid., 18.

181 . Ibid.

182 . Department of Defense, Research and Development Board, Committee on Medical Sciences, proceedings of 23 May 1950 (ACHRE No. DOD-080694-A), 10.

183 . Caldwell et al., “Leukemia Among Participants in Military Maneuvers at Nuclear Bomb Tests,” Journal of the American Medical Association 244, no. 14 (1980).

184 . Caldwell et al., “Mortality and Cancer Frequency Among Military Nuclear Test Participants, 1957 through 1959,” Journal of the American Medical Association 250, no. 5 (1983).

185 . C. D. Robinette et al., Studies of Participants in Nuclear Weapons Test: Final Report (Washington, D.C.: National Research Council, May 1985).

186 . See U.S. General Accounting Office, Nuclear Health and Safety: Mortality Study of Atmospheric Nuclear Test Participants Is Flawed (Gaithersburg, Md.: GAO, 1992), 4. Helen Gelband, Health Program, Office of Technology Assessment, Mortality of Nuclear Weapons Tests Participants (Washington, D.C.: Office of Technology Assessment, August 1992), 4.

187 . The data appear in table 1 of Clark W. Heath, Chairman, Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on the Mortality of Military Personnel Present at Atmospheric Tests of Nuclear Weapons, and John E. Till, Chairman, IOM Dosimetry Working Group, to D. Michael Schaeffer, Program Manager, DNA Nuclear Test Personnel Review, 15 May 1995 (“A Review of the Dosimetry Data Available in the Nuclear Test Personnel Review [NTPR] Program: An Interim Letter Report of the Committee to Study the Mortality of Military Personnel Present at Atmospheric Tests of Nuclear Weapons”) (ACHRE No. NAS-051595-A), 9.

188 . Hacker, Elements of Controversy, 96.

189 . The memo explained that the need had been foreseen, but the request for dosimeters had only been partially filled. The memo recorded that 175 “0-5 R dosimeters” were on hand at the Nevada Test Site, but a minimum of 325 were needed for an operation the size of Upshot-Knothole. Colonel Leonard F. Dow, Acting Director, Weapons Effects Tests, to Manager, AEC Santa Fe Operations, 19 February 1954 (“Rad-Safe Equipment for Nevada Proving Grounds”) (ACHRE No. DOE-020795-D), 1.

190 . Irving L. Branch, Chief of Staff, AFSWP, to Chief of Research and Development, OCS, Department of the Army, 20 January 1956 (“Annex ‘A’ to 2nd Indorsement: Detailed Explanation of AFSWP Comments on Feasibility of Human Volunteer Program”) (ACHRE No. DOD-030895-F), 2.

191 . Clark W. Heath and John E. Till, IOM, to D. Michael Schaeffer, DNA, “An Interim Letter Report of the Committee to Study the Mortality of Military Personnel Present at Atmospheric Tests of Nuclear Weapons,” 15 May 1995.

192 . K. K. Watanabe, H. K. Kang, and N. A. Dalager, “Cancer Mortality Risk Among Military Participants of a 1955 Atmospheric Nuclear Weapons Test,” American Journal of Public Health 85 (April 1995).

193 . S. Raman, G. S. Dulberg, R. A. Spasoff, and T. Scott, “Mortality Among Canadian Military Personnel Exposed to Low Dose Radiation,” Canadian Medical Association Journal 136 (1987): 1051-1056.

194 . S. C. Darby, G. M. Kendall, T. P. Fell et al., “A Summary of Mortality and Incidence of Cancer in Men from the United Kingdom Who Participated in the United Kingdom’s Atmospheric Nuclear Weapon Tests and Experimental Programs,” British Medical Journal 296 (1988): 332-338.

195 . Human Radiation Experiments: The Federal Government’s Role, Hearings before the Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, 103d Cong., 2d Sess., 25 January 1994, 160.

196 . DNA, “Summary of External Doses for DOD Atmospheric Nuclear Test Participants as of 24 February 1994.”

197 . These laws are further discussed in the Committee’s recommendations. In enacting the 1984 Veterans’ Dioxin and Radiation Exposure Compensation Standards Act, Congress, among other items, found

(8) The ‘film badges’ which were originally issued to members of the Armed Forces in connection with the atmospheric nuclear test program have previously constituted a primary source of dose information for . . . veterans filing claims . . . .

(9) These film badges often provide an incomplete measure of radiation exposure, since they were not capable of recording inhaled, ingested, or neutron doses (although the DNA currently has the capability to reconstruct individual estimates of such doses), were not issued to most of the participants in nuclear tests, often provided questionable readings because they were shielded during the detonation, and were worn for only limited periods during and after each nuclear detonation.

(10) Standards governing the reporting of dose estimates in connection with radiation-related disability claims . . . vary among the several branches of the Armed Services, and no uniform minimum standards exist.

198 . For example, Frances Brown, of Southwick, Massachusetts, told the Committee of her late husband’s experience as a navigator who flew through clouds at weapons tests. Colonel Brown was assigned the duty and was given no protective clothing; he died of cancer in 1983. Ms. Brown shared with the Committee the story of years of inquiry, and her continuing inability to obtain all documents that might shed light on the duty he undertook in the service of his country.

Nancy Lynch, of Santa Barbara, California, told the Committee of her late husband’s involvement in the Desert Rock exercises at Operation Teapot in 1955 and her questions regarding the dose reconstruction that was ultimately provided by the government.

Vernon Sousa, a San Francisco veteran, told of years of government “stonewalling” of his information requests. He explained that the oath of secrecy he had taken limited his own ability to discuss the tests for decades after his time in the service ended.

Charles McKay of Severna Park, Maryland, a Navy diver at Operation Crossroads, recalled that he received no briefing on radiation risks before his participation. Mr. McKay said that he received a very low dose reconstruction report from the government, which he believed to be highly inaccurate because it did not take into account diving experiences on Crossroads wrecks.

Rebecca Harrod Stringer of St. Augustine, Florida, wrote to the Committee about the Navy service of her late father in Operation Dominic I, a nuclear weapons test in the Pacific, and the fifteen years it took to obtain copies of his military and medical records.

Linda Terry of California talked of obtaining information about her late father’s experiences at the Buster-Jangle tests in 1951-52. She called for full disclosure of information about the weapons tests “so that families do not have to live in the darkness” of not knowing.

Harry Lester of Albuquerque, New Mexico, testified that he was responsible for cleanup at Operation Castle and that he experienced radiation sickness as a result of his exposure. After his involvement in Castle, he was shipped to an Albuquerque hospital every six months for examinations. He told the Committee that his full records remain to be found.

Langdon Harrison of Albuquerque told the Committee about his experiences in cloud flying activities at Operations Redwing and Plumbbob. He recalled routine carelessness in the handling of the film badges of the pilots of cloud flythroughs and occasions when significantly different dose readings were recorded on film badges and personal dosimeters.

Representatives of “atomic veterans” organizations also shared with the Committee information collected in years of research on behalf of themselves and others. These included Pat Broudy of California, whose late husband died of lymphoma and had served at the occupation of Nagasaki, Bikini, and in three Nevada tests; Dr. Oscar Rosen of Massachusetts, who participated in Crossroads; and Fred Allingham of California, whose father served in the occupation of Nagasaki and died several years later of leukemia.

199 . The new rules stemmed from the development of a new howitzer. Late in the development cycle a medical hazards review found that alteration to the firing routine was needed if the weapon was to be employed without injuring U.S. soldiers. The discovery caused a long and expensive delay while biomedical studies of blast overpressure effects were done in animals and man and engineering solutions were sought to reduce the hazard. After this experience, the Army determined to conduct health hazard assessments (HHAs) early in the development of weapons and equipment, so that new material is not brought on line with unnecessarily great health and safety risk to the troops using it.

Relevant DOD directives (DODD) and Army regulations are the following: DODD 5000.1, “Defense Acquisition”; DODD 5000.2,” “Defense Acquisition Management Policies and Procedures”; AR 70-1; “Army Acquisition Policy”; AR 602-1, “Human Factors Engineering Program”; AR 602-2, “Manpower and Personnel Integration (MANPRINT) in the System Acquisition Process”; AR 385-16, “System Safety Engineering and Management”; AR 40-10, “Health Hazard Assessment Program in Support of the Army Material Acquisition Decision Process”; and AR 70-75, “Survivability of Army Personnel and Material.”

end quote.

It can be seen that a primary purpose of nuclear weapons conducted at the Nevada Test Site was the Indoctrination of troops who reasonably faced the prospect of conducting warfare on nuclear battlefields within the context of the times – the Cold War era.

Part of this Indoctrination – I would say the main point of it – was the “battle hardening” of troops within the context of a realistic rehearsal under actual live fire.

None of this is strange to anyone who has served in the military. Soldiers have crawled under barbed fire under a a barrage of live fire aimed above them by their compatriots routinely as a training routine. It is conventional. To the military mind, extending the principle of battle hardening from bullets and rifle noise to nuclear blast and dust seems logical.

However, the problem has always been that the multiple effects of nuclear weapons extend over an area rather than a trajectory. The idea of nuclear troops crawling under a nuclear line of fire is a nonsense. One may be within or without the “effective range” of the immediate gamma and neutron burst, but the reality of local, continental and global fallout of significance has been acknowledged by all nuclear weapon states since the 1960s.

The problem with battle hardening nuclear troops centres around the reality of ultimate long term safety. Even at the time of the nuclear tests, military authorities at one level knew that exposure levels claimed to be safe at nuclear test sites, and to which troops were exposed, were in fact unsafe. eg: “In response, the AFSWP pointed out that the injury threshold could not be determined “without eventually exceeding it.”[57] The Army was essentially proposing human beings be exposed to the detonation’s blast effects to the point of injury. The proposal, an AFSWP memo explained, would not pass muster under the rules of the Nevada Test Site and was otherwise unacceptable:

In particular, it is significant that the long range effect on the human system of sub-lethal doses of nuclear radiation is an unknown field. Exposure of volunteers to doses higher than those now thought safe may not produce immediate deleterious effects; but may result in numerous complaints from relatives, claims against the Government, and unfavorable public opinion, in the event that deaths and incapacitation occur with the passage of time.[58]

Further, while it might be reasonable to assume that panic on the battlefield would cost lives – whether the panic be due to the sudden appearance of a superior enemy weapon such as a battle tank or a close in nuclear weapon blast – it is not reasonable to ignore the awareness that existed even in the 1950s that exposure to radiation has the potential to produce both long and immediate effects. (the nature of the immediate effects being a major subject disagreement between nuclear victims (both military and civilian (the Downwinders) and the US government from the 1950s until today.

The life expectancy of an infantry soldier on a conventional battle field may be very short – days, weeks, months, on average. What it actually is on a nuclear battle field can in fact only be gauged by looking now at the fate of the soldiers who took part in indoctrination rehearsals such as Shot Hood. (This holds true of the British and Australian Indoctrination troops). While real nuclear battle field combat has not yet taken place is no comfort to those who have suffered and died due to their military experiences on the nuclear test sites of the world. It is no comfort to those civilians living down wind of the nuclear test sites who suffered the same fates as the sickened and killed nuclear veterans.

There is no doubt that the long term injury threshold was exceeded. There is evidence that the immediate term injury threshold was exceeded. Though governments deny this.

Is there a threshold? Is any dose safe? Certainly not if one holds to the concept of the accumulated dose – that doses, even doses received decades apart, add up and so compound risk over time, for the lifetime.

Only if one can see the future with certainty can one claim a particular dose to be “very low risk”.

As an example:
No doubt the X Ray department of Hiroshima Hospital continued its work prior to August 1945 in the assumption that it’s treatment and diagnostic doses would be safe for its patients.

No doubt, throughout the 1950s, the X ray department of Los Vegas Hospital continued to work on the assumption that its treatment and diagnostic doses would be safe for patients. Not withstanding the fact that the fallout released by the more than 100 nuclear bomb detonations conducted at Nevada Test Site over a decade exceeded that produced by the failure of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor by a factor of four.

(Though one wonders at the comparison of the degree of risk imposed by the fallout compared to the medical exposures. No doubt though, all exposures accumulate and present as an accumulated risk. No doubt at all. Some much for the false theory of the “Goldilocks” “just right” dose proposed by the cult of hormesis. The cult which seems to be a major driver in current events in the Prefecture of Fukushima.)

It can be seen by the findings of the President’s Committee quoted above that panic control was a major aim of the military during the nuclear test era. And that the military thought it desirable to produce as much realism as possible in it’s rehearsal of the nuclear battle field. To the extent that the military, of course, considered the real event of troops encountering enemy within the primary nuclear target zone.

This would achieve two things. 1. Wounded enemy encountered by uninjured troops would provide contrast to the troops: “Poor bastards, lucky the Army knows what’s it is doing”. Of course, the flipside thought to this would be “Shit, that could be me.” Which thought occurs first in the mind of any trooper would be determined by the nature of each individual. Relief for the optimist and fear for the pessimist I suppose. To this day nuclear authorities recognize this reality; to see this just study the news feeds from Japan since 3/11. Enter governmental organisations have been engaged in a process of “conditioning” since March 2011 which the above ACHRE quotation puts into perspective.

I cannot prove that Britain, Australia and the USA used captives as proxy enemy, chained closed in at nuclear test sites prior to nuclear detonations. Britain and Australia ordered troops, especially Radiac contingents, into close in areas very soon after detonations. This is on the record. The bitumen was still burning and the sand and clay still thermally hot. Rabbits, fur on fire, ran here and there, and flocks of birds fell died from the sky. One rabbit was collected and placed in a large thermos and shipped to England.

I can say repeat with certainty the things the National Secretary of the Australian Atomic ExServicemen’s Association has written and has told me. For I see him as an honest witness. Terry and others hear human screams issue from bunkers close in immediately after a bomb detonation at Maralinga.

What I cannot understand is how or why successive governments of Japan have economically compelled the occupation of forward areas by children since March 2011 and since the very premature declaration of return to formerly exclusion areas downwind of Fukushima Diiachi.

An exploding nuclear reactor is not an atomic bomb. But failure of containment at an exploding nuclear power plant releases, essentially, the same radio chemical material as do both an atomic bomb and the more sophisticated type of radiological weapons.

Get the children way out range of this material Mr. Abe.

There is something else.

Anyone who knows anything at all about the lot and the fate of nuclear veterans knows this:

Long before the admitted great elevation in risk from cancers manifest in this group, the people suffer decades of chronic ill health. A chronic syndrome involving multiple physiological systems and which, itself, extracts a very heavy toll. This condition is radiogenic, chronic and often, after years, lethal. It is a condition denied existence by Western governments. Despite the evidence to the contrary. It is a condition suffered by civilian Downwinders in the high fallout states of the USA.

The Japanese doctors and survivors of August 1945 called it Bura Bura Disease. The USSR from 1950 on called it Chronic Radiation Syndrome, as does Russia today.