A MESSAGE FROM THE VICE-COMMANDER
I was asked, recently, to write a forward for Bill McGee’s new book, Lest We Forget, An Eyewitness
Account, Atomic Bomb Tests at Bikini Atoll, 1946. Release of this book is anticipated for Late June, 2016.
Inevitably, as I was writing the forward, I was reminded that the horrible death and destruction caused by the
bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki caused many in the United States to call for elimination, or at least outlawing of nuclear weapons.
As we all know, though, our government eventually decided in favor, not only of retaining a nuclear initiative,
but also of enhancement and further testing of the devices. The ultimate consequence of that decision, of course, was a series of atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons which involved at least 235 detonations
over a period of seventeen years. More than a quarter million US military personnel participated in these tests, which were conducted in the South Pacific and in the southwestern United States.
What people reacted to so strongly in 1945 was the immediate destruction and death caused by the atomic bombs
dropped on Japan; these, of course, were attributable to two effects, concussion and heat. But these weapons produced something far more insidious, ionizing radiation! And, in their euphoria over having
a new and powerful weapon, military and political leaders in this country had a tendency to minimize that aspect.
One effect of an atomic detonation is the dispersion of numerous radioactive particles, both on the surrounding
area and into the atmosphere. The radioactive emissions from these particles cannot be seen, heard, touched, smelled or tasted. Nevertheless, exposure to radiation can cause significant damage to living
cells. Furthermore, some varieties of radiation remains capable of causing such damage for literally thousands of years.
I felt in 1946, and I feel today, that atomic bombs are unacceptable as weapons for several
reasons. Two of those reasons are their tendency to injure the very people who are using them, and the fact that a vast area around the site where they explode is essentially uninhabitable. We who have
been witness to these effects have a duty to spread that message. But we are aging and “dying off.” It is imperative that we encourage the younger generations of Atomic Veterans (atomic
cleanup personnel, depleted uranium victims, and others) to take their place in this fight and to continue it when we are gone.