Nuclear Guinea Pigs: Canadian and American Troops At Ground Zero

November 13, 2007

dog2-alt1.jpgRecent articles in national and local newspapers have brought attention to a hidden and shameful part of American and Canadian military history. 

(Left: A-bomb and troops at Nevada Test Site. In this photo they are only 6 miles away. Official U.S. military photo.)

During the Cold War in the 1950s the United States was actively testing nuclear weapons in the Nevada desert.  As part of these atmospheric tests it was decided to see how ground troops would fare at ground zero of the explosions. At the request of the American military Canadian troops were sent to take part in the tests. The Canadian troops were exposed to at least six atomic bomb detonations in 1957 at the Nevada Test Site. “Operation Plumbbob” was a series of 29 atomic explosions conducted from May 28 to October 7, 1957 at the Nevada Test Site. It was the most controversial test series because military troops were heavily involved.

The troops were placed within several miles or less from ground zero. The wore normal field uniforms with no protective gear other than masks to protect against the dust of the explosion. Oh yes, foxholes were dug and the troops tool shelter in them. Once the explosion took place and the dust settled they were then ordered to walk into the center of the explosion.  All this while technicians dressed in spacesuit-like outfits monitored them for radiation. Most troops were very young and newly enlisted. They wondered why these alien-like scientists were dressed in all this gear and they weren’t, but most said that they were trusting in their superiors and willing to follow orders. They trusted that their superiors knew enough to protect their safety.

pbsmoky2.jpgApproximately 18,000 members of the American and Canadian military were exposed to these explosions.

“The military was interested in knowing how the average foot-soldier would stand up, physically and psychologically, to the rigors of the tactical nuclear battlefield.

(Above: A-bomb test “Smoky” which exposed several thousand troops to radiation. Part of Operation Plumbbob tests held during 1957. Official U.S. military photo.) 

“These exercises exposed the servicemen to relatively high levels of radiation. A survey of these servicemen in 1980 found significantly elevated rates of leukemia: ten cases, instead of the baseline expected four.” (Source Wikipedia article – see link below)

The atomic weapons being tested yielded more than twice the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb. Because the tests were mainly ground bursts the resulting dust storm was highly radioactive. Scientists conducting these tests were well aware of the effects of such bombs to humans. In fact many of them had visited the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagaski to see first-hand the effects of a nuclear bomb on humans. They had seen what radiation sickness was doing to the surviving citizens of these cities. There can be no excuse for their callous use of these troops for their self-serving experiments. They knew full well that the men were being exposed to dangerous radiation levels.

American troops that took part in these tests have been officially compensated, if that is truly possible. Canada has done nothing so far to even attempt to compensate the troops. In fact the Canadian government has not been forthcoming with information on the tests that the troops participated in. These is actually much more information on the internet from official sources. The men are slowly dying off which seems to be fine with the government because then they won’t have to compensate them. This is shameful and reeks of coverup.  All this at a time of year when we are honoring our veterans. Veterans of the testing of these horrible weapons of mass destruction deserve better.

First of all both governments need to admit that they were wrong in using human guinea pigs in these tests. Then they need to compensate them as best as possible for their service.

More Reading:

“Victim of A-bomb testing dies awaiting federal redress”, by David Pugliese, CanWest News Service, Calgary Herald, November 13, 2007. (This article was the inspiration for my post, but no quotes have been used.)

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