Home Front / Bomb Testing / conclusion

Later improvements consisted of a 5,000-foot airstrip, an upgraded sewer system, dozens of semi-permanent buildings, including Quonset-and Butler-type steel buildings, over 500 concrete tent pads, and trailers for housing, administration, storage, and other uses. There were chapels, an open-air-theater with wooden bleachers and an elevated stage, a barber shop, and a beer tent. The open-air theater hosted entertainers from Las Vegas who came to Camp Desert Rock to perform for the troops. The camp had its own telephone system nicknamed the “Camp Desert Rock Telephone Company.” By the time Exercise Desert Rock VI had started in 1954, the camp had grown to 133 semi-permanent buildings and more than 500 framed squad tents. Large prefabricated buildings were built to serve as Signal and Quartermaster warehouses. The ordnance yard gained a pair of prefabricated storage buildings.

A helicopter landing area next to the airstrip was added for storing, maintaining, and refueling helicopters prior to exercises. Many of these later improvements to Camp Desert Rock were carried out by the Shore Battalion, 369th Engineer Amphibious Support Regiment, 95th Engineer Construction, 412th Engineer Construction, and 314th Signal Construction Battalions.

In October 1951, as part of Operation Buster-Jangle, the Army and the AEC prepared to test the ability of men and machines to move through ground zero within minutes after the detonation of an atomic bomb. The first shot did not involve live troops. Instead, various types of military equipment including Jeeps, trucks, tanks, personnel carriers, and half-tracks were to be used. Some were buried to various depths at distances ranging from two hundred yards to three miles from ground zero, while others were completely exposed. Heat, blast, and radiation sensors monitored the effects on each vehicle.

Soldiers from the 11th Airborne Division’s 188th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 127th Engineer Battalion, and the 546th Field Artillery Battalion observe a nuclear detonation called Buster Dog during Operation Buster- Jangle, six miles from ground zero at NTS, October 1951

In addition to observing nuclear detonations, troops received training in radiation and nuclear weapons effects. Personnel assigned to the camp were provided booklets that explained the importance of secrecy. They were prohibited from discussing nuclear tests, military maneuvers, or any effects they felt from the tests. They were also warned about the dangers of poisonous snakes and insects found in the Nevada desert, but the more deadly danger of radiation was rarely discussed. One training film said that radiation was “the least important effect” and that it was fatal only within a mile of a nuclear detonation. The men were taught that they could “live through an atomic attack and live to fight another day” and that a nuclear explosion “is one of the most beautiful sights ever seen by man.”

Exercise Desert Rock operations were staffed and administered by the Sixth Army’s III Corps. Exercise troops were assigned to Camp Desert Rock for periods lasting several weeks to participate in a particular military training program. Operation Buster-Jangle, comprised of seven nuclear detonations in late 1951, was the first nuclear test series during which a large number of troops assigned to Camp Desert Rock received realistic training in the tactical aspects of nuclear warfare. Over 6,500 troops, including those from the Army’s Atomic Maneuver Battalion, took part in the operation. Additional tests that took place over the years measured the blast and radiation effects on buildings, vehicles, various weapon systems, and animals.

188th/11th Airborne Division patch

Original plans called for the Army to dismantle Camp Desert Rock following Buster-Jangle and return all support units to their home stations. Instead, the Army ultimately chose to keep the camp open as a permanent installation to support additional nuclear tests. Immediately after Operation Plumbbob’s Galileo shot on 7 October 1957, the camp reverted to standby status, with a small caretaker staff remaining at the post. After the suspension of above-ground testing in 1957, the camp ceased operation as an Army sub installation effective 18 June 1964. Many of the camp’s structures were moved to other parts of the NTS.

The AEC resurfaced and enlarged the Desert Rock airstrip in 1969, extending the runway to a length of 7,500 feet. Although this airstrip was originally built to serve the NTS, it is currently an emergency landing site for any aircraft. Later additions included a National Weather Service facility and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Surface Radiation (SURFRAD) station.

A number of troops assigned to Camp Desert Rock received realistic training in the tactical aspects of nuclear warfare. Over 6,500 troops, including those from the Army’s Atomic Maneuver Battalion, took part in the operation. Additional tests that took place over the years measured the blast and radiation effects on buildings, vehicles, various weapon systems, and animals.

In August 2010, the NTS was renamed the Nevada National Security Site. Most of the remaining Camp Desert Rock facilities except the airstrip were dismantled and salvaged for scrap. Today, the camp’s remains are located on Department of Energy property.

National Atomic Testing Museum, Las Vegas, NV

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Shout Out >>>>>

I think it is wonderful so many readers responded to our last Shout Out.  Isn’t it great to show one the Greatest Generation how much we think of them?  We now have a veteran who served in the US Navy, Pacific Theater turning 99-years old on 23 March 2020.  How about a birthday card folks?!!!

Arthur Hashagen

211 Persimmon Circle West

Dover, DE   19901

World War II vet’s family asks for cards for 99th birthday

 

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Murlen Berry – Weatherford, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. E/187/11th Airborne Division

Ray Catan – brn: ITA; US Navy, WWII, ETO

Frederick Dempsey – Lexington, KY; US Army, WWII & Korea

Claude Horne – Bleckley County, GA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, fighter pilot / West Point flight instructor

Gordon Jenke – Murray Valley, AUS; RAAF # 48753

John McDonald – Hollister, CA; USMC, WWII, CBI, 2nd Lt., & Korea

Joseph Pallotto – Wallingsford, CT; US Navy, WWII, USS Lake Champlain

Elwood Scheib – Berrysberg, PA; US Army, 188/11th Airborne Division, atomic test witness

Samuel Shields – Meridian, ID; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, SSgt., 874th Airborne Engineers

Royce R. Wood – Gadsden, AL; US Army, Vietnam, helicopter gunner, 1st Cavalry

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on February 20, 2020, in Home Front, Post WWII, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 89 Comments.

  1. Glad I read through to this post gp, very interesting topic all round, don’t think tests like that will ever be carried out in a similar scenario these days, in my previous comment I had pondered the subsequent demise of the Camp, did think it would be closed down.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for following through in the whole series, Ian. It appears that Camp Desert Rock was on Federal land, not Indian territory (which I’m happy about). The airport built so that Kennedy could view the blasts is still operational too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. By the time you are mentioning in your post the only people who new about these tests and aftermaths of them was scientists, military guys and probably their families. Nowadays because of wide spread of information in different kind of media everybody who is interested in that can get a lot of facts. The latest source about danger of nuclear explosions many people could see in the movie “Chernobyl” Most of the facts from this movie are true. Unfortunately, Pandora box was opened by the end of 1940th and for now it is impossible to close it and forget about this horrible human creation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A nuclear explosion “is one of the most beautiful sights ever seen by man.” What?!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reality is a chilling thing, GP. I’m used to truth being stranger than fiction — because it sure is! But truth is also more frightening than horror stories. You brought that out so well with “One training film said that radiation was “the least important effect” and that it was fatal only within a mile of a nuclear detonation. The men were taught that they could “live through an atomic attack and live to fight another day” and that a nuclear explosion “is one of the most beautiful sights ever seen by man.’ ” And people still buy-in to the most absurd claims. Thanks for the cartoons at the end. LOL, the “walk on water” one reminds me of review/appraisal time. Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t want to be the XO or Captain – better yet….not being on the same shift as those cooks! LOL! Thanks for a good laugh! Plus I did not know that Master Chief could walk on water – thought only God did! Happy weekend GP! Love this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yeah, guys, worry about the rattle snakes, not the radiation.
    A “beer tent,” now we are talking my language. I would have spent a lot of time there fighting off the radiation.
    Wonder what the UFOs thought about the site? Thanks for this series, G. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is amazing how the camp grew. A chapel, too. How interesting, I had no idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I appreciate your visit and thanks for taking an interest here.

    Like

  9. I still can’t believe the US did that with our own soldiers

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It infuriates me the way they lied to the men and told them the radiation had little effect and the sight of a nuclear explosion was beautiful. With all the studies the government does on inconsequential things, surely there is information gathered about the effects the radiation had on the men involved as well as their families and offspring.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ll be posting another card from Australia….. These personal stories are a great reminder of those who have gone before us. Looking at the photos of these young men and women reminds us that it all happened not that long ago and reiterates why we don’t want to lose our young people to war ever again.
    Thanks for the heads up.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. It’s been a fascinating insight into early atomic testing. There was an almost blasé approach to safety in those days, primarily due to lack of knowledge. I wonder how many troops may have suffered as a result.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Isn’t it something that we hear so much about the ‘experiments’ carried out on human subjects by the German Nazis and other groups, and so little about that was, in essence, a years’-long experiment on our own citizens. The reasons are obvious, I suppose, but it’s still disappointing (shocking, disheartening) to read about what was going on out in the desert.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Wow. Just wow. I knew a lot of the key parts of this testing, but not the details you’ve provided. Growing up in a military home with my Grandfather (WWII USAF) and uncle (Vietnam US Army) telling stories of their adventures, it’s funny how often I still get surprised when the uncle comes up with something else that’s no longer “classified” or we find some documents of my grandfather’s that tell us a lot more that went on than he ever shared. Thank you for this story!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. The crap they fed those soldiers (and I’m NOT referring to the chow) was incredible. I hope they did not suffer fatal indigestion or some other form of sustained suffering from the testing. Like the out. Mine will appear tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I suppose we were part of “most of Europe,” and we have heard, somewhat, but considering the tests in Kazakhstan conducted with minimal safety precautions, I don’t think Russians wanted to attract too much attention.
    As we are scheduled to go to Vegas for a few days next month, I’ll see if I can tear myself away from business to visit this museum – thank you, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. That was an interesting series, GP. And good comics. My daughter just had her fitrep. Yeah…

    Liked by 1 person

  18. “Radiation” “the least important effect.” WOW.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. As always, thanks for the education, and the shout-outs for our veterans. Hashagen’s story is incredible!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Amazing how no one realized that the radiation was so dangerous. Maybe they hadn’t seen the reports from Japan?

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Unbelievable comment about the beauty of the mushroom cloud. Gotta wonder how many of these troops came down with various cancers. Great report, GP

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Dear CP Cox,
    you are right, we hadn’t heard of it in Germany. In the beginning of the fifties I was too young to be interested in such news. But my parents and grandparents were very much politically involved and connected. They would have spoken about these tests if they would have known.
    Thanks for helping us fighting our ignorance
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  23. The men were taught that they could “live through an atomic attack and live to fight another day” and that a nuclear explosion “is one of the most beautiful sights ever seen by man.” Too bad we don’t know the term “Fake News” at that time. Beautiful but deadliest! Great series GP. I learned something new.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I find it chilling, even now, that they warned troops about the dangers from snakes and spiders at the same time as telling them that they had nothing to worry about where radiation was concerned. From the date on the camp information guide, I see this was the same year I was born.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. This has been a wonderful series, GP. Thanks so much for the research and the time it must have taken to distill this into an easy to understand presentation. You did a great job educating me on something I knew almost nothing about. I knew about the tests in the Pacific, but I had no idea how extensive the program was.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Did they monitor the troops health over the years since?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not that I have been able to locate just yet. But I have been going over the “Taps” column from my current and past issues of the 11th A/B newspaper and I do not see obituaries of the 188th as different than the rest of the division. (After the occupation, the 187th went to the Korean War; 188th and 127th to Desert Rock and the remainder to Germany for the cold war.)

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Great article, George…this information, all new to me, is extremely interesting…

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Needless to say, I’d had no idea about all this.

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  30. Thank you for including my post on your site.

    Like

  1. Pingback: Operation Dribble and Related Atomic Test Code Names, Baxterville / Lumberton – Mississippi Mondays February 24, 2020 | Ups and Downs of Family History V2.0

  2. Pingback: Home Front / Bomb Testing / conclusion (with links to Parts 1 and 2) — Pacific Paratrooper | Ups and Downs of Family History V2.0

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