Veterans Stories – The Atomic Marine

An eye-witness story concerning Desert Rock!

William R. Ablan, pen name of Richard L. Muniz

“They put us out in the middle of nowhere.” Sheriff Toby Madrid had his hands wrapped around a cup of black coffee, his feet up on the desk. The casual laid back attitude belied the tension in his jaw. He also wasn’t looking at JR or me as he spoke, but at the wall. It was almost that if he looked at us, he’d never finish talking about what he had to say.

“They told us we were there to be part of an atomic bomb test.”

welcometodesertrockThe test the Sheriff was talking about was part of what we know today as the Desert Rock Exercises.  My research seems to single him out for what was called Desert Rock IV, or a series of tests called Operation Tumbler-Snapper.

From 1951 to 1957, at the Nevada Proving Grounds, a small camp called Camp Desert Rock was built. Its job was…

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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 March 5, 2020, in First-hand Accounts, Home Front, Post WWII, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 91 Comments.

  1. And then Britain followed up with several similar tests on Australian soil. One of the fellows who lives here was part of the British forces at the time. He describes standing out in the desert with only army-issue shorts, no shirt, no protective equipment, etc, and being told to turn away from the blast and cover their eyes with their hands.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is one of the most vivid accounts I’ve read about early exposure to the bomb and its effects. They were so ignorant of the dangers in those days!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s an incredible account. It is almost unbelievable that we took our soldiers and lined them up to see what happens after a nuclear blast.

    Great history. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Glad I wasn’t there. I’m guessing none of the victims and their families were compensated in any way for the illness’ and deaths? Using your own people for guinea pigs.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So scary, G, that we would use our soldiers like that, sacrificing their lives so to speak. And for what.
    “A high number of military personnel who participated in the Desert Rock tests developed cancers and other symptoms associated with exposure to fallout and radiation. Many ended up dying.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I might not have noticed the use of the word ‘downwinder’ on the linked blog, had I not come across it in a blog by a Montanan who lived downwind of the nuclear plant there, and lost family members because of it. No one intends such consequences, but unintended consequences kill just as surely.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m late reading this, GP – I usually read your posts the day they are published.
    I had forgotten about this human guinea pig story of atomic testing. Chilling reminder …

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Absolutely incomprehensible, an experience from Hell, forever engraved on the mind, no further words can describe my response.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Don´t lie GP.
    Sheriff Madrid…. I live here so you are taling about me, just say it!!!!!
    Sorry, wonderful story to learn, who knew?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Uf. 😦 Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Another example of the malevolence of naïveté.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks again for another experience by someone who was there when it happened. You know how much I enjoy these tales. Still feel our government had little concern for the health of its citizens. All is fair in love and war, especially war.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow! 😦
    Thank you for sharing this, GP! This one of those times in history that should not be forgotten.
    (((HUGS)))
    PS…Did you see this? One of the Rosie The Riveters died.

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/rosalind-p-walter-first-rosie-130939586.html

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Speaking of warning people, I guess the remote possibility of igniting the atmosphere was absolutely, positively, dismissed prior to the first test which would assume their physics and math calculations were 100% correct! (Obviously, whatever criteria they used to predict radiation poisoning was NOT accurate.) Can you imagine the trepidation of that first test …to those who knew about the possibility of not only ending the war, but the earth as well …and were not fully confident of the calculations! M 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember that fear of starting an uncontrolled chain reaction was especially strong when they tested the hydrogen bomb too. Power does strange things to people.

      Like

  15. A great post and went along with what I I just read that today, on March 5, 1946 the term “Iron Curtain” was brought into prominence. The label had been around since the 19th century, but after Winston Churchill’s speech at Fulton, Missouri, U.S., on March 5, 1946, it became a household word. He said of the communist state, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” Always enjoy your posts and discussions!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. My comment here below, same as my comment there at source—

    “One gathers from these tests that none of the brass or politicos took part as guinea pigs. For the life of me I just can’t sleep at night trying to think why?”

    —and the (glib?) (naaaahhh) reason has to be “Oh~! But of course, we just didn’t know in those days!”

    And the beat goes on …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Being as the scientists signed a petition before Hiroshima, Truman had to be aware. I think the lower echelon were the ones that possibly weren’t aware of radiation poisoning.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Some of it can be attributed to ignorance . . . most to leaders who don’t care but will tell you it’s necessary.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Good reblog, GP. I really enjoyed that first-hand article.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. That was only about 100 miles north of where I am… (moved here in ’96)

    Liked by 2 people

  20. It is a gripping story, GP. Many of the children of these men that were born after the testing were also part of the “fallout”.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Three-quarters of a mile from the explosion is too close for comfort. They were made into guinea pigs for cancer experiments. Bless their souls!!

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Exciting and terrifying account of that era, dramatically told: “…. an angry white and black cloud boiling up like something from hell.” Clint Eastwood could make a helluva movie about Toby Madrid and the Dog bomb days.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Very interesting story. i am a little bit sad about the officials never told about the issues their projects made. Democracy in theory is sometimes very different from living democracy. Thank you, GP! Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 3 people

  24. What a surprise to those boys!

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Thank you for sharing this story – an interesting and chilling episode in our history.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some stories are not exactly my pleasure to report – but history IS history. Thank you for reading this.

      Like

      • The question now, GP, has to be “Is it history, in the past where it never belonged in the first place?” Or does the beat go on?

        The answer will of course only emerge (if it ever does) with death-bed confessions when the present has long become ‘history’.

        It of course highlights a need for discretion, but on whose part—the men trained to the point of being organic robots, or their ‘leaders’ pushing pawns around the board?

        Liked by 1 person

        • If we’re going to be honest here – leaders have always pushed pawns around the board, and that is why we need to read and remember history – in some small way to NOT repeat the largest of mistakes. Or at least prevent a few smaller ones – we have to stop the spiral somewhere. IMO

          Liked by 1 person

  26. Amazing story. I’m awed by such courage. At least our First Responders may have some idea of what they might face–these ‘volunteers’ probably had no or little idea what they were asked to be guinea pigs for.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. This brings home the reality – as if what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki wasn’t enough.

    Liked by 3 people

  28. Interesting read from the Cold War. Had to brush up on aircraft knowledge–B-50 and B-45.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. See, this is terrifying. So they tell these participants anything? “Painful thunder” sounds rather shattering. Amazing he lived with no apparent repercussion!

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Great story! When we were kids in the 1950s living on the Texas-New Mexico border, we heard about the Manhattan Project. I can remember news reports of nuclear testing elsewhere.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Woah! Those rope tricks look like an alien encounter. Just as scary.

    Liked by 3 people

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