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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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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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