Archive for the ‘personal stories’ Category

Maralinga Britain’s guinea pig land for toxic nuclear bomb testing

November 3, 2018

Australia’s Least Likely Tourist Spot: A Test Site for Atom Bombs, NYT, 

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One veteran’s story of radiation effects of participating in nuclear bomb testing

November 3, 2018
Wigan veteran reveals radiation exposure horror, https://www.wigantoday.net/news/wigan-veteran-reveals-radiation-exposure-horror-1-9425139  ANDREW NOWELL  02 November 2018
  A Wigan veteran has spoken of being a “guinea pig” in nuclear tests on a remote Pacific island and the shocking chapter of British military history being forgotten. Alan Evans was one of thousands of British troops exposed to high levels of radiation while atomic weapons were being tested on Christmas Island.
He spent a year at the desolate spot half the world away when he was just 20 years old and described how the lethal work was carried out with no proper safety equipment and no information about what was happening to them. His experiences left him with life-changing health issues, as half his stomach had to be removed shortly after being demobbed and his teeth were also taken out.
Mr Evans, who is now 80, also spoke of being one of the “forgotten veterans” who went to Christmas Island and says he just wants their experiences to be recognised. Mr Evans, of Lime Street, said: “They just told us we were going to Christmas Island. At 19 years old I thought that was alright. I hadn’t a clue what was going on. “They billeted us in tents all the time we were there and we were allocated these jobs. “I think they detonated five bombs while I was there. When they did everybody had to go down to what they called the port side and sit down with our backs towards the sea. We were only wearing shirts and shorts and a pair of sunglasses.
“When the explosion happened you could feel the heat and you could more or less see through your hands, right to the bones. “We would then be told to stand up and turn around to look out to sea. We could see the mushroom cloud forming. “I was given the job of monitoring people as they came back out of what they called the dirty area. I had a geiger counter if it the reading went up so far they had to have a shower. “We also monitored the pilots because their gear was full of radiation and had to scrub the planes down with brushes.
“We even had to do our laundry in the dirty area. We would clean the clothes there, hang them up to dry and then wear them again. We also buried these lead boxes of samples in a big pit we dug for them.
“We were guines pigs, purely and simply. That’s why we were put there.” Alan had joined the RAF in 1956 and ended up serving for four years, with his year-long stint on Christmas Island coming in 1958. Almost immediately after returning, though, he started to feel unwell but now suspects he encountered a wall of silence from the forces keen to keep the details of the nuclear testing quiet. His condition went downhill dramatically once he returned to civilian life.
He said: “When I got back I had about six months to do so I went to Catterick but I was unwell, I was being sick. I kept going to the medical officer but he kept fobbing me off and saying there was nothing wrong with me. “I was told while I was on home leave that I should demand an X-ray but they told me there was nothing there. “When I got demobbed I went for an X-ray and they found an ulcer in my stomach straight away. “I was in the operating theatre for several hours while they took half my stomach away. When I came round the nurse told me that if I had left it longer before seeking treatment I wouldn’t still be here because it would have burst when they opened me up. “When I came out of the forces I lost four and a half stone. The weight just fell off me. I was always a fit young man playing sport but I couldn’t do anything after I came home. “For the first 12 years of my working life after being demobbed if I did three days a week I was lucky. It takes me five or six hours to digest my food and I can’t eat a lot.” Mr Evans says he was recently heartened to see the issue of the Christmas Island veterans raised in the Wigan Observer by Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue.
He feels the story is nowhere near as well known as it should be and points out that Britain has treated those who were exposed to nuclear tests uniquely poorly. He says he has asked his family to continue battling in the future to ensure this particular episode in military history is not forgotten. However, despite his ordeal and the lifelong consequences he suffered as a result he says he feels absolutely no bitterness or anger towards the military. Mr Evans said: “We are the forgotten veterans and we are also the living proof of what happened out there. I spoke to people at the new armed forces hub and even they didn’t know about it. “It wasn’t exactly a war and we didn’t fight with guns so it is forgotten about, although it was almost as bad as being in a war. “I just think there should be recognition of what we have done, those of us left and the many lads who are dead and buried. “I know there’s a push again for us to get a medal but what’s happening with that we don’t know. “Every country in the world has recognised what we went through except Britain. The Isle of Man gave people compensation, but it’s not about the money.
“I’ve nothing against the forces. I would have stayed in but I couldn’t because I was medically unfit. “I enjoyed every minute I was in the military. The only bad thing was Christmas Island.”

Chad Walde believed in his work at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Then he got a rare brain cancer

November 3, 2018
Half Life Chad Walde believed in his work at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Then he got a rare brain cancer, and the government denied that it had any responsibility. Pro Publica, by Rebecca Moss, The Santa Fe New Mexican, 26 Oct 18, “……..That unanswered question — what killed Chad Walde? — nagged at Angela.
There had been other funerals, even that month, for other people who had worked at Los Alamos, one of the nation’s most important nuclear weapons laboratories. Several, like Chad, had died of cancer. Others had thyroid diseases and breathing problems, and they suspected that some of the maladies might stem from contaminated work environments or from the large fire that burned through the vast lab property in 2000. Nobody knew for sure if the illnesses were connected to work at the lab, but they wondered.

For decades, Los Alamos had been criticized for sacrificing workers’ health and safety in the name of atomic progress. In 1999, Bill Richardson, the energy secretary, acknowledged that nuclear sites had concealed information and “sent many of our workers into harm’s way.” He said the government intended to “right the wrongs of the past.” Then, in 2000, Congress passed a compensation act, offering medical benefits and payouts for workers with radiation-related cancers and other occupational ailments. But the government, and Los Alamos in particular, has said that those lapses were in the past, and that they have put in place rules and practices to protect safety. The lab says radiation exposures have been “consistently recorded” over many decades.

Despite these pledges, Chad and his co-workers said safety problems continued. They witnessed accidents and heard the sudden, unexpected blare of radiation alarms. They watched crews come in to decontaminate buildings and run radiation detectors over their hands and feet. They had their limbs scrubbed and clothing replaced. Sometimes days would pass before anyone realized contamination had spread. Many workers say their memories of poor work conditions and high personal radiation readings don’t match the government’s scant records .
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Angela Walde poses for a portrait inside her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Adria Malcolm, special to ProPublica)

In addition to Chad, at least four others on his maintenance crew had been diagnosed with cancer in the past five years.

Before his death, Chad filed a claim for federal benefits, joining more than 1,400 people who said they became sick from radiation exposure for work done within the last 20 years at the lab, according to data obtained by the Santa Fe New Mexican under the Freedom of Information Act. An additional 335 dead workers also had claims filed on their behalf.

Angela would later discover that Chad’s personnel file contained little mention of the radiation exposures and no record of the safety scares her husband had told her about over the years.

Now, in the church, she listened to the country music playing softly and to the minister in prayer. After his treatments, Chad would laugh and tell his friends, “I get more radiation sitting in my office at Los Alamos.” Even when he was suffering and in pain, he would smile and say he was living the dream.

Looking at his closed coffin, Angela wished she could go back 18 years and tell him to find a different job, far from laboratories and nuclear weapons.b

A New Career, and the Risk of Radiation

ON HIS FIRST DAY OF WORK AT LOS ALAMOS, Chad Walde got dressed in the dark. It was the fall of 1999 and a week before his 27th birthday. The drive from Albuquerque to Los Alamos took nearly two hours, and as he got on the highway in a small, white Ford Escort, just after 5 a.m., the hulking peaks of the Sandia Mountains would have been cast in silhouette.

The town of Los Alamos was just beginning to stir around the time he arrived. Log cabins preserved from the government’s military takeover during World War II mingled with modern buildings. The roads had been named after famous scientists and atomic testing grounds. Trinity Drive. Bikini Atoll Road. Oppenheimer Drive. Gamma Ray. When he reached the white laboratory gates, lines of cars had already begun to form, each stopping at booths to present armed guards with ID.

Inside, Chad was issued a special Z number, unique to each employee at Los Alamos, which would become a proxy for his identity there. In the days to come, he underwent several medical exams and was asked to detail any prior exposure to 81 hazardous radionuclides, explosives, chemicals, gases or lab animals. He circled no to each. He wasn’t perfect: He smoked, drank intermittently and, for a man over 6 feet tall, was overweight. A doctor found no abnormalities on his head, eyes, heart, lungs, thyroid, limbs or spine. His bloodwork came back normal.

Chad was still adjusting to life as a civilian. He had left the Navy four months earlier and moved his family back to Albuquerque, where he’d been working odd jobs as an electrician. After four years on the USS Lake Champlain, sailing to ports in the Middle East and Asia, Chad still missed the sea, the way the sun turned red as it set in the middle of the ocean. Now, he’d be working at a hallowed place. And, making $22 per hour, he’d earn more than he ever had in his life.

Chad knew about the lab’s historic role in creating the first atomic bombs, but little else. He didn’t know that its nuclear mission had come with a human toll.

Employees of the complex had long complained of health problems, but quietly, often only to friends and families. Speaking ill of the lab was considered by some as anti-American, and some whistleblowers said they were often ostracized by colleagues and pushed out or fired for reporting problems. Most who’ve sought state workers’ compensation over the years for illnesses they attributed to their work at the lab have had their claims aggressively challenged in court.

Out of a fear of liability, the famed nuclear scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who served as the lab’s first director, mandated that health records be labeled top secret, according to a memo written by his colleague in 1946 and declassified in the 1990s………more https://features.propublica.org/los-alamos/chad-walde-nuclear-facility-radiation-cancer/

On September 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov saved the world

November 3, 2018

35 years ago today, one man saved us from world-ending nuclear war https://www.vox.com/2018/9/26/17905796/nuclear-war-1983-stanislav-petrov-soviet-union

On September 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov saved the world. By On September 26, 1983, the planet came terrifyingly close to a nuclear holocaust.

The Soviet Union’s missile attack early warning system displayed, in large red letters, the word “LAUNCH”; a computer screen stated to the officer on duty, Soviet Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, that it could say with “high reliability” that an American intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) had been launched and was headed toward the Soviet Union. First, it was just one missile, but then another, and another, until the system reported that a total of five Minuteman ICBMshad been launched.

“Petrov had to make a decision: Would he report an incoming American strike?” my colleague Max Fisher explained. “If he did, Soviet nuclear doctrine called for a full nuclear retaliation; there would be no time to double-check the warning system, much less seek negotiations with the US.”

Reporting it would have made a certain degree of sense. The Reagan administration had a far more hardline stance against the Soviets than the Carter, Ford, or Nixon administrations before it. Months earlier President Reagan had announced the Strategic Defense Initiative(mockingly dubbed “Star Wars,” a plan to shoot down ballistic missiles before they reached the US), and his administration was in the process of deploying Pershing II nuclear-armed missiles to West Germany and Great Britain, which were capable of striking the Soviet Union. There were reasons for Petrov to think Reagan’s brinkmanship had escalated to an actual nuclear exchange.

But Petrov did not report the incoming strike. He and others on his staff concluded that what they were seeing was a false alarm. And it was; the system mistook the sun’s reflection off clouds for a missile. Petrov prevented a nuclear war between the Soviets, who had 35,804 nuclear warheads in 1983, and the US, which had 23,305.

A 1979 report by Congress’s Office of Technology Assessment estimated that a full-scale Soviet assault on the US would kill 35 to 77 percent of the US population — or between 82 million and 180 million people in 1983. The inevitable US counterstrike would kill 20 to 40 percent of the Soviet population, or between 54 million and 108 million people. The combined death toll there (between 136 million and 288 million) swamps the death toll of any war, genocide, or other violent catastrophe in human history. Proportional to world population, it would be rivaled only by the An Lushan rebellion in eighth-century China and the Mongol conquests of the 13th century.

And it’s likely hundreds of millions more would have died once the conflict disrupted global temperatures and severely hampered agriculture. International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War put the potential death toll from starvation at about 2 billion.

Petrov, almost single-handedly, prevented those deaths.

Preventing the deaths of hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people was a costly decision for Petrov. If he had been wrong, and he somehow survived the American nuclear strike, he likely would’ve been executed for treason. Even though he was right, he was, according to the Washington Post’s David Hoffman, “relentlessly interrogated afterward [and] never rewarded for his decision.”

After the Cold War, Petrov would receive a number of commendations for saving the world. He was honored at the United Nations, received the Dresden Peace Prize, and was profiled in the documentary The Man Who Saved the World. “I was just at the right place at the right time,” he told the filmmakers. He died in May 2017, at the age of 77. Two new books about the Petrov incident and other nuclear close calls in 1983 (related to the NATO exercise Able Archer) came out just this year: Taylor Downing’s 1983 and Marc Ambinder’s The Brink.

Petrov isn’t the only man who’s prevented nuclear war

Petrov was not the only Russian official who’s saved the world. On October 27, 1962, Vasili Arkhipov, a Soviet navy officer, was in a nuclear submarine near Cuba when US naval forces started dropping depth charges (a kind of explosive targeting submarines) on him. Two senior officers on the submarine thought that a nuclear war could’ve already begun and wanted to launch a nuclear torpedo at a US vessel. But all three senior officers had to agree for the missile to fire, and Arkhipov dissented, preventing a nuclear exchange and potentially preventing the end of the world.

Even more recently, on January 25, 1995, Russian early warning radars suggested that an American first strike was incoming. President Boris Yeltsin was alerted and given a suitcase with instructions for launching a nuclear strike at the US. Russian nuclear forces were given an alert to increase combat readiness. Yeltsin eventually declined to launch a counterstrike — which is good, because this was another false alarm. It turns out that Russian early warning systems had picked up a Norwegian-US joint research rocket, launched by scientists studying the northern lights.

But September 26, Stanislav Petrov Day, is as good a time as any to celebrate the ordinary officers who took a stand when it counted to prevent hundreds of millions of deaths. And it’s as good a time as any to remember that as long as the US and Russia retain massive nuclear arsenals, these kinds of close calls will remain possible — and in the future, a false alarm could result in an accidental first strike.

Hiroshima survivors tell of that day on 6th August 1945

October 9, 2018

‘I still hate the glow of the sun’: Hiroshima survivors’ tales, https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/31704344/i-still-hate-the-glow-of-the-sun-hiroshima-suvivors-tales/  May 26, 2016, Hiroshima (Japan) (AFP) – For survivors of the world’s first nuclear attack, the day America unleashed a terrible bomb over the city of Hiroshima remains seared forever in their minds.

Though their numbers are dwindling and the advancing years are taking a toll, their haunting memories are undimmed by the passage of more than seven decades.

On the occasion of Barack Obama’s offering of a floral tribute on Friday at the cenotaph in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park — the first ever visit by a sitting US president — some of them share their stories with AFP.

Emiko Okada

Emiko Okada, now 79, was about 2.8 kilometres (1.7 miles) from ground zero and suffered severe injuries in the blast. Her sister was killed.

“All of a sudden a flash of light brightened the sky and I was slammed to the ground. I didn’t know what on earth had happened. There were fires everywhere. We rushed away as the blaze roared toward us.

“The people I saw looked nothing like human beings. Their skin and flesh hung loose. Some children’s eyeballs were popping out of their sockets.

“I still hate to see the glow of the setting sun. It reminds me of that day and brings pain to my heart.

“In the aftermath, many children who had evacuated during the war came back here, orphaned by the bomb. Many gangsters came to Hiroshima from around the country and gave them food and guns.

“President Obama is a person who can influence the world. I hope that this year will be the beginning of knowing what actually happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki under the mushroom clouds.”

Keiko Ogura

Keiko Ogura, now 78, has devoted her life to keeping alive the memory of the devastating day. (more…)

Hiroshima witness urges New Zealand to lead nuclear weapons elimination 

October 9, 2018

Stuff,  LAURA WALTERS , June 28 2018,   When the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, Taeko Yoshioka Braid watched from the second-floor window of herclassroom, 60 kilometres away.

Braid, who moved to New Zealand in 1956 and now lives in Hastings, travelled to Hiroshima the next day with classmates to look for her family members and take supplies to the victims.

Yoshioka Braid said it was hard to talk about the horrors she saw as a 13-year-old in Hiroshima, including children separated from their parents, and people dying from burns from the blast and the radiated water.

On her second trip to the town at the epicentre, she felt something sticking to her shoes. She eventually realised it was human skin, which had melted off, following the blast.

…….. At a time when the international rules-based order is being challenged, and nuclear weapons remain a global issue, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reinstated the Cabinet portfolio of disarmament and arms control. Ardern announced Winston Peters would take up the ministerial role, during her first foreign policy speech in February.     In September last year, New Zealand was one of the first countries to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at a ceremony during the United Nations General Assembly.

The treaty is a landmark legally-binding international instrument prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons and related activities.

In July last year, it was adopted by the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination.

Yoshioka Braid’s comments came during the international treaty examination, at a Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee hearing on Thursday. Something that needed to take place before New Zealand ratified the treaty.

“If anyone went there the day the bombed dropped, I’m sure they would all think like me: never again…

“I don’t want those same sorts of things to happen anywhere in the world; anywhere in the world.”

Alternative NZ submission by stuffnewsroom on Scribd….(included on original) ..

It was difficult to describe the experience, she said, adding that the bomb was so strong, some people died instantly, others were alive but too injured to move or talk.

Her daughter, Jacky Yoshioka Braid said New Zealand needed to take a leadership role in the elimination of nuclear weapons.

“We need to stop the fighting, and stop this fantasy around a nuclear war that we possibly could survive – it won’t happen.

“We saw what happened in Hiroshima, we’ve seen the after effects of what happened there and in Nagasaki. They were tiny compared to what could happen today.”

New Zealand created a world-leading anti-nuclear policy in 1984, after seeing what happened in Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the cold war years.

“I think it’s really important that New Zealand takes this leadership role and helps guide these other young people around the world who want to stop the nuclear proliferation,” she said……….. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/105072027/hiroshima-witness-urges-nz-to-lead-nuclear-weapons-elimination

Britain’s nuclear veterans, damaged by radiation, deserve to be recognised as heroes

October 9, 2018

Because while science cannot be certain, common sense tells us why successive governments did not test these terrible new weapons in the skies over Britain. Yet for 60 years governments of every stripe denied, ignored or failed our nuclear heroes.

Tom Watson: Nuclear test veterans’ long battle for nation’s thanks is cruel shame https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tom-watson-nuclear-test-veterans-12614082 A medal from the nation would go a long way to healing some of their wounds. ByTom Watson 29 MAY 2018 

Sixty years ago, Britain sent thousands of men to the middle of the South Pacific and ordered them to take part in one nuclear explosion after another.

Our National Servicemen went to Christmas Island and built a runway, a hospital, and officers’ mess. They put up tents, fuel tanks and refrigeration units. Then they were told to watch as RAF crews dropped hydrogen bombs, and they say the only care taken was to tell them to cover their eyes.

Thirty years ago those men got together and the Mirror told their stories: of leukaemia, rare cancers, miscarriages, birth defects. Of troubled wives and sick children. Of ground crew allegedly contaminated washing down the planes, Royal Engineers who fell sick after collecting bomb-damaged equipment, strapping navy stevedores suddenly struck down by ill health. They fought long court battles, to no avail.

Twenty years ago research from Durham University found evidence that 1 in 3 of the nuclear veterans had bone cancer or leukaemia, and that twice as many veterans had multiple myeloma than successive British governments had admitted.

Eleven years ago research in New Zealand showed survivors of British tests had the same rate of genetic damage as survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Ten years ago the Isle of Man Tynwald voted to give 8 of its residents, who were nuclear veterans, £6,000 each in recognition of their service. Five years ago those who still survived and their families marched – with walking sticks and wheelchairs – on Downing Street demanding recognition. Not money: just recognition.

Today, of the 22,000 who saw those tests, just 1,500 survive. I met one of them, a West Bromwich born-and-bred gentleman called John Ward, when he came to Parliament to see me. You can see the video of our chat on the Mirror website. I already knew a little of his story but was stunned to learn that in that powerful flash of light from the bomb’s explosion he saw the bones in his hands as though in an X-ray.

And it was incredibly moving to hear him talk of the troubles his family has suffered since. John went on to work for the Wolverhampton Express & Star, the Birmingham Post and later for the government itself in the Cabinet Office, but meanwhile his wife Margaret had difficult pregnancies and a miscarriage, John and his son Mark both recently had tumours removed from their kidneys, and his daughter Denise is, in his words, “a medical mess”.

What struck me about John was his bravery and dignity in the face of terrible experiences, and that he – quite wrongly – holds himself to blame. That because he was ordered into danger, he feels guilt for the problems suffered by his family. Nobody should have to bear that burden.

But there are not many people like John who feel that worry, because most have died. Thousands of men who were the fittest the British armed forces could find to take part in experiments vital to this nation’s future safety and security have passed away many years before they were expected to.

And still they cannot prove what, if anything, happened to them. The records of the time are missing or incomplete, science is simply unable to link genetic changes definitively to radiation from a bomb, and there are so few veterans left it is hard for scientists to find suitable subjects to help them find that silver bullet.

But there is, nevertheless, something we can do. And something we SHOULD do.

Because while science cannot be certain, common sense tells us why successive governments did not test these terrible new weapons in the skies over Britain. Yet for 60 years governments of every stripe denied, ignored or failed our nuclear heroes. We let people like John, and their families, feel ashamed of something that was never their fault. It is a stain on our nation’s record that for so long we asked these men for proof of what was done to them, when all most of them ever wanted was our thanks for doing it.

Now four survivors of those tests have returned to the Pacific proving grounds to bear witness once again. It has been 60 years since they helped Britain to do the improbable, and now it is time for us to repay that debt. Regardless of whether or not these men, or their children, have suffered ill effects as a result of the nuclear tests it is time the nation honoured their service. A medal from the nation would go a long way to healing some of their wounds.

Japanese atomic bomb survivor pays tribute to U.S. POWs killed in A-bombing

October 9, 2018

Hiroshima hibakusha attends Massachusetts memorial ceremony for U.S. POWs killed in A-bombing 

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/05/29/national/hiroshima-hibakusha-attends-massachusetts-memorial-ceremony-u-s-pows-killed-bombing/#.Ww39OzSFPGg KYODO An atomic bomb survivor attended a memorial ceremony Monday to honor the 12 American servicemen who died in the U.S. nuclear attack in the closing days of World War II.

Hibakusha Shigeaki Mori, an 81-year-old historian, spent years researching and identifying the 12 American soldiers who were killed during the bombing of Hiroshima. He was reunited at the ceremony with a relative of one of the fallen POWs, Normand Brissette of Lowell, Massachusetts.

In a speech, Mori said Brissette was a true patriot who risked his life to fight for his country. Brissette was a naval officer who was taken prisoner and died from radiation poisoning in the days following the bombing.

Susan Archinski, a niece of Brissette, said her reunion with Mori is “emotional because he is a wonderful, wonderful man and his wife is a wonderful woman. Mori-san is (the) best. Very pleased.” The two had met once before, in Hiroshima in 2015.

Mori was 8 years old at the time of the world’s first atomic bombing. He was blown off a bridge near his school at 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, 1½ miles (about 2.5 km) from ground zero in Hiroshima.

After 42 years of research, Mori found each soldier’s name and tracked down their next of kin to obtain permission to memorialize the 12 POWs on the cenotaph for A-bomb victims in Hiroshima among the more than 300,000 Japanese, Korean and Chinese victims.

Mori is visiting the United States for the first time. He attended screenings of the film “Paper Lanterns,” a documentary about his research into the U.S. POWs, in California and will attend more screenings of the film in Boston and at the United Nations in New York.

The 2016 documentary, which the filmmakers hope to release digitally this summer, caught the attention of former U.S. President Barack Obama shortly after its limited release.

Obama, who in May 2016 became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, mentioned Mori in his speech at the Peace Memorial Park as “the man who sought out families of Americans killed here because he believed their loss was equal to his own.”   Afterward, Obama and Mori shared an embrace that garnered international attention.

Hiroshima bomb survivor Setsuko Thurlow continues her fight for a nuclear free world

October 9, 2018

The Growing Dangers of the New Nuclear-Arms Race,  The Trump Administration’s push for more nuclear weapons is part of a perilous global drive to miniaturize and modernize devices that already promise annihilation. New Yorker, By Eric Schlosser, 24 May 18,  “…….On the morning of August 6, 1945, Setsuko Thurlow, then thirteen years old, was preparing to decode messages on the second floor of the Army headquarters in Hiroshima. About twenty girls from her school worked beside her, and thousands of other middle schoolers were employed at patriotic tasks throughout the city as part of the Student Mobilization Program. Thurlow noticed a bright bluish-white flash outside the window at 8:15 a.m. She never saw the mushroom cloud; she was in it. She felt herself fly through the air, blacked out, and awoke pinned in the rubble of the collapsed building, unable to move. Lying there in silence and total darkness, she had a feeling of serenity. And then she heard the cries of classmates trapped nearby: “God, help me!,” “Mother, help me!” Someone touched her, removed the debris on top of her, and told her to crawl toward the light.

She somehow made it out safely and realized that what was left of the headquarters was on fire. A half dozen or so other girls survived, but the rest were burned alive.

The smoke and dust in the air made the morning look like twilight. As Thurlow and a few classmates left the city center and walked toward the hills, they witnessed one grotesque scene after another: dead bodies; ghostly figures, naked and burned, wandering the streets; parents desperately searching for lost children. She reached an Army training ground in the foothills, about the size of two football fields. Every inch of ground was covered with wounded people begging for water. There seemed to be no doctors, no nurses, no medical help of any kind. Thurlow tore off strips of her clothing, dipped them in a nearby stream, and spent the day squeezing drops of water from them into the mouths of the sick and dying. At night, she sat on the hillside and watched Hiroshima burn.

Thurlow was reunited with her parents. But her sister and her sister’s four-year-old son died several days later. Her sister’s face had grown so blackened and swollen that she could only be recognized by her voice and her hairpin. Soldiers threw her body and that of her son into a ditch, poured gasoline on them, and set them on fire. Thurlow stood and watched, in a state of shock, without shedding a tear. Her favorite aunt and uncle, who lived in the suburbs outside Hiroshima and appeared completely unharmed, died from radiation poisoning a few weeks after the blast.

More than seven decades later  on the afternoon of December 10, 2017, I watched Thurlow accept the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ican). It was a remarkable moment, as she slowly walked to the podium with a cane, and the crowd in Oslo’s City Hall gave a standing ovation. After the bombing, Thurlow attended universities in Hiroshima and Lynchburg, Virginia. Later, she earned a master’s degree in social work at the University of Toronto. She married a historian and settled in Canada. She began her anti-nuclear activism in 1954, and became a leading advocate for survivors of the atomic bombings, known as the hibakusha. A few years ago, I spent time with her in Stockholm, meeting with academics and legislators to discuss the nuclear threat.  In her early eighties, she was sharp, passionate, tireless, and free of bitterness. “Today, I want you to feel in this hall the presence of all those who perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki . . . a great cloud of a quarter of a million souls,” Thurlow said in her Nobel speech.  “Each person had a name. Each person was loved by someone. Let us insure that their deaths were not in vain.”………..https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-growing-dangers-of-the-new-nuclear-arms-race

 

Secret tragedy of Britain’s nuclear bomb tests – UK’s soldiers in the Pacific

March 31, 2018

ground crews who washed down planes that flew through the cloud soon began falling sick and low levels of radiation were detected all over Australia.

In 2007 it was found nuclear veterans had the same DNA damage as Chernobyl survivors.

Wives had three times the normal numbers of miscarriage and children 10 times more birth de­­­fects. 

The secrets behind Britain’s first atomic bomb – and the heartbreaking aftermath The detonation of the plutonium bomb in 1952 was hailed a national success, but many of the servicemen involved were left permanently damaged by the fallout BY SUSIE  BONIFACE, MIRROR UK, 6 OCT 2017 

A blinding flash, an eerie silence, and then the sky cracked.

The sound reached those wat­ching at the same time as the blast – a scorching 600mph wind carrying with it the long, grumbling roar of the worst weapon known to humankind.

It was 65 years ago this week – 9.30am local time on October 3, 1952 – that Britain detonated its first nuclear bomb .

Winston Churchill was jubilant, the scientists bursting with pride. But on a tiny island off Australia the cost of the radioactive fallout from Operation Hurricane had yet to be counted.

Many of the servicemen present that day went on to suffer heartbreaking consequences.

Royal Engineer Derek Hickman, now 84, was there. He says: “We had no pro­­tective clothing. You wore shorts and sandals and if you remembered your bush hat, that was all you had.” The blast took place on HMS Plym, an old frigate anchored 300 yards off Trimouille, one of the Monte Bello islands. Troops and scientists lived and worked for months on a small fleet that accompanied her on her final mission.

Derek remembers: “They ordered us to muster on deck – I was on HMS Zeebrugge – and turn our backs to the Plym. We put our hands over our eyes and they counted down over the Tannoy.

“There was a sharp flash and I could see the bones in my hands like an X-ray. Then the sound and the wind and they told us to turn and face it. We watched the mushroom cloud just melt away. They gave us five photos as a memento.

“All that was left of the Plym were a few pieces of metal that fell like rain and her outline scorched on the sea bed.”………

In 1951 Aus­­tralia agreed the blast could take place at Monte Bello.   ….

Thousands of UK and Aussie servicemen saw the mushroom cloud dis­­perse before dozens of planes flew through it to collect dust samples.

The press had been given a viewing tower 55 miles away. The Mirror announced: “This bang has changed the world”.

No official statement was made until October 23 when PM Churchill told the Commons: “All concerned are to be warmly congratulated on the successful outcome of an historic episode.”

But ground crews who washed down planes that flew through the cloud soon began falling sick and low levels of radiation were detected all over Australia.

James Stephenson, 85,remembers being given an unexplained posting to Aber­­­gavenny. The former Royal Engineers soldier says: “We went for train­­ing and they started weeding us out, re­­­moving lads they thought were Communist sympathisers or not up to it.

“Nobody told us what it was about. When we embarked in Portsmouth we had to load machinery ourselves, they wouldn’t let the dockers do it.”James left with the first wave of vessels in January 1952. They were fol­­lowed six months later by HMS Plym carrying the bomb.

Derek explains: “It was a plutonium bomb – the dirtiest. A few years later I went to the doctor and mention­­­ed Monte Bello.

“He asked if I was mar­­ried. I said ‘Yes’ and he replied ‘My advice is ne­­­­v­­­er have children’. He wouldn’t say why.”

It was a warning Derek, now living alone in Crediton, Devon, couldn’t ignore. He says: “My wife wanted children and in the end I walked away from the marriage.

“She never blamed me but it’s the worst thing I’ve ever done. Since then I’ve discovered my friends’ wives suffered many miscarriages and their children had deformities.

“It’s given me a small comfort that at least we avoided that.”

In 2007 it was found nuclear veterans had the same DNA damage as Chernobyl survivors.

Wives had three times the normal numbers of miscarriage and children 10 times more birth de­­­fects. James, from Taunton, Devon, had two healthy children. But he was lucky.

He says: “I know people whose children were born with organs outside their bodies. It made me worry about my grandchildren. Thank God they’re fine.”

Hurricane had an explosive yield of 25 kilotons – 15 kilotons had flattened Hiroshima and killed 126,000. But less than four weeks later the US detonated a hydrogen bomb 400 times more powerful than Hurricane.

The UK was back out in the cold and would not be accepted at the nuclear top table until 1958 when it finally developed its own H-bomb.

In all 22,000 servicemen took part in Britain’s nuclear tests which ended only in 1991. Derek and James are among the 2,000 or so who survive and are still coming to terms with the chain reaction unleashed at Monte Bello.

James says: “Nobody really knew what they were doing, not us or the scientists. It was just a job we had to do.”

The Monte Bello islands are now a wildlife park but visitors are warned not to stay for more than an hour or take home the fragments of metal that can still be found – radioactive pieces of a long-forgotten Royal Navy warship that unleashed a hurricane. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/secrets-behind-britains-first-atomic-11300935

Thousands of UK and Aussie servicemen saw the mushroom cloud dis­­perse before dozens of planes flew through it to collect dust samples.

The press had been given a viewing tower 55 miles away. The Mirror announced: “This bang has changed the world”.

No official statement was made until October 23 when PM Churchill told the Commons: “All concerned are to be warmly congratulated on the successful outcome of an historic episode.”

But ground crews who washed down planes that flew through the cloud soon began falling sick and low levels of radiation were detected all over Australia. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/secrets-behind-britains-first-atomic-11300935