Operation Upshot-Knothole
December 6, 2006 11:25 PM   Subscribe

Survivors talk about playing in fallout that landed like snow, of sand that melted like glass, of hair that fell out in handfuls, of lambs born with hearts outside their bodies, of school children dying of leukemia, of entire families being stricken -- while a government told them not to worry. Photos of Operation Upshot-Knothole here .
posted by j-urb (13 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
As part of a test site public-relations program in March 1953, some 600 observers were invited to view a test shot and its effect on manikins, typical homes, and automobiles in an effort to get Americans more interested in civil defense. Klien Rollo represented the Iron County Record at the media event. Observers watched the detonation seven miles from ground zero and later were taken into the test area, after debris and dust had settled. Rollo at first thought it was "his good fortune" to be invited to the test site, but not many weeks later the newspaper began questioning the safety of nuclear fall-out. It printed a long article by University of Utah student Ralph J. Hafen of St. George in which he wrote that he felt "morally obligated to warn people of the irreparable damage that may have occurred or may in the future occur" from exposure to radiation. He also called upon the AEC to explain why cars entering St. George were washed after the shot. Predicting later problems, he cautioned that "damage done to an individual by radiation often does not make itself known for five to ten years or a generation or more."

A student native to the area sounded the alarm that nearby residents were being used as guinea pigs.
posted by Brian B. at 11:54 PM on December 6, 2006

The "hearts" link doesn't seem to include the text that is used in the link.
posted by avriette at 11:57 PM on December 6, 2006

Just so you know, Ralph J. Hafen was a 28-year-old law student who was a World War II veteran. He sent his letter, researched with the help of physics faculty he met through his brother-in-law, around the state.

Forty-two years later, Hafen remembered that he had no trouble getting the letters published. But Hafen also recalled that his letters caused virtually no comment, either in Salt Lake City, where he was a student, or in his hometown of St. George. Hafen said that: "I think people were not at all convinced of the gravity of the situation. I don't think they realized what was going on at all."
posted by dhartung at 12:01 AM on December 7, 2006

This is amazing I had no idea the USA has been so contaminated. I just read Voices From Chernobyl which is a major eye-opener. But to think that 3 times the amount of radiation as Chernobyl was released in the USA (per first link). Disturbing. Need to learn more about this and find those radiation maps. My brother had thyroid cancer.

"The only victims of U.S. nuclear arms since World War II have been our own people." (House Investigations Subcommittee (1980)
posted by stbalbach at 5:54 AM on December 7, 2006

I remembered reading about it in The Day We Bombed Utah years back, but when Googling for the title reference, I saw a remark about the years we bombed Utah.
posted by pax digita at 7:50 AM on December 7, 2006

Tragic... reminds me of Viggo Mortenson's character in The Reflecting Skin.
posted by hermitosis at 8:54 AM on December 7, 2006

"We're from the government. We're here to help."

That's always so comforting, isn't it?
posted by nyxxxx at 4:43 PM on December 7, 2006

You know your government doesn't care about you when they drop The Bomb on you.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:05 PM on December 7, 2006

Why does it remind you of Viggo Mortenson's character in The Reflecting Skin? I don't remember anything about fallout. The "angel" was disturbing though.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:03 AM on December 8, 2006


Seth thinks that Dolphin Blue is a vampire and is stealing his brother's youth. Turns out that his brother was actually working with atomic tests in the South Pacific, and describes how they would have snowball fights with the silvery ash and eat the boiled fish that floated to the surface. So the audience can assume that his hair and tooth loss is actually from radiation sickness, not vampirism.

I love/dread that movie.
posted by hermitosis at 9:47 AM on December 8, 2006

thanks hermitosis, I'll have to rewatch it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:17 AM on December 9, 2006

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