Letter from Terry Brady, NAAV, Alaska Commander

Letter From Terry Brady

Terry T. Brady, Alaska Commander
National Association of Atomic Veterans
3842 Wesleyan Drive
Anchorage, AK 99508
Ph 1-907-333-9462

November 6, 1999

Anchorage Daily News
Fax No: 258-2157

Dear Editor:

Recent news that the U.S. Governement is extending health benefits to civilian workers who took part in the Amchitka Island Nuclear tests during the 1970s is welcome. Those technicians and laborers certainly deserve recognition, and care if necessary, for their exposure to radiation during the troubled times of the “Cold War”.

They will now join others who were exposed, and many who have suffered, as a result of the tests and use of nuclear weapons, by many nations, beginning in 1945. Among these, in our nation, are the American POWs in Japan during Hiroshima and Nagasaki raids, military occupatiion troops, Pacific Islanders, Southewest U.S. “Downwinders”, Native American and other radioactive mineral miners, and residents of Arctic Alaska who ate contaminated caribou.

And as we approach another Veterans Day let’s not forget the military veterans, who under orders, handled nuclear material, squatted in trenches during blasts, flew through radioactive clouds, climbed onto contaminated ships, and were drenched with radioactive rain, or dust.

Atomic Veterans are those members of the United States Armed Forces who were exposed to ionizing radiation from atomic bombs and nuclear weapons testing during the period beginning with the Trinity Blast of July 16, 1945 at Alamogordo, New Mexico; continuing through the U.S. clean-up of Nagasaki/Hiroshima; during the 235 atmospheric atomic and nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific and Nevada test sites; until the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963.

Over 382,000 U.S. Servicemembers as well as civilian personnel took part in a variety of tests during the “Cold War” period when the Atomic Energy Commission working in conjunction with the Department of Defense had troops participate in and witness detonations at the various Pacific and Nevada Test areas. Most detonations were larger than and emitted considerably more deadly radiation then the two weapons which were employed against Japan at the end of WWII. During the tests various government agencies and departments were interested in learning the various effects of atomic and nuclear weapons, as well as how these weapons affected the immediate performance of military personnel and equipment. Troops, ships, and various types of equipment were placed from several hundred yards to several miles from the center of each detonation. On many occasions military personnel performed manuevers in and around ground zero without protective clothing or respiratory devices.

Since the end of these tests in 1963, there has been no government sponsored medical surveillance of test participants, nor any effort to locate these individuals to warn them of potential health risks. Those few individuals who have been located through NAAV’s efforts have been found with unusually high incidents of various types of cancer and other related diseases and health problems with their children.

Many of the military participants in the ongoing tests, and the nuclear accidents known as “Broken Arrows” were made subject to stringent secrecy, under punishment of prison or fine, had they told their stories. Because of this secrecy, and carelessness on the part of the United States, material noting participation in the programs have been removed from service records, film badges (when worn) to record exposure were lost or destroyed, making it difficult for atomic veterans to seek medical and other help needed.

Over the past feww years, Congress has passed some laws making causes of certain illnesses presumptive as to radiation. The onset of other diseases is still being argued. In the meantime, many veterans and families must wait for justice…a fate the atomic veterans hope doesn’t overtake the Amchitka workers now that they have received recognition.

Military personnel who took part in the national nuclear program, their survivors and children of atomic veterans are eligible for membership in either the NAAV or the Children of Atomic Veterans. For more information see the worldwide web, www,naav.com, for information on the National Association of Atomic Veterans, and links to other sites on the subject.

Terry T. Brady, Alaska Commander
National Association of Atomic Veterans