Wednesday, March 05, 2014


The USA still had to kill tens of thousands of Japanese civilians and all that, but World War II effectively ended one day in New Mexico.

On Monday morning July 16, 1945, the world was changed forever when the first atomic bomb was tested in an isolated area of the New Mexico desert.  The test known as Trinity took place on the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range, about 230 miles south of  Los Alamos, New Mexico.  As reported at the Trinity Atomic Web site:

The nuclear blast created a flash of light brighter than a dozen suns. The light was seen over the entire state of New Mexico and in parts of Arizona, Texas, and Mexico. The resultant mushroom cloud rose to over 38,000 feet within minutes, and the heat of the explosion was 10,000 times hotter than the surface of the sun! At ten miles away, this heat was described as like standing directly in front of a roaring fireplace. Every living thing within a mile of the tower was obliterated. The power of the bomb was estimated to be equal to 20,000 tons of TNT, or equivalent to the bomb load of 2,000 B-29, Superfortresses!

After witnessing the awesome blast, Oppenheimer quoted a line from a sacred Hindu text, the Bhagavad-Gita: He said: "I am become death, the shatterer of worlds." In Los Alamos 230 miles to the north, a group of scientists' wives who had stayed up all night for the not so secret test, saw the light and heard the distant sound. One wife, Jane Wilson, described it this way, "Then it came. The blinding light [no] one had ever seen. The trees, illuminated, leaping out. The mountains flashing into life. Later, the long slow rumble. Something had happened, all right, for good or ill."

For good or ill?

You be the judge.

 Well, you and those who were made ill.  You and the many who have suffered the consequences over the years.

You see, nobody thought it might be prudent to evacuate or even warn local residents in advance - or following - the test. The military, the State had to keep this a big secret...and their was a danger of law suits. Those people, those unwarned people, were exposed to massive amounts of radiation.  They inhaled it in from the air, they ingested it from contaminated food, they drank it in from water and milk. General Leslie Grove wrote in a memo to the War Department on July 18, 1945, following the test:

The cloud traveled to a great height first in the form of a ball, then mushroomed, then changed into a long trailing chimney-shaped column and finally was sent in several directions by the variable winds at the different elevations. It deposited its dust and radioactive materials over a wide area.

Several ranchers reported that fallout resembling flour was visible for 4 to 5 days after the blast, and residents living as close as 19 km from ground zero collected rain water from metal roofs for drinking.

As cows and goats grazed in fallout-contaminated pastures, iodine 131 contaminated their milk. Children received higher thyroid doses because they drank much more milk than adults, and because their thyroids were smaller and still growing.

Fallout was discovered 200 miles from the test site.  In fact an article published in 1997 in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists says:

The Trinity test also resulted in at least one hot spot in Indiana, over 1,000 miles away. One month after the test, the customers of the Eastman Kodak Company complained of buying fogged X-ray film. After an investigation, a physicist at Eastman Kodak determined that packing material that had been made from corn husks at a plant in Indiana had become radioactively contaminated. He deduced that the origin of the contamination was from an atomic explosion. The physicist's knowledge of the secret project was not altogether surprising: the Kodak Company ran the Tennessee Eastman uranium processing plant at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Nobody told anybody living in New Mexico...anything.  The War Department said everything was fine.  Not to worry.


Live Science reports;

Currently, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission states that members of the public should not receive more than 2 millirem (about 0.002 Roentgen) of radiation in any one hour from external radiation sources in any public area. The exposure rates following the Trinity test were more than 10,000 times this recommended dose level.

That's ten thousand, folks.

Did I mention that Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) lies in the midst of New Mexico's Indian Country  - where by the way  LANL for the next 70 years still designed, built, tested, and disposed of radioactive and other toxic waste in what was once a pristine environment filled with sacred sites and rich grazing lands that for hundreds, if not thousands, of years supported (but no longer can) a subsistence lifestyle for Pueblo peoples and other later-coming immigrants. 

Research conducted and reported on in Health Physics notes as of the of 2010, "Evaluations of Trinity fallout published to date have not addressed internal doses to members of the public following intakes of contaminated air, water, or foods."

No one gave a hoot what happened to a bunch of Indians, Mexican  Americans, ranchers, and other desert sorts scattered about the New Mexico plains and plateaus.  No one with any authority gave a damn. 

They pretty much still don't.

The following is from Indian Country Today.

Los Alamos National Laboratory/Wikimedia Commons

Trinity Site explosion, 0.016 second after explosion, July 16, 1945. Note that the viewed hemisphere's highest point in this image is about 200 meters high.

H-Bomb Guinea Pigs! Natives Suffering Decades After New Mexico Tests

Much has been made of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on two now-infamous cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the health-nightmare aftermath.
But only now is the spotlight being put onto those who had the actual first atomic bomb dropped in their vicinity—it was the Americans’ own people, Turtle Island’s original inhabitants, the Indigenous Peoples of the southwest. The world's first atomic bomb was detonated on July 16, 1945, in New Mexico—home to 19 American Indian pueblos, two Apache tribes and some chapters of the Navajo Nation. Manhattan Project scientists exploded the device containing six kilograms of plutonium 239 on a 100-foot tower at the Trinity Site in the Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death) Valley at what is now the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range. The blast was the equivalent of 21 kilotons of TNT. At the time an estimated 19,000 people lived within a 50-mile radius.
It has taken nearly 70 years, but the National Cancer Institute is launching a study to determine how much radiation the residents of New Mexico were exposed to that fateful day, and what effect it could have on their lives.
What people reported seeing at 5:30 that morning was a flash more brilliant than daylight followed by a green (or red or violet or blue, depending on who is recounting the story) glow in the sky. No one knew what had happened, no one knew how to protect themselves from the effects of this new technology, and no one knew that it would be almost 70 years before the government would investigate what those effects were.
"No one was told, everything was top secret, and that's the mistake,” said Marian Naranjo, Santa Clara Pueblo, director of Honor Our Pueblo Existence, an area community group. “Because when you look at what people here in New Mexico were doing during 1945, they were farmers. And in July you get up at the crack of dawn to go out and do your work."
The Trinity test was conducted to determine whether the plutonium bomb intended for Nagasaki would act according to theory. It did. But the Department of Defense changed the design of the bomb anyway.
"From the Trinity test they determined that they were going to have to drop the bomb from a higher altitude or detonate the bomb at a higher altitude than they did at Trinity,” said Tina Cordova, Santa Clara Pueblo, head of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders’ Consortium, an activist group that has been pushing for just such a study for more than 10 years. “At Trinity they put it on a platform 100 feet in the air, and at Nagasaki they detonated it much higher in the atmosphere because at Trinity what happened was that they didn't create a very large blast field but created a very expansive radiation field. At Nagasaki they wanted a different effect; they wanted to create a large blast field, and they weren't necessarily interested in creating a radiation field."
The government briefly monitored the radiation levels at several sites near the blast with the relatively crude instruments that were available at the time and according to the extremely lax standards of the time.
"So they detonate the bomb at Trinity and they leave,” said Cordova, a cancer survivor. “They never come back and tell the people to take care of how they live, what they consume, what they eat, drink. Nothing."
Contemporary reports from both American Indian and government witnesses describe a light ash that rained down for four or five days after the detonation. It went everywhere—onto people's clothes and bodies and into their homes, into the cisterns they used to collect rainwater for drinking, on the crops they would feed their families, on the forage their animals would consume, and into the watershed from which the animals they hunted drank.
Manhattan Project Searchlight Station L-8 crew who were cooking steaks over an open fire a few hours after the blast buried the steaks and left the area after the food became contaminated by fallout.
"The dust could be measured at low intensities 200 miles north and northeast of the site on the 4th day,” said Colonel Stafford Warren, chief of the Manhattan Project's Medical Section, in a July 21, 1945 statement. “There is still a tremendous quantity of radioactive dust floating in the air. It is this officer's opinion that this site is too small for a repetition of a similar test of this magnitude except under very special conditions. It is recommended that the site be expanded or a larger one, preferably with a radius of at least 150 miles without population, be obtained if this test is to be repeated."
Henceforth, the U.S. conducted almost all of its nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site and in the Pacific. No other test was ever conducted in New Mexico. Still, there would be no picking up and leaving for the people whose ancestors had lived on this land and who, in any case, did not know they were in danger.
The radiation field was as extensive as it was because the blast was so close to the ground that it picked up the soil, which was drawn up into the mushroom cloud by hot air currents. Then there was a huge lightning and rainstorm the night after the test, which would have caused radioactive particles trapped in the cloud to fall to earth. The wind also helped disperse the particles.
The radioactive cloud “slowly assumed a zigzag shape because of the changing wind velocity at different altitudes,” Los Alamos scientist Kenneth Grisen wrote in an eyewitness account now in the National Archives. “A sort of dust haze seemed to cover the area."
That observation echoed in reports by Cyril S. Smith and Philip Morrison.
"The obvious fact that all of the reaction products were not proceeding upward in a neat ball but were lagging behind and being blown by low altitude winds over the ground in the direction of inhabited areas produced very definite reflection that this is not a pleasant weapon we have produced," Smith said in his account.
Nowadays the United States Environmental Protection Agency readily acknowledges on its website the likely effects associated with long-term or chronic low-level radiation exposure. The longer the exposure the more likely that cancer and other illnesses will occur, according to the EPA’s website.
However, this is in hindsight prompted in part by what happened to the Navajo and other American Indians after the test blast. In New Mexico, American Indians would begin to experience many types of cancers—rare cancers as well as multiple primary cancers. Cordova said that her father, who was three years old at the time of the test, had two oral cancers and one gastric cancer, none of them the result of metastasis. He never smoked or drank.
"At one time I could name ten people who had brain tumors,” said Cordova, who grew up in Tularosa. “The town I grew up in is probably about 3,500 people. The normal incidence of brain tumors in the [general] population is about one in 5,000.  So that gives you some idea on the incidence of these things. Brain tumors are associated with radiation exposure."
Cordova is far from the only witness to these effects.
"A lot of the people here in New Mexico, men, women and children have been victims,” said Kathy Sanchez, San Ildefonso Pueblo, of Las Mujeres Hablan (The Women Speak), a network of local activists working in Northern New Mexico to protect their peoples and lands from the nuclear weapons industry. “We are losing many family and tribal members, and it is heartache and hardship as a consequence of radioactivity around us."
Mescalero Apache Tribal Council member Pam Cordova said her tribe has experienced the same thing.
"There have been a lot of deaths," she said, "and a lot of it is cancer related."
Bake sales sometimes pay for pain medications, but most often people simply do not have the resources to take care of themselves in the face of such devastating diseases.
"People in these small communities are almost always underinsured or uninsured, and then they're left to deal with these horrific, horrific cancers with little to no insurance or means for taking care of themselves," said Cordova.
New Mexicans affected by the Trinity test are not eligible for remuneration under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which covers virtually all nuclear and uranium workers and so-called down-winders except those affected by the Trinity test, in part because no one has ever before formally studied what happened in New Mexico after Trinity.
But that could soon change.
Next: A Long Time Coming: National Cancer Institute Studies Nuclear Fallout 

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