Friday, February 28, 2014

60th Anniversary of Castle BRAVO Nuclear Test, the Worst Nuclear Test in U.S. History

60th Anniversary of Castle BRAVO Nuclear Test, the Worst Nuclear Test in U.S. History

60th Anniversary of Castle BRAVO Nuclear Test, the Worst Nuclear Test in U.S. History

Blast Had Far Greater Explosive Yield than Expected, Equivalent to 1,000 Hiroshimas

Fallout from the Test Contaminated the Marshall Islands and Japanese Fishermen on the Fortunate Dragon (Fukuryu Maru)
Consequences of BRAVO Created Outrage around the World and Pressure to Ban Nuclear Weapons Tests

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 459

Posted - February 28, 2014

Washington, D.C., February 28, 2014 – Sixty years ago, on 1 March 1954 (28 February on this side of the International Dateline), on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the U.S. government staged the largest nuclear test in American history. The BRAVO shot in the Castle thermonuclear test series had an explosive yield of 15 megatons, 1000 times that of the weapon that destroyed Hiroshima and nearly three times the 6 megatons that its planners expected. To recall this shocking event the National Security Archive posts today a selection of documents about the BRAVO shot and its consequences, mainly from State Department records at the National Archives.

The 15-megaton Castle BRAVO nuclear test, 1 March 1954, created a crater a mile wide and spread radioactive fallout around the world. The mushroom cloud rose to 130,000 feet and broadened to more than 25 miles in diameter. Excerpt from U.S. Air Force documentary film, Joint Task Force 7 Commander's Report, Operation Castle.
Castle BRAVO spewed radioactive fallout around the world and gravely sickened nearby inhabitants of the Marshall Islands, then under a U.S. trusteeship, and 236 were evacuated as well as 28 American military personnel on a nearby island. Twenty-three Japanese fishermen were also contaminated, which made the test known to the world and roiled U.S-Japanese relations. While the U.S. government claimed at the time that a shift in the wind spread the fallout far from the test site, a recent U.S. government report demonstrates that it was the volcanic nature of the explosion that dumped the fallout nearby. The adverse health effects for inhabitants of Rangelop Atoll, 110 miles away from the test site, were severe and some islands remained uninhabitable for years. This radiological calamity had a significant impact on world opinion and helped spark the movement for a nuclear test moratorium which ultimately led to the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty.

Included in this posting is a U.S. Air Force documentary film on the Joint Task Force 7 commander's report on the Castle Series. It includes footage of the BRAVO shot as well as coverage of the evacuation of U.S. personnel and Marshall Islanders in the wake of the test. The documentary is sanitized at points apparently to protect nuclear weapons design information. A Freedom of Information request by the Archive for a fresh review and a subsequent appeal failed to dislodge more details.

Documents in this posting include:

  • Japanese government accounts of the Fukuryu Maru incident
  • The May 1954 petition by Marshall Islanders for an end to nuclear tests in the area
  • U.S. Embassy Tokyo telegrams on BRAVO's adverse impact for U.S.-Japanese relations
  • Internal U.S. government consideration of compensation to the Japanese government and the Marshall Islands for losses incurred by nuclear testing
  • Decisions to delay the return of the inhabitants to Rongelap Atoll because of unsafe conditions
  • A comprehensive Defense Threat Reduction Agency report from 2013 on Castle BRAVO exposing "legends and lore" about the test
Source: Document 17: Thomas Kunkle and Bryon Ristvet, Castle Bravo: Fifty Years of Legend and Lore: A Guide to Offsite Radiation Exposure, page 35
Source: Document 17: Thomas Kunkle and Bryon Ristvet, Castle Bravo: Fifty Years of Legend and Lore: A Guide to Offsite Radiation Exposure, page 5.
Why and how exactly U.S. scientists miscalculated the yield remains classified but what made the 15-megaton Bravo shot the worst nuclear test in U.S. history is no secret. The device detonated on an islet in a coral reef, producing massive levels of fallout that quickly reached the stratosphere before falling to earth. It is worth comparing BRAVO to the most powerful nuclear test ever, the Soviet Union's 50-megaton "Tsar Bomba" of 30 October 1961. That test's radiological consequences were far less severe because the "Tsar Bomba's" fireball never touched the earth's surface producing significantly less fallout than BRAVO. Historian of science Alex Wellerstein has written that Castle BRAVO is a "cautionary tale about hubris and incompetence in the nuclear age — scientists setting off a weapon whose size they did not know, whose effects they did not correctly forecast, whose legacy will not soon be outlived."[i]

While the "Tsar Bomba" was almost immediately known to the world, the architects of the Castle test series worked in secrecy; the Eisenhower administration wanted to keep words like "hydrogen" and "thermonuclear" out of public discourse and only the fact that tests would be held in the Pacific in 1954 went to the public. After the BRAVO shot occurred, the AEC and the Defense Department sought to control what could be known about the event. But the cat was out of the bag when the Fukuryu Maru crew returned to port which gave Washington a serious damage control problem as information about the 1 March test began to reach the public. At the end of the month AEC chairman Lewis Strauss gave a generally misleading press conference about BRAVO but he managed to alarm the public when he acknowledged that hydrogen bombs could be "made large enough to take out a city … any city."[ii]

Until recently, an extensive collection of documents on nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands was readily available on a Department of Energy Web site, The Marshall Islands Document Collection. It no longer has an on-line presence. In the fall of 2013, at the time of the U.S. government shut-down, this important collection disappeared from the Web. It is unclear whether the Department intends to restore it as a distinct Web page. Many documents on the Marshall Islands can be found on the Energy Department's OpenNet but whether they are essentially the same items is also unclear at present. Moreover other documents on nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands that the Energy Department declassified in the 1990s and were once available at the National Archives or on-line were reclassified early in the last decade after the Kyl-Lott amendment went into effect in 1999.[iii]

Unique non-U.S. government documents about the consequences of nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands are also at risk. The case files of the Nuclear Claims Tribunal for the Marshall Islands, which went out of existence in 2010, are an irreplaceable record of the impact of nuclear testing on a vulnerable population. The collection of paper records resides in a building in Majuro, the Marshall Island's capital city, but no arrangements are in place to assure their long-term preservation.[iv]
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Thursday, February 27, 2014

To Protect European Archives during World War II

National Archives in Washington, D.C.
National Archives in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Text Message » Efforts by Ernst Posner and the National Archives to Protect European Archives during World War II

The National Archives began to think, after the invasion of North Africa in World War II, of the practical importance of records in connection with the government of conquered territory.  Archivist of the United States Solon J. Buck and senior National Archives official Oliver W. Holmes took an active interest in the proper organization of archives in enemy and other occupied territory and, according to The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, “were primarily responsible for establishing plans and personnel for the effective preservation of much of this irreplaceable documentary material.” Also taking an interest in the fate of archives and records in Europe was Dr. Ernst Posner, professor of archival administration at American University.

Ernst Maximilian Posner, born in Berlin on August 9, 1892, attended the University of Berlin and served in the peacetime military.  When World War I began he rejoined the infantry and saw action on both the western and eastern fronts, and before he was mustered out in December 1918, he had been awarded both first and second class of the Iron Cross.  He then resumed his studies at the University of Berlin, where he received his doctorate in 1920, and that year he became an archivist with the Prussian State Privy Archives.  As a result of the Nuremberg laws of 1935, he was involuntarily pensioned off from his position.

In 1938, deciding it was time for he and his wife to leave Germany, Posner made a two-month trip to the United State to explore job prospects.  While in this country he delivered, in English, a lecture at the National Archives in April on German archival administration.  Despite Buck thinking highly of Posner he was not in a position to offer employment.  Posner returned to Germany, and then in November, after the Kristallnacht riots, he was arrested and imprisoned for six weeks in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.  In January 1939, thanks in part to Buck’s assistance, American University offered Posner a lectureship in archival administration.  It was not until much later that year he was able to get to the United States, where, in the fall of 1939, he began teaching, with Buck, a two-semester course entitled “The History and Administration of Archives” at American University. After Buck became Archivist of the United States in 1941, Posner taught the course by himself. Besides teaching archives administration he subsequently taught in the History Department, including, among others, courses on the Middle Ages, Europe, Germany, and historical research.

Posner’s suggestive paper, entitled “Public Records Under Military Occupation,” first read to a small luncheon group at the National Archives on May 5, 1943 and soon thereafter published by the National Archives, was the spark that, according to Holmes, “suddenly lit our sluggish imagination and opened our eyes to the importance of protecting records as a military measure.” 

Posner’s paper prompted Fred Waldo Shipman, Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, NY, who had listened to Posner’s presentation, to write a memorandum the next day to President Roosevelt in which he set forth the importance of protecting records in war areas, both for their eventual usefulness to military government and for their cultural value. Two days later Roosevelt read the memorandum at one of his regular cabinet meetings and asked that the members give the problem their attention and issue any orders required to ensure that records in war areas were given necessary protection.

Following up on Roosevelt’s interest and concern, on May 8, General George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, sent cables to Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower (then Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces) and Jacob L. Devers (then commander of European Theater of Operations, United States Army) that it was felt that the great loss suffered in the past because local archives in cities and towns had been destroyed could be avoided during the war if special care was taken to preserve such archives.  He informed them that the President was anxious that every effort possible be made for their preservation at the time of initial occupation and during the period of occupation, and all appropriate commanders in the field were directed to issue the necessary instructions to prevent damage to archives in localities occupied.

The first full meeting of the American Council of Learned Societies’ Committee on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas took place on in New York City on June 25. At the meeting, Buck, who was a member of the committee, expressed the hope that archival material would not be overlooked and that information concerning this material was readily available in the National Archives.  Copies of Posner’s paper were circulated and Buck stated that Posner would be interested in helping to prepare a full inventory of archival institutions of Europe.

On July 9, William B. Dinsmoor, acting in his capacity as chairman of the Committee on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas and the committee’s executive secretary Sumner Crosby met with Maj. Gen. J. H. Hilldring, Chief of the Civil Affairs Division of the War Department.  At this meeting Hilldring approved the committee’s idea of providing the War Department with cultural maps.  Five days later Dinsmoor wrote Hilldring that the committee was proceeding with the greatest possible speed in the preparation of maps of cities in European war areas, beginning with Italy.  He noted that the collection of the factual data to accompany the maps was proceeding in collaboration with the Library of Congress, National Archives, and the Smithsonian Institution and that on July 15 they were preparing to start a similar program at the Frick Art Reference Library.

Early in July, Dinsmoor and Crosby visited the National Archives and asked for its advice and cooperation in the development of lists of cultural monuments, treasures, and institutions to be made available to the armed forces, the military authorities having already indicated to these committee officials that such lists would be welcome and highly useful. A plan for the compilation and furnishing of such information by the National Archives on archival repositories in Europe was presented and agreed upon.

Most of the needed information was in the National Archives library, but a person of Posner’s background, knowledge, and general ability was required to interpret and organize it in usable form. Posner was eager to help.  The National Archives furnished overall supervision, materials, typing assistance, and assistance in revision, and editing; and, according to Holmes, Posner addressed the project “with his customary energy and efficiency in the months that followed, giving, except for his classes, almost full time to the project.”  Work was begun on archival repositories in Italy a few days before the invasion of Sicily on July 10. Before that campaign was over, information as to the name, location, official head, holdings, and buildings for some 140 archival repositories had been furnished on four-by-six inch cards to Dinsmoor’s committee.  Similar information to that produced on Italian archives was furnished for archival repositories in Greece, Yugoslavia, Rumania, and Bulgaria in August.  Before the end of September, similar material had been furnished for about 370 archival repositories in France.

At the end of August, Buck, in sending a copy of the National Archives-Posner 29-page listing of archival repositories to Hilldring, wrote that the National Archives had been compiling for and sending to the Committee on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas data concerning archival repositories in various countries.  He noted that the National Archives had furnished data on archival repositories to the committee for Italy, Greece, Rumania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia and they were nearly ready for France. These data, he wrote, were supplied in the form of slips, in order that they may be readily combined with data from other sources. Buck wrote that the National Archives had put together the data concerning Italian archival repositories and reproduced it in a limited number of hectographed copies, one of which he was transmitting. He asked Hilldring whether, in his opinion, similar assembled lists of archival repositories in other countries would be likely to be of sufficient use to justify the National Archives proceeding to produce the hectographed copies for other countries, in addition, of course, to the combined data that would be supplied by the Committee on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas.  Upon his receipt of “Archival Repositories in Italy,” Hilldring had a copy immediately sent to General Eisenhower, where it was intended that it be distributed to the proper officer for use in protection of archives within Italy.

On September 7, Hilldring responded to Buck that until the War Department had received reports on the usefulness of the Italian list he was not in a position to say whether the National Archives should prepare similar assembled lists for other countries. If possible, however, he informed Buck that he believed that the project should be coordinated with pending studies of the newly established American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in Europe (in 1944 “Europe” changed to “War Areas”).  He added that on August 25, the Commission had held its organizational meeting and appointed various committees to consider the whole problem of protecting works and materials of cultural, historical, and scientific value in countries occupied by the Allies.  Hilldring wrote that he was hopeful that one result of these studies would include the Commission’s preparation of a comprehensive program for the protection and restitution of all such works and materials.  Such a program might well contain specific recommendations covering the points raised by Buck’s letter, if the Commission considered that archival repositories and materials were included within its responsibilities.  Hilldring noted that he agreed with Buck that every practicable effort should be taken to preserve local archives, and that the War Department would be glad to consider any specific additional measures consistent with military necessity that the National Archives might recommend.  He added that ample general instructions had already been issued for all efforts to be made to preserve local archives and to utilize the information contained therein.

As it turned out, the Committee, the Commission, and the War Department welcomed the assistance the National Archives provided, all realizing the importance of archives and archival institutions.  Much of the information on archival repositories in enemy-occupied territory that the National Archives furnished army authorities was incorporated onto maps prepared by the Committee on the Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas and published and distributed by the Military Government Division of the Provost Marshal General (PMG)’s Office.  Lists of archival repositories and information on record keeping practices of existing agencies were also furnished directly to the PMG’s Office, which distributed them to overseas theaters of operations.  These lists contained the names, location, official head, holdings and buildings for 1,619 important archival repositories in Europe.  When these lists of archival repositories were received they were generally used as reference tools by Intelligence units and the information in them incorporated on maps used by bomber commands. They were also distributed to the Monuments Men of the various Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives units for the purpose of identifying and checking on the fate of important archival collections, and subsequently providing for their care and protection.

For additional information regarding Posner, the National Archives, and the protection of European archives see Security Classified General Correspondence, 1943-July 1949, General Records, Civil Affairs Division, Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, Record Group 165; The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, Report of The American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1946); Oliver W. Holmes, “The National Archives and the Protection of Records in War Areas,” American Archivist, Vol. IX No. 2 (April 1946), pp. 110-127;  and, Rodney A. Ross, “Ernst Posner: The Bridge Between the Old World and the New,” The American Archivist, Vol. 44 No. 4(Fall 1981), pp. 304-313
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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

U.S. Military Parents on Okinawa Demand Truth About Toxic Contamination Near Base Schools: Okinawa

, , .(道の駅かでな展望台から撮影した嘉手納飛行場)
U.S. Military Parents on Okinawa Demand Truth About Toxic Contamination Near Base Schools :: JapanFocus

On Okinawa, U.S. military service members and their families are demanding answers from the Pentagon about a chemical dumpsite located adjacent to two Department of Defense schools.

Last summer, dangerous levels of dioxin were discovered near Kadena Air Base, but only recently did many Americans stationed on the island learn of the contamination.1 Parents whose children attend the potentially-poisoned facilities claim base officials failed to inform them of the risks and, for almost six months, they did not investigate whether the pollution extended onto their schools’ land.
Now many are accusing the military authorities of endangering their children’s health. In addition, a growing number of parents affiliated with the base believe their children’s serious illnesses may have been caused by dioxin exposure.
The focus of parents’ fears are the playing fields of Bob Hope Primary School and Amelia Earhart Intermediate School, facilities operated by the Department of Defense for the children of U.S. service members. Last June, construction workers unearthed more than 20 chemical barrels on civilian land bordering the schools. Tests in July revealed that the barrels contained high concentrations of dioxin, a substance which can cause cancer, immune system damage and developmental problems in children. Dioxin levels measured 8.4 times the legal limits for soil while water peaked at 280 times safe levels. Tests also revealed levels of arsenic in the soil in excess of safe limits. The land had once belonged to the adjacent Air Base but was returned to civilian usage in 1987.
“Knowing that the base has probably been aware of this situation for many months, I feel very angry. I cannot imagine what could justify their decision to withhold this information from us parents. I believe they were morally and ethically obliged to warn us of the possible threat to our children,” said Jannine Myers, the mother of a 10-year old girl attending Amelia Earhart Intermediate School.
Myers first heard about the contamination after reading a letter that appeared in The Japan Times newspaper on December 24 titled “Demand answers about dioxin threat at Okinawa schools.” 2
Angered by the authorities’ failure to notify parents and local residents about the possible dangers, Myers created a Facebook group on January 10 named "Bob Hope/AEIS - Protect Our Kids," in the hope of convincing base officials to hold a public meeting and explain what action has been taken. The group currently has more than 800 members.
“If there is a dioxin threat at the schools, it will take an enormous amount of public pressure to a) have the U.S. authorities admit that they are responsible, and b) cause them to clean up this mess and protect our children,” Myers said.
Correspondence between Kadena Air Base officials and the Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) reveals that the U.S. authorities were aware of the proximity of the school fields to the chemical dumpsite as early as June. Documents detail ODB enquiries to the base immediately following the barrels’ discovery. In response to these questions into past usage of the land, Kadena officials replied, “Starting in 1980, the area adjacent to the site was used as baseball fields and playgrounds for a nearby elementary school on Kadena Air Base.”
“The moment the knowledge of the barrels being uncovered and the potential for any dioxins to be found were known, every parent of the schools, and every person on Kadena should have been notified. I feel outraged,” said Tina Eaton who often takes her 3-year old daughter to play on the schools’ fields.
In response to the anger from Eaton and other parents, the base was forced to act.
On January 28, at a hastily-convened meeting, 18th Wing Commander Brigadier General James B. Hecker, admitted to parents that he ought to have informed them of the contamination next to Bob Hope Primary School and Amelia Earhart Intermediate School as soon as he learned of the problem the previous summer.3 But he reassured his audience of 100 that there were no indications the base itself was polluted and he stated his staff were doing all they could to protect children from any harm.

However, in the days following the meeting, members of the Okinawa Defense Bureau unearthed a further 50 barrels on the adjacent land. Similar to the 33 barrels previously discovered, some of the latest batch bear the logo of the Dow Chemical Company; one was marked “Malathion” - an insecticide - in Japanese katakana script suggesting it may have been used by Okinawan maintenance staff employed by the installation.

Workers handle latest of 83 barrels discovered adjacent to Kadena Air Base in January. Photo by Naoya Kuwae.
Many of the barrels appeared far more intact than those previously unearthed.
On January 31, in response to the latest discovery, which brings the current barrel tally to 83, Japanese Defense Minister Onodera Itsunori told TV reporters that the government would investigate the contents of the barrels and research the factory from which they came. He added that the full details and background of the discovery had not yet been confirmed.
Fears that toxic barrels may also lie beneath the school grounds themselves have been heightened by allegations from retired USAF Major Ronald Thomas. As a teenager in the late 1960s, Thomas lived on the base. He claims that he regularly drove empty barrels to land near where the schools now stand which, at the time, was an unofficial dumpsite.
“They were 55 gallon (208 liter) and, on occasion, 30 gallon (113 liter) drums. You could smell the chemicals and a few were stenciled with "Defoliant" in white with "Property KAB Special Services"”, said Thomas.
According to Thomas, some of the drums were buried while others were burned or sold to local Okinawan residents.
Thomas is unsure whether the barrels he transported held Agent Orange - the Vietnam War defoliant manufactured by Dow Chemical and other companies in the 1960s and ‘70s. More than 250 U.S. veterans claim the substance was sprayed, stored and buried on the island during the Vietnam War.
U.S. military records related to Agent Orange catalogue a herbicide stockpile at Kadena in 1971.4
Honda Katsuhisa, the Ehime University scientist tasked by Okinawa City with the examination of the barrels likened the land to contaminated fields in Vietnam where the Pentagon sprayed millions of liters of Agent Orange in the 1960s.
Last year, Washington issued a report denying that Agent Orange was ever present on Okinawa. The report was widely condemned by international experts who said it included a number of serious flaws in both methodology and contents.5
More than ten parents whose children developed serious illnesses while living on Okinawa bases have expressed fears that contamination at the two schools may be to blame. Many of the sicknesses from which they are suffering include those known to be caused by dioxin exposure - birth defects, auto-immune disorders and childhood cancers.
Telisha Simmons, who lived on the island between 2011 and 2012, is one of those who worries that her children’s ill health may have been caused by base contamination.
“I am disgusted that this information has been kept from us. Not even after my daughter was diagnosed with bone tumors and my son with a brain cyst were we informed,” she said.
Simmons’ family doctors have been unable to offer an explanation for her children’s illnesses. Her son attended Bob Hope Primary School and often played on its fields.
“He went out in all weather conditions and at times was wet, muddy and dirty when getting home. It makes me sick that this has been kept hush-hush,” she said.
At the January 24 meeting, the base authorities told parents that all tests for toxins on the schools had come back clear. However many parents questioned whether the 6-inch (15cm) deep soil samples were sufficient to detect contamination. On the nearby civilian land, some of the barrels were buried several metres below the surface.
The Air Base has announced it will conduct further tests on the schools’ grounds and it provided a telephone number for parents with sick children to contact.
This is not the first time that Kadena Air Base schools have been the focus of public concern. In 1983, a large quantity of live ammunition was discovered buried beneath the playground of Bob Hope Elementary School.
Under the current U.S.–Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), the Pentagon is absolved of all responsibility for environmental damage caused by its bases. However, in December, Washington announced that it would soon negotiate a new Environmental Stewardship Pact with Japan to supplement the current SOFA.6 The Pentagon claimed the deal would improve environmental standards on its installations but skeptics dismissed it as an attempt to placate Okinawans’ anger over plans to build a massive new military complex in Nago City.
However, it seems clear that concerns over military pollution on Kadena Air Base has united many on both sides of the fence.
“We need to find out if our kids are at risk. That is the least the U.S. government/military owes us - and owes the people of Okinawa. They do not deserve this lethargic attitude on such a potentially devastating discovery, and neither do we,” said U.S. mother, Eaton.
1. For an account of the discovery of the barrels, see here.
2. The Japan Times letter can be read in full here.
3. The January 24 Kadena Air Base meeting, including Gen. Hecker’s full briefing for parents, can be watched online here.
4.  For details on this report, see here.
5. For a full exploration of the Pentagon report, see here.
6. See, for example, “Pollution rife on Okinawa’s U.S.-returned base land”, The Japan Times, December 4, 2014. Available here.

Jon Mitchell is an Asia-Pacific Journal associate and visiting researcher at the International Peace Research Institute of Meiji Gakuin University, Tokyo. In 2012, “Defoliated Island: Agent Orange, Okinawa and the Vietnam War” - a Japanese TV documentary based upon his research - was winner of an award for excellence from Japan's Association of Commercial Broadcasters. A Japanese-language book based upon his research into Agent Orange on Okinawa will be published in Tokyo in 2014.
Asia-Pacific Journal articles on related issues include:
Jon Mitchell, "Deny, deny until all the veterans die" - Pentagon investigation into Agent Orange on Okinawa
Jon Mitchell, Were US Marines used as guinea pigs on Okinawa

"Deny, deny until all the veterans die" - Pentagon investigation into Agent Orange on Okinawa - See more at:
"Deny, deny until all the veterans die" - Pentagon investigation into Agent Orange on Okinawa - See more at: Douglas Lummis, The US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement and Okinawan Anger
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Destroyer duty ‘made me who I am’

Destroyer duty ‘made me who I am’  

Thursday, February 20, 2014 1:24 PM
Hard work, sense of community just two reasons why Sailors are passionate about their tours on destroyers

By Naval History and Heritage Command staff

It’s been said that if aircraft carriers and big deck amphibious ships are like cities on the sea, the destroyers represent the small towns where everyone knows everyone and Sailors often do more than one or two jobs on the ship.

And when destroyermen talk about what they liked during their time on these Greyhounds of the Fleet, they will almost inevitably bring up the comradeship they shared.

“The destroyer is the hardest working asset in the fleet,” said Marc Tuell of Deltona, Fla., who served from 1993 to 2013. “Often called with a moment’s notice to deploy, the Sailors you serve with are the most steadfast and devoted of shipmates and friends. The bond that is built is stronger than any other bond in the Navy.”

Tuell, who served as a fireman recruit on USS Hewitt (DD 966) in Japan, learned the ship “inside and out.” But when he was assigned to VF-154 aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), he found a very different culture “full of individuals,” and a clear segregation between the ship’s company and the Air Wing.

His final duty station in 2010 was aboard the destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62). Tuell said the ship “consistently outperformed the other ships” despite what he describes as manning challenges.

“The crew of the Fightin’ Fitz’ always took assignments, on short notice, and always executed them with a pride and professionalism that was truly amazing to be a part of,” he said.

Tuell said he would never trade the “difficulties we face during my time as a destroyerman,” on the “hardest working ships in the fleet,” both at the beginning and end of his career in the Navy. “It made me who I am.”

Billy Miller, of Ingleside, Texas, was fond of the Fletcher/Gearing class of ships serving on USS Hamner (DD 718) from 1971-72.

“The crew was very tight and incredibly hard-working. No one had time to carry a slacker,” said the Navy veteran, whose email moniker is bilgewaterbill. “We might fight amongst ourselves, but Lord help you if you wore another ship’s patch and picked on one of ours!”

John Shanahan Jr., who served as a radarman (now operations specialist) on USS Taussig (DD 746) and USS Haynsworth (DD 700) in 1962-63, whose missions included astronaut recovery.

“The crews were small enough so that you got to know pretty well all on board and the missions were versatile and exciting,” Shanahan, who now lives in Ireland, said.

Destroyers during the Vietnam-era were deployed to South Vietnam to help keep enemy ships away and remove contraband weapons from shipping traffic, said former destroyerman Jose Hernandez, who served for more than five years on USS McGinty (DDE 365) from late 1959 to mid-1965. The ship, which had survived World War II kamikaze attacks, served as the flagship for Task Element 95.21 in Wonsan, Korea, and was the “pivotman” in what was called the Irish Triple Play: O’Malley to McGinty to O’Bannon. Lt. Francis J. O’Malley, a pilot from the carrier Essex, was rescued at sea by McGinty, which delivered him to the destroyer O’Bannon.

Scott Welsh, Petaluma, Calif., who served from 1982-85 on USS Benjamin Stoddert (DDG 22), an Adams-class guided missile destroyer, also said his time on destroyers were among the best in his life.

“Nothing against the frigates and gator big decks I served in, but Stoddert looked and performed like a warship. Built for Arleigh Burke’s Navy with design values that stressed speed and hitting power over habitability. Having been around for nearly 20 years, she had a strong culture of excellence, a high-performing crew and during my time, superb leadership at every level.

Life on a destroyer, he added was “where ‘pride and professionalism’ was not a slogan, but a way of life.”
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Treasure Island Contamination - Atomic Scientists

Cover of the 1947 Bulletin of the Atomic Scien...
Cover of the 1947 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists issue that first featured the Doomsday Clock at seven minutes to midnight. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
CHICAGOFebruary 25, 2014 – For decades before it was selected for closure, the Treasure Island Naval Station in San Francisco Bay overhauled military ships and housed nuclear war academies that used radium, plutonium and cesium-137 in their training courses. The Navy knew for years that those materials were not always in safe hands. But it did not acknowledge that history publicly, and as a result, workers preparing for civilian redevelopment may have inadvertently spread radioactive material around the island, The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) has found in a yearlong investigation co-published today by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

With the naval station decommissioned, the city of San Francisco has set its sights on erecting a second downtown on Treasure Island, with plans for apartments for 20,000 residents, commercial development and open space. But the CIR investigation -- based on wide-ranging document reviews and interviews -- has confirmed the detection of significant levels of radioactive contamination on the island during preparations for redevelopment. Rather than conduct a more systematic radiation survey, CIR reporters found, the Navy engaged in bureaucratic warfare with health regulators and joined the city of San Francisco in telling 2,000 civilians already living on the island that they need not worry about exposure.

The CIR investigative report and an accompanying multimedia timeline reveal the latest in a series of problems the federal government has encountered in cleaning up former military bases for civilian reuse. In Northern California alone, military secrecy and refusal to acknowledge contamination have played roles in delaying or dashing a series of base redevelopment plans. In the wake of the CIR investigation, California public health officials have escalated their agency's attempts to make the Navy come clean about its radioactive past, and the Navy -- while still denying a significant radiation threat on the island -- has told some residents they would be evacuated and the buildings they'd been living in would be razed.

To provide context for the CIR investigation, the Bulletin has also published an expert assessment of the radioactive legacy of the US nuclear weapons program, which has spawned "the most costly, complex, and risky environmental cleanup effort ever undertaken, dwarfing the cleanup of Defense Department sites and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program. Long-term liability estimates range from approximately $300 billion to $1 trillion."
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