As requested, I figure this is where I should post. As this could end up equating to a whole lot of information, I'll be breaking this out into 3
parts: background, his recollections and reflections and its aftermath. The point of this thread is an attempt to provide a perspective on this
particular part of military history through the retelling of the stories that I grew up with and experiences. When I was growing up, hearing these
stories, I always understood that my grandfather made a point of how he was breaching his vow of silence on these matters. He made that abundantly
clear. He passed away several years ago and I hope that, through the sharing of his opinions and recollections as they were told to me, can help
illuminate a great deal. It was very important to him because the events that occurred disturbed him though it's notable to also understand that he
remained involved with atomics for years and years as well as remained in the military. I'll do my best to be as accurate as possible. If I can't
recall a particular thing or am unsure, I'll state as much.
In December of 1944, my grandfather went through heavy debriefing and was transferred to Randolph AFB in Texas for pilot training,
which he "failed" lol. Afterwards, he was transferred to the 509th Composite Group. and went to the Pacific Theater later that year, although it's
absent on the combat report. All we have to validate it was a Japanese officer's sword, some pearls from Japan and a porcelain geisha doll. He
remarked that he was very glad that he wasn't chosen to drop the bombs there because he wouldn't have been able to live with himself. A few years
later, the 509th became one of the first groups that became the USAF and Strategic Air Command (SAC). He remained in SAC til 1963 according to his
AF-11 before being transferred to the Alaskan Air Command in 1964 at Elmendorf. I kind of remember him telling me that he had gotten "hot" and was
sent to Alaska to "cool off" as if that would somehow work. My mother doesn't remember that but she also was usually in the kitchen with her mother
during these talks. Events that occurred while in Alaska precipitated my grandfather's temporary transfer (he viewed it as a punishment) to the Air
Transport Service for a little under 1 year before being transferred to Military Air Command. His final position in the USAF was as a Numbered Air
Force Chief of Staff.
As I grew up, my grandfather would frequently tell us stories about his experiences within the 509th and SAC. We absolutely know, according to his
military records, that he was at Operation Crossroads (1946) and Operation Upshot-Knothole (1953). When we requested his full
service and medical records from the USAF, they missed a handwritten page buried within his medical record that remarked on these radiation exposures.
The only other obvious evidence of his atomic career was both his long participation in SAC and a reference to radiological training at Treasure
Island in California. My grandfather had a distinct tendency about not telling us which bomb tests he was present at and always emphasized that the
information that he was relaying was still classified at the time. I remember him scolding me and urging me not to go to school and start talking
about a-bombs because he could get in trouble.
He generally avoided using precise locations so, instead of saying that he was at the Bikini
Atoll, he would say that they bombed the hell out of an ambiguous "island in the South Pacific" or "dropped a bomb in the desert" in the case of
There was only a couple instances where he did get specific in regards to locations because the location, itself, was very important because of the
proximity to highly populated areas. These were stories that, due to his active involvement in the military, he would not discuss with his own
children at the time. It wasn't until the early 1980's that he made his decision to tell his grandchildren these stories. His stated reasoning is
that we had
to know because it could have affected us and also because he believed these events should have been declassified years prior. His
thought was that they might not ever declassify them, which he believed to be wrong as his former colleagues were dying These events were not
declassified until the mid to late 90's.
: I will never forget the first time that my grandfather told me that he had been involved in atomics. I was about 12 years old
when he mentioned it and expressed some disbelief. He made a point of telling me the basic principles behind how an a-bomb was constructed by drawing
a very basic schematic of Little Boy on a cocktail napkin. One of the first things that he talked about was the training to drop these bombs. He said
that they were incredibly heavy and part of the pilot training for this was forcing the pilots to push the bombers very hard at take off so that they
would be able to do so from shorter runways. He said that the incentive to succeed at this was a concrete block wall at the end of the runway.
Basically, if you didn't lift off in time, you and your bomber would either pile into the concrete wall or clip it. Neither was a good thing,
according to my grandfather, who told me that a lot of pilots crashed into the wall. I've never found a reference to this anywhere but I know that
the heavy weight was very true as Little Boy was the equivalent of carrying two mid-size SUV's.
He talked about "bombing islands in the South Pacific" several times. He always remarked that he felt kind of bad about it because they were
beautiful islands until the bombs dropped on them. He very clearly stated that he was present at Crossroads and that what he saw there disturbed him
terribly. He said that, being in the group that he was, they were all very aware of the dangers that these bombs held. Yet, after the bombs were
dropped, he was shocked when the other military there was sent in and began hosing down the ships and more in order to extract the various stuff that
scientists had left in the experiment. So, he basically saw men being sent in to what would've been "hot" areas with no protection and it
absolutely disgusted him. He said that later, the military stated that they didn't know that this would harm the men but he said that they were
lying and that they already knew the potential dangers of radiation. Only a small portion of them were given badges to measure the amount of
radioactivity that they were exposed to and they were told that exposure to it could be remedied by taking a shower and changing their clothes.
He'd get pretty upset when he talked about Operation Crossroads in particular and he'd start referencing all the men that he had personally known
there who had died, including one friend of his who died of 5 cancers. He said that, later on, the military officials stated that they didn't know
how dangerous the situation actually was and that they had no way of knowing the impacts but my grandfather heavily disagreed. He said that they
absolutely knew because of things that had happened at Los Alamos and even he knew, from his own training at the time, that going in right after a
bomb was dropped was not a good idea. He very clearly emphasized that the military officials in command at the time treated all the men at Operation
Crossroads like they were guinea pigs.