2002 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 18 Sep 2002 17:37:56 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] A week of atomic tests, a life in medical hell
A week of atomic tests, a life in medical hell

By R.W. Rogers
Daily Press

September 16, 2002

Petty Officer 3rd Class James E. Lyerly joined the nuclear club on June
6, 1956. From the deck of the USS Walton, where he and his shipmates
were ordered, Lyerly watched Shot Seminole explode 23 miles away with a
force equal to 13,700 tons of TNT.

The 1,832-pound nuclear device was detonated within a large water tank
and resulted in "one of the most peculiar weapon effects tests ever
conducted as well as one of the most spectacular," according to the
Federation of American Scientists, a think tank that studies national

Before the blast, the Walton's crew members were told to shield their
eyes and turn away from the impending blast.

Lyerly obeyed but adds, " I still could see the bones in my fingers like
an X-ray when I shielded my eyes.

"I could see marrow."

When he turned back toward the blast, he watched the atomic concussion
ripple darkly across the ocean toward him like wind rippling wheat.

He wasn't the only one to see incredible sights.

"At zero hour, the flash of light was so bright, you could see the
extreme brilliance through your arm," commented Gary Anderson, a sailor
aboard the USS Estes, another ship at Redwing. Anderson's recollections
are posted on the Atomic Vets History Project, a Web site that collects
the experiences of Atomic Veterans. "But the light was too dazzling to
see any bone content as you might think."

James Oscar Carrell, another Redwing veteran, who served aboard the USS
Catamount, wrote: "I saw the shadow of the bones in my arm and felt the
heat like you would backing up to a fireplace. We were given no warnings
or protective gear and had no idea of the danger of these tests."

There were other sights as well.

Yellow-orange-red-purple fists of boiling flame rising from the sea,
unfolding into a glowing jellyfish with 94,000-foot tentacles.

Lyerly said that World War II-era ships were placed near the detonation
sites and that some of the ships held caged animals. After the
explosions, sailors boarded the smoldering ships to assess the damage
before shooting the surviving animals.

"The patrols would go out to the ships six to eight hours after the
blasts," Lyerly said. "Even then it would be hard to climb up the side
of the ships because the ships were hot" to the touch.

"I came around the forecastle,

and there was this little lamb laying flat on her stomach. One of its
front legs was blown off along with both of its rear legs. It kept
trying to come up to me like I could help it. But I couldn't do
anything. I told them I couldn't go back there again."

Nothing in the Walton's logbook or the Blue Book refers to animal
testing during Redwing, though such testing did take place during other
nuclear test series. Lyerly swears he saw it.

Other Redwing memories are less dramatic, but possibly more significant
in terms of explaining radiation exposure.

During one blast, Lyerly said, the wind changed and blew fallout across
the Walton.

"It looked like our ship was covered in snow from stem to stern," said
Lyerly. "We had to scrub every inch."

Other sailors recalled similar incidents.

Paul Teachey, aboard the USS Granville S. Hall during Redwing, found a
quarter inch of radioactive "snow" on deck following one explosion.

"We were told that we were very 'hot,'" Teachey wrote to the Atomic Vets
Web site. In this context, "hot" means radioactive.

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