Our government has been known, in its history, to do some things that really were underhanded, and in some cases horrific. The “need” for nuclear bombs naturally facilitated the need for nuclear testing. I think everyone knows that would had to have happened, but on November 1, 1951, the US Army conducted nuclear tests in the Nevada desert that included a “diabolical exercise in which 6500 US Army troops were exposed to the effects of a nearby nuclear detonation and its associated radiation.” When I read that, I was furious. They knew what they were doing, and they did it as an experiment…just to see what would happen to those poor men.
It was called Operation Buster–Jangle. The US Army conducted a series of 7 nuclear tests, that included the November 1st test. In that involuntary one test, the 6500 troops, were dug in foxholes and trenches only 6 miles from an air burst nuclear bomb of 21 kilotons yield. That is about the size of the Nagasaki bomb!! After the soldiers felt the hot nuclear wind blast over them, the wind deposited desert dust in choking clouds upon the men. Then, the soldiers were ordered to get up and march across the blast site to within 900 meters (a little over ½ a mile) of the nuclear “ground zero.” That is incredibly close, and those men were exposed.
The damage done to those men was not well documented, but the US Government later passed the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) to compensate the military veterans exposed to nuclear testing in the 1950’s. The passing of that act is implied acknowledgment of the responsibility of the US government in long term health problems experienced by those troops…without actually placing the blame, and therefore opening the government up to future lawsuits. Basically, the men, were they still alive, or their families, if not, could theoretically be compensated for their losses. Of course, as many of us have seen with these kinds of cases, the process is very slow, the burden of proof for the men trying to receive compensation is heavy, and the final payout is usually quite low. RECA has awarded over $2.4 billion in benefits to more than 37,000 claimants since its inception in 1990. Still, that’s a small price to pay for the destruction of so many lives.