Operation Greenhouse VIP guests

greenhouse1951vips

“Operation Greenhouse.” Sounds almost like a 21st century project of a bunch of tree-hugging environmentalists, gathering to chat about possible effects of global warming, eh!

Yeah! That’s it! There they are comfortably and casually sunning themselves at a Hawaiian Retreat while waiting for lunch to be served on the first day of their annual conference.

Uh, no. They are actually invited VIP guests watching an above-ground thermonuclear explosion just a few miles away at Eniwetak Atoll in the North Pacific Marshall Islands in 1951. As casually as if they were watching the fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Dr. Cynthia Miller , who provides this photo on her website, is the daughter of a man who is in that pic…

… who not only helped build, he was also there to observe 131 atomic and hydrogen bombs explode. As a result, she was born with weapons grade plutonium radiation poisoning.

Obviously, this was before nuclear scientists understood anything about “fallout.” Miller describes the picture, and the implications for her family.

Here is a photo of my father, first person on the left, which appeared in National Geographic in June 1986 and August 2005. Notice how he is leaning forward in anticipation of the next nuclear explosion.  I remember in 1986 when this issue of National Geographic came out, I asked my father if he was the one in the photo and he said “yes”.

The National Geographic states, “Shielded only by dark goggles, guests of the U.S. military settle back in 1951 to witness a nuclear blast on the Eniwetak Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. The test was part of Operation Greenhouse, whose blasts resulted in significant downwind fallout, posing health risks to spectators and test personnel.

Here’s what they were about to witness, or something just about like it. This was the “George” explosion of the Greenhouse project series, a 225 kiloton explosion (the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were about 20 kilotons…) triggered on May 9, 1951.

greenhouse george 1951

The National Geographic continued:

“Exposure to radioactive fallout from nuclear tests in the United States alone may have killed an estimated 11,000 persons from cancer, according to a U.S. government study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study reported that “any person living in the contiguous United States since 1951 has been exposed to radioactive fallout.”‘

Miller adds more details about how this affected her father and her family.

In all, my father had a VIP seat and watched at least 131 atomic and nuclear bombs explode. He loved his work, and loved explosions. He would watch bombs explode and then come home. We were sick and in pain all the time. I was an adult before I realized that people lived without pain.

Bone cancer was found throughout his whole body; the doctors could not locate its origin. He died during the fireworks on the 4th of July, exiting with a great explosion of light.

For more about US above-ground nuclear testing, see the blog entry More Mad Men from my Special Report series blog Not So Fabulous Fifties.

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