Canadian diver may have found an Atomic Bomb we lost 66 years ago

❝ The water conditions were perfect — “beautiful, clear, green” — when Sean Smyrichinsky went diving last month off the north coast of British Columbia…

Using a DPV, or a diver propulsion vehicle, Smyrichinsky plunged 25 to 30 feet down into the bay…Ahead of him, a mysterious object emerged.

“And I thought, what a cool rock formation,” he said. “It’s perfectly round.”

As he approached the formation, Smyrichinsky discovered it wasn’t a rock, but something that appeared man-made.

It was perfectly round, he noted, with circles and bowls “the size of basketballs” cut into it.

❝ He rushed back to the surface to tell his friends, boat captain Richard Hamilton and fellow diver Chrissy Anderson, about the bizarre object he had spotted…

n the evenings, he consulted with fellow divers and fisherman in nearby boats to try to corroborate what he had seen. All of them dismissed him.

It wasn’t until Smyrichinsky was preparing to go home when an “old-timer” at a local village took him seriously…

❝ “…“Hey, maybe you found that old bomb they lost?”

“That old bomb,” the older fisherman explained, was from a U.S. Air Force B-36 bomber that had crashed over British Columbia in 1950.

The wreckage from the plane was discovered a few years later, in a remote location, but a Mark IV nuclear bomb that it had reportedly jettisoned ahead of time was never recovered…

❝ The Canadian Navy has since deployed a ship to explore the site of the crash and invited Smyrichinsky to join them — something that has particularly thrilled the diver, who usually lives in Courtenay, B.C., where he runs the Union Bay Diving shop…

Smyrichinsky’s discovery does match up with the location of the 1950 bomber crash, Maj. Steve Neta of the Canadian Armed Forces told CBC News.

Neta also told the news network that the lost bomb was a “dummy capsule” and is not likely a nuclear weapon.

“Nonetheless, we do want to be sure and we do want to investigate it further,” Neta told CBC News.

The Canadian naval ship should arrive later this week, and Smyrichinsky plans to join them later this month…

Is there a lost-and-found reward from Uncle Sugar?

John Hersey’s Hiroshima revealed the horror of the bomb


This book has never been out of print

At the end of this month 70 years will have passed since the publication of a magazine story hailed as one of the greatest pieces of journalism ever written. Headlined simply Hiroshima, the 30,000-word article by John Hersey had a massive impact, revealing the full horror of nuclear weapons to the post-war generation, as Caroline Raphael describes.

❝ I have an original copy of the 31 August 1946 edition of The New Yorker. It has the most innocuous of covers – a delightful playful carefree drawing of summer in a park. On the back cover, the managers of the New York Giants and the New York Yankees encourage you to “Always Buy Chesterfield” cigarettes.

Past the Goings on About Town and movie listings, past the ritzy adverts for diamonds and fur and cars and cruises you find a simple statement from The Editors explaining that this edition will be devoted entirely to just one article “on the almost complete obliteration of a city by one atomic bomb”. They are taking this step, they say, “in the conviction that few of us have yet comprehended the all but incredible destructive power of this weapon, and that everyone might well take time to consider the terrible implications of its use”.

Seventy years ago no-one talked about stories “going viral”, but the publication of John Hersey’s article Hiroshima in The New Yorker achieved just that. It was talked of, commented on, read and listened to by many millions all over the world as they began to understand what really happened not just to the city but to the people of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and in the following days…

Hersey’s editors, Harold Ross and William Shawn, knew they had something quite extraordinary, unique, and the edition was prepared in utter secrecy. Never before had all the magazine’s editorial space been given over to a single story and it has never happened since. Journalists who were expecting to have their stories in that week’s edition wondered where their proofs had gone. Twelve hours before publication, copies were sent to all the major US newspapers – a smart move that resulted in editorials urging everyone to read the magazine…

All 300,000 copies immediately sold out and the article was reprinted in many other papers and magazines the world over, except where newsprint was rationed. When Albert Einstein attempted to buy 1,000 copies of the magazine to send to fellow scientists he had to contend with facsimiles. The US Book of the Month Club gave a free special edition to all its subscribers because, in the words of its president, “We find it hard to conceive of anything being written that could be of more important at this moment to the human race.”

By November, Hiroshima was published in book form. It was translated quickly into many languages and a braille edition was released. However, in Japan, Gen Douglas MacArthur – the supreme commander of occupying forces, who effectively governed Japan until 1948 – had strictly prohibited dissemination of any reports on the consequences of the bombings. Copies of the book, and the relevant edition of The New Yorker, were banned until 1949, when Hiroshima was finally translated into Japanese by the Rev Mr Tanimoto, one of Hersey’s six survivors.

Please read the book. It is one of the three books reflecting the War that formed much of my life. Certainly my feelings about the cruelty of war. My family still has the free copy we received from the Book-of-the-month club.

Sorry. I can write no more this morning. Too many tears.

First victims of the A-Bomb were American — UPDATED

The explosion was seen nearly 200 miles away, the shock waves felt practically 100 miles away, and 70 years later, America’s first atomic bomb test – code-named Trinity – still reverberates in the tiny towns and secluded hamlets that ring the edges of the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico…

New Mexicans and their families who lived downwind of the Trinity fallout zone say the U.S. government should be held accountable for poor health, high rates of cancer, and early death like downwinders at other nuclear sites in Utah, Nevada and Arizona. However, with little to no medical proof definitively linking their illnesses and the blast, a rapidly aging and dying population, and little support from Congress, the hope for compensation, or even an apology, may take another generation to materialize.

Their story began…70 years ago. On the early morning of July 16, 1945, there was a bright flash and massive explosion at the Alamagordo Air Base at White Sands. The first test of an atomic weapon had occurred. However, officials were quick to cover up what had happened. The Associated Press reported that “a remotely located ammunition magazine containing a considerable amount of high explosives and pyrotechnics exploded.”

The AP also reported that “weather conditions affecting the content of the gas shells exploded by the blast may make it desirable for the Army to temporarily evacuate a few civilians from their homes.”

According to a Centers for Disease Control report, those civilians were never warned nor evacuated. Many locals reported “a white substance like flour” that fell for days. The night after the test, it rained; the water was collected in cisterns by locals and consumed later on.

“There have been plenty of people who’ve said: ‘why didn’t you move away?’” said Tina Cordova, a cofounder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium. “We didn’t know, first of all, we were at risk of anything. And by the time we knew were all so overexposed.”

Cordova is recovering from thyroid cancer and says her father passed away nearly two years ago after a long cancer battle that ended with heavy facial surgery…

Cordova has been conducting surveys and compiling the medical histories of every downwinder she can find. The file is huge…

Under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) of 1990, uranium mill workers, miners, transporters, and on-site workers in states across the West are all eligible for compensation. In Nevada, Utah and Arizona, downwinders and on-site workers at nuclear test sites — including those working at White Sands Missile Range — are also eligible. However, New Mexican downwinders are not covered. They hope New Mexico Senator Tom Udall will make it right.

New Mexicans have been left out for a long time,” Udall said. “We hope there will be a situation where justice comes to this case and people be compensated and they will get that apology from the United States of America.”

Sometimes I have to wonder why our government, especially military types, beancounters in Congress, take pride in being such miserable, low-life human beings. We are the wealthiest nation on Earth. Our government will drop billions on some of the most useless, backwards hardware, politics, agencies and other foolishness. But, when it comes it compensating ordinary folks who “probably” had their lives ruined by criminal behavior by official decisions – perish the thought we give someone the benefit of the doubt.

Contemptible behavior. Disgusting. Another example to the rest of the world how little this powerful nation actually cares about our own citizens – much less the population of workers and farmers, citizens of this planet outside our borders.

Most folks in New Mexico who study history beyond batting averages for the Albuquerque Isotopes know this story. RTFA for tales of just a few of the individuals and families destroyed by the side effects of that test.

UPDATE: NM Senator Tom Udall is battling with Senate blivets and backwards chickenhawks to aid Tularosa downwinders.

Oppenheimer’s reputation repaired by unredacted security records


Oppenheimer with a socialist who wouldn’t be allowed into the country, today

The release of unredacted transcripts of secret government hearings held in 1954 by the Atomic Energy Commission produced headlines last week as the disclosures reaffirmed the once-questioned loyalty of Los Alamos Manhattan Project mastermind J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Many are asking why it took six decades to release the previously secret sections, other than that the now-restored portions tended to exonerate Oppenheimer. One expert says there was no classified information in the redactions.

All questions of security in the United States are regulated by paranoid idiots.

In a monumental fall from grace, Oppenheimer went from the man who harnessed the power of the atom for the bombs that ended World War II to losing his security clearance after the AEC hearings amid accusations that this chain-smoking American eccentric was a Soviet spy.

The hearings were held against the backdrop of 1950s red-scare America, fueled by factors including the fact that Oppenheimer’s brother and wife had been communists, and his lack of enthusiasm for building the more powerful hydrogen or “Super” bomb.

RTFA. The JOURNAL isn’t quite as much of a PITA as some. They don’t require registration; but, you must answer one or more survey questions which earns them relevant baksheesh I guess.

Cold War hysteria fit perfectly into the reactionary politics of the American establishment post-WW2. Oppenheimer, with a scientist’s objectivity and reliance on observable and verifiable fact did not. Our politicians would rather reject talent than admit their foolishness. Which is why government transparency is a contradiction in terms.

His earnestness about trying to build peace – alienated him from hawkish thugs like Edward Teller who wanted more and bigger bombs every week [and got them] – sealed the deal. No pleas for peace in imperial ideology.

I was lucky enough to meet Dr. Oppenheimer a couple of times. He was just part of the audience at discussions about working to promote peace at forums sponsored by the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy.

Japan, the world, remembers those who died in Hiroshima

Japan marked the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima on Wednesday, with the city’s mayor inviting world leaders to see atomic bomb-scarred cities firsthand to be convinced that nuclear weapons should not exist.

Speaking before a crowd of survivors, their descendants and dignitaries including U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, the mayor urged U.S. President Barack Obama and others to visit, referring to a proposal made at a ministerial meeting in April of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative in Hiroshima.

“President Obama and all leaders of nuclear-armed nations, please respond to that call by visiting the A-bombed cities as soon as possible to see what happened with your own eyes,” Mayor Kazumi Matsui said. “If you do, you will be convinced that nuclear weapons are an absolute evil that must no longer be allowed to exist.”

About 45,000 people stood for a minute of silence at the ceremony in Hiroshima’s peace park near the epicenter of the 1945 bombing that killed up to 140,000 people. The bombing of Nagasaki three days later killed another 70,000, prompting Japan’s surrender in World War II.

I’m enough of a cranky old geek to remember when the cabinet member in charge of killing people in other lands was called the Secretary of War. Was WW2 a war I could support? You betcha. Did we sometimes act like the vicious monsters on the “other side”? You betcha. As an American, therefore, I have a responsibility to fight to keep my nation on a righteous path – opposing the greed and deceit so often prompting war.

Yes, I stood in the street with my family and neighbors and cheered and cried with joy – August 6, 1945 – because the war was over. At that moment we didn’t consider the threat our government had unleashed upon the world.

As for the music up top – Pete Seeger was a freedom fighter for us all. He would never let us forget evils committed in our name. The music was written by James Waters. Pete’s performance.

The lyrics are a poem written by one of my favorites, Nazim Hikmet. Even in exile from his beloved Turkey he, too, was a freedom fighter.

Thanks, Mike – who found something completely different.

From the Cold War 1.0 – United States planned to nuke the moon

You could easily skip by it in an archive search: a project titled “A Study of Lunar Research Flights.” Its nickname is even more low-brow: “Project A-119.”

But the reality was much more explosive. It was a top-secret plan, developed by the U.S. Air Force, to look at the possibility of detonating a nuclear device on the moon.

It was hatched in 1958 – a time when the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a nuclear arms race that would last decades and drive the two superpowers to the verge of nuclear war. The Soviets had also just launched Sputnik 1, the world’s first satellite. The U.S. was falling behind in the space race, and needed a big splash.

“People were worried very much by (first human in space Soviet cosmonaut Yuri) Gagarin and Sputnik and the very great accomplishments of the Soviet Union in those days, and in comparison, the United States was feared to be looking puny. So this was a concept to sort of reassure people that the United States could maintain a mutually-assured deterrence, and therefore avoid any huge conflagration on the Earth,” said physicist Leonard Reiffel, who led the project…

The military considerations were frightening. The report said a nuclear detonation on the moon could yield information “…concerning the capability of nuclear weapons for space warfare.” Reiffel said that in military circles at the time, there was “discussion of the moon as military high ground.”

That included talk of having nuclear launch sites on the moon, he said. The thinking, according to Reiffel, was that if the Soviets hit the United States with nuclear weapons first and wiped out the U.S. ability to strike back, the U.S. could launch warheads from the moon.

“These are horrendous concepts,” Reiffel said, “and they are hopefully going to remain in the realm of science fiction for the rest of eternity…”

Or the platform of the Arizona Republican Party

By 1959, Project A-119 was drawing more concern than excitement…

Project planners also weren’t sure of the reliability of the weapons, and feared the public backlash in the U.S. would be significant,” Reiffel said…

Contacted by CNN, the Air Force would not comment on Project A-119.

Has there ever been a branch of anyone’s military willing to admit how truly stupid and useless some of their projects may be?

Feds ignore downwind radiation damage from 1st A-Bomb test

Tresa VanWinkle struggled to hold back tears as she glanced at family photos perched on her desk among the clutter of her downtown office. “I look at what has happened to members of my family, and I wonder if we are the children of the bomb,” said VanWinkle, 53, director of the Alamogordo-based Cancer Awareness, Prevalence, Prevention and Early Detection center…

“The bomb” was the 19-kiloton plutonium device nicknamed “The Gadget,” detonated just before dawn July 16, 1945, on the northwest end of what is now the White Sands Missile Range. The explosion, the product of the Manhattan Project, was the first-ever detonation of an atomic device and is considered the dawn of the nuclear age.

Now, more than six decades after the United States launched what some consider, in essence, a surprise nuclear attack on the citizens of south-central New Mexico, many feel they have been abandoned by their government and left to deal on their own with three generations of radiation-induced illnesses and deaths…

In the past 15 years, VanWinkle said, 14 members of her and her husband’s family, including two of her sisters, have been diagnosed with a variety of cancers; eight of them, including her sisters, have died…

A recently formed group known as the Tularosa Downwinders Consortium is attempting to raise awareness of the increase in cancer and autoimmune diseases in four counties adjacent to the Trinity Site (Otero, Lincoln, Sierra and Socorro) — up to nine times higher than nationwide figures — and to push for inclusion of the Trinity downwinders in the federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990…

The compensation act, initiated in great part by former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, father of U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., offered mea culpas and monetary compensation to uranium miners and residents of Nevada and other Western states who were downwind from above-ground atomic-weapons testing in the 1950s and early ’60s.

The legislation, administered through the Justice Department, authorizes lump-sum compensation payments and sometimes medical coverage to individuals in three categories who contracted any of 27 types of cancer or other radiation-related diseases…

Despite numerous amendments and expansion of the coverage over the years, the Trinity downwinders have never been included in the legislation.

RTFA. None of this is a surprise to folks in my neck of the prairie.

We all hear tales, truth or myth, going back to the Manhattan Project. Some is the result of day-to-day casual contact with leftovers from those days. I’ve been in offices where folks stashed brown bag lunches in a refrigerator that also contained samples from the Trinity site. 🙂

Some of what folks face is the American tradition of denial in the face of responsibility. Doesn’t matter which disaster we confront, Americans are always supposed to be the Good Guys – our government even more so. It’s easy to refuse compensation if you convince yourself nothing happened, nothing’s wrong in the first place.

U.S. officially attends Hiroshima Ceremony for the first time

Doves released during the ceremony at Peace Memorial Park
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Hiroshima — The United States ambassador participated for the first time in an annual ceremony to mark the anniversary of the atomic bombing here in World War II, raising hopes that President Obama may soon follow.

With the mournful gonging of a Buddhist temple bell and the release of doves, a crowd of 55,000 solemnly marked the moment 65 years ago when the world’s first atomic attack incinerated this city under a towering mushroom cloud.

During the ceremony, Hiroshima’s mayor welcomed the ambassador, John Roos, and praised President Obama as one of the world leaders who “wielded their powerful influence” to rid the world of nuclear weapons…

“We greet this August 6 with re-energized determination that no one else should ever have to suffer such horror,” said the mayor, Tadatoshi Akiba. “Clearly, the urgency of nuclear weapons abolition is permeating our global conscience.”

Mr. Roos did not speak at the ceremony, which included a minute of silence at 8:15, the moment the bomb detonated on a Sunday morning in 1945, killing more than 140,000 residents. In a statement issued by the American Embassy, Mr. Roos said, “we must continue to work together to realize a world without nuclear weapons.” While no one mentioned it during the ceremony, city officials have said they hoped Mr. Roos’s attendance would serve as a step toward a future visit by President Obama to Hiroshima, which along with Nagasaki has become a symbol of the horrors of nuclear war.

Mr. Akiba also praised the ambassadors of Britain and France and also the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, all of whom also attended the ceremony for first time.

It is time to move from “ground zero to global zero,” Mr. Ban said in a speech, referring to the elimination of nuclear weapons. “For many of you, that day endures as vivid as the white light that seared the sky, as dark as the black rain that followed.”

Overdue.