Number 5 - The origin of crew members lining ships decks during nuclear weapons explosions.
This is number 5 of a 15 part blog series, created by Mr Roy Sefton, Chair of the New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans Association.
In the early 1950's in the early stages of the British developing their nuclear bombs, Squadron Leader Manuel was sent to the American Nevada atomic weapons test sites to observe their use of servicemen at the detonations.
As a search of the internet will confirm, thousands of soldiers were positioned in trenches of often within marching distance of ground zero, the point of detonation. Following the detonation, they were immediately ordered to march forward to Ground Zero. These detonations were busted close to the ground, drawing desert sand up into the fireball. There it was contaminated and fell back to earth. One disturbing piece of film that shows soldiers Ground Zero. They are using straw brooms to brush the contaminated dust fallout off each other.. Even if that was successful it would not remove the contaminants that the soldiers had inhaled or ingested and lodging in their organs.
Sqd Ldr Manuel wrote back to London stating that he had solved the problem of
“Indoctrination of servicemen to nuclear weapons”.
There is information that the real reason of such procedures was to establish how servicemen would react to being close to a nuclear detonation, and would they follow orders and advance forward to the affected area.
The American army tests procedures at Nevada, and later in the Pacific, were adapted for use in the Navy and Air Force. The British adopted the same US testing procedures during their testing programme.
The grainy photo below shows early US Navy personnel practising for a live detonation later that day. They wore no googles or any form of protective clothing. They simply buried their heads in the crook of their arms to protect their eyes. In the main, gamma radiation only, was monitored.
The insert shows New Zealand crewmen, a decade later, lining the decks of HMNZS Pukaki about 15 minutes before the explosion of the British first megaton detonation, Grapple 1, on 15th May 1957. Little safety changes had been made for the NZ sailors. A pair of Googles to protect the eyes from the flash, and anti gunfire flash protection of face and hands.
Immediately after Grapple exploded Pukaki swung her bow towards the mushroom cloud and passed within 14 miles of ground zero to transfer her recording equipment to the Task Force Flagship, HMS Warrior, that waited on the other side of Ground Zero.
Roy Sefton QSM Chair New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans Association.