America’s Atomic Vets
The USS De Haven sailed from Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor on May 5, 1958, carrying 240 men deep into the Pacific on a secret mission.
Gunner’s mate Wayne Brooks had only a vague idea of their destination. But within a few days, he would experience an explosion so immense and bright that he could see his own bones. He and his crewmates had been assigned to witness Operation Hardtack I, a series of nuclear tests in the Pacific.
The De Haven, a destroyer, was one of dozens of ships assigned to the operation at Enewetak Atoll, Bikini Atoll and Johnston Island. It would be their crews’ initiation into the ranks of hundreds of thousands of service members now known as “atomic veterans.”
What seems like a story long tucked away in history books remains a very real struggle for those veterans still alive, the radiation cleanup crews who followed and their families – many of them sick and lacking not just the federal compensation, but also the recognition they believe they deserve. Continue reading…