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How Are Enewetak Atoll Cleanup Project Members Still Alive?

by Civilian Exposure

The following is a personal story submitted to Civilian Exposure and published as part of our new series: “Contamination Chronicles: Personal Stories of Exposure”. If you would like to submit your story, you may fill out our form here or send directly via email to share-@-civilianexposure.org.


Attempting to find out how many of the Enewetak Atoll Ionized Radiation Cleanup Project personnel are still alive?  This was a project under the AEC, Defense Nuclear Agency, DOD, DOA, DOAF and the DON.  We had approximately 8300 personnel of which the military (Army, Air Force and Navy) supplied 4300.

These personnel cleaned up the contamination produced by 43 nuclear bomb tests. Each of those test was at a minimum 1000 times more powerful than either of the weapons used on Japan. A couple of the islands were completely evaporated and the island of Runit had two large craters  astride it. Cactus crater was filled with contaminated debris and covered with a concrete (coral mixed with cement and sand) dome (the dome leaks and contaminates the Atoll and the surrounding Pacific Ocean).

The island of Runit had a crusher unit  and weekly reef blasts to provide material for the crusher. The crusher of course produced dust that was inhaled by all who served on Runit.  It was also eaten and drank as the lagoon water was filtered to produce potable water and of course dust in the air contaminated the food.

On the island of Lowja were the quarters for the majority of Army personnel who worked the islands. They lived on concrete pads made from the coral, the sand, the water (all contaminated by Plutonium 238/239/’240).  All of these personnel worked 12-16 hour work days in temperatures over 100 degrees. They wore shorts, tee shirts, boony hats, jungle boots with socks. That was the duty uniform. There was no safety equipment (uniforms) as reported by the government.

It has been reported by the government that we had dosimeters and rad badges. Yes, we did.  For the 1st week. After that they were taken out of use as they were destroyed by the heat and salt air. So the readings the government provide as a baseline are from damaged equipment and only cover 7-10 days (most of which were on Enewetak island). The other 165-180 days of contamination were conducted on the island of Runit and the living quarters at Lowja. Some of the lesser islands that were cleaned up had lots of re-bar and the like which was handled by bare hands.

Last I heard, there are only about 300 of us left. Most die of multiple cancers (sometimes 3-7 all at once) and other illnesses on top of the cancers. Plutonium 238/239/240 have a half life of over 24,000 years. It also likes bone marrow. Sometimes takes decades to show up. Tooooo late. Your bones turn to dust. You have no teeth.

Our government says we were not subjected to anything harmful (no more than the gamma rays that hit Denver). The VA refuses to acknowledge us and the Armed Forces Committee of the US House of Representatives will not put our bills on the floor for a vote (we have had the number of sponsors  for our bills to pass twice).  If there are any survivors out there, we are on Facebook and have a few Youtube videos produced. We have two books written with our individual stories.  If anyone wants to help, notify your Congressional members to support the Enewetak Atoll Radiation Clean-up Project. Anything that the Civilian Exposure group can do to help will be greatly appreciated.


Note from the Editor: The account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of their name to preserve anonymity.

We will definitely support your group. We’ve reported on Enewetak before and have heard from several people in personal stories already on that issue. Feel free to send anything you have our way and we’ll try to get it out to our audience as well. – Gavin

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