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Robert Del Tredici - At Work in the Fields of the Bomb

84. John Smitherman

Mulberry, Tennessee, July 31, 1983. John Smitherman was one of 42,000 servicemen who participated in Able and Baker, the first atomic bomb tests in the Pacific after World War II. The series was code-named "Operation Crossroads." Smitherman later developed lymphedema, a blockage of the lymph system that causes legs and arms to swell; he had to have both legs amputated. On September 11, 1983, he died of cancer of the colon, liver, stomach, lung and spleen. He had claimed compensation for radiation damages. The Veterans Administration turned his claim down seven times. It is still pending.

"We watched the Baker shot from a ship about 19 miles away from the explosion, and mist from the mushroom fell on the deck of our ship and sand fell on our deck, little pieces of metal and rocks. We tried to wash off as much of it as we could. The mushroom cloud stayed in the air for almost two days- we could see that."

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Text and pictures put online with permission of author.
All text and picture is © Copyright Robert del Tredici.