When the America Nuked Its Own Citizens


21 kiloton nuclear test conducted at the Nevada Test Site in November 1951 as part of Operation Buster. It was the first US nuclear field exercise conducted on land. Troops shown are a mere six miles from the blast.


Between 1951 and 1963, the US Government conducted 100 atmospheric test blasts of nuclear bombs over a 1,350 square mile test site in Nevada. While people living nearby could see the blasts, the entire project was top secret and no instructions for precautionary measures from nuclear fallout were ever issued to American citizens downwind of the blasts.

According to author Donovan Webster, writing in Aftermath: the Remnants of War, each one of these nuclear explosions:

“…spread roughly the radiation equivalent of Ukraine’s 1986 Chernobyl reactor fire across an unknowing America. According to the National Academy of Sciences…radiation-associated cancers from atmospheric nuclear testing will produce at least 400,000 deaths by the year 2000, killing twice as many people as died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”



“Ivy Mike” atmospheric nuclear test – November 1952
Ivy Mike (yield 10.4 mt)  was an atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the U.S. at Enewetak Atoll on 1 November 1952. It was the world’s first successful hydrogen bomb. Official US Government photo.

Very cool. We nuked our own citizens. But hey, it was worth it so we could prove the atom bomb actually worked.  But there is a curiosity here.  We dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and blew those two cities to bits so we knew our A-bombs worked.   Given that, why did we have to detonate nuclear bombs one hundred times in our own atmosphere?



Sedan Atomic Blast on 6 July 1962 at the US Nevada Test Site

The above explosion was part of the mostly non-classified Plowshare Project (1961 to 1973), which was initiated by the US government to showcase the many peaceable  uses for atomic bombs. The “Sedan Shot” is the most famous of the 27 Plowshare experiments.

This explosion was designed to show how easily, quickly, and safely, a huge atomic bomb detonation could excavate a harbor. The hell with zoning issues, expensive land planning and annoying construction unions. Just set off an A-bomb. So the government drilled a large shaft about 650 feet deep in the much used Nevada Test Site. Then they lowered a 104 kiloton bomb (“Sedan”) into the shaft and shoveled the dirt back in.

The US Atomic Energy Commission was in charge and on 6 July 1962, they detonated the bomb code-named “Sedan.”  Could an atom bomb be used to dig an entire harbor? You’re damn right it could. This is America! Can do! After the atomic dust cleared, observers could see the largest man-made crater ever made in United States. It is 330 feet deep and 1,280 feet wide. The explosion displaced over 12 million tons of earth.


The crater created by the “Sedan” blast. Surely this could be a harbor if it were close to the ocean and a fine harbor it would be. 

Many other civilian uses were subsequently discovered for employing the incredible force of the Bomb. For instance, in order to make the deep rock formations in western US natural gas fields more porous and thus make it easier to extract the natural gas, three 30 kiloton bombs were detonated simultaneously on 17 May 1973.

OK, there were a few problems. First, if you think people are pissed-off about fracking these days, just imagine how pissed off they would have been about drilling for natural gas with atomic bombs.

Another problem– and I think many people in our country with even  minimal intelligence could have figured this out– the natural gas they did find after detonating the atomic bombs could not be used because it was too radioactive.

In 1963 the United States and the USSR– along with other powers– signed the Limited Nuclear Test Ban treaty. This convention prohibited the testing of nuclear and hydrogen bombs in outer space, or in the earth’s atmosphere or in the oceans or other bodies of water on earth.



 An underground nuclear test conducted by the U.S. at the Nevada Test Site on 18 December 1970. Radioactive materials were accidentally released which resulted in two US Federal court cases.

Subsequently, 828 nuclear bombs have been set off underground at the same Nevada test site where the atmospheric bombs were set off. I’m not a nuclear bomb scientist but I like to think I’m an intelligent man. My question is this: after the first one hundred underground nuclear bomb tests, what did we learn from the additional 728? Does the law of diminishing returns not apply to nuclear bomb tests?

It is an irony of the Cold War that more nuclear bombs have been set off in the United States than any other country in the world. Fortunately, all of this protected American citizens from the Soviet Union and other dangers so it was worth killing an untold number of Americans to keep us safe.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans met an early death because of these incredibly irresponsible and seemingly addictive nuclear bomb tests. Huge areas of land in America have been so contaminated they will not be safe to visit for 5,000 years. Almost all of this was done under a top secret classification in order to “protect us.” That sure is a relief to know.



All photos and captions courtesy of CTBTO.org  This is the acronym for the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. According to their website, “CTBTO was set up in 1996 with its headquarters in Vienna, Austria. It is an interim organization tasked with building up the verification regime of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in preparation for the Treaty’s entry into force as well as promoting the Treaty’s universality.”




Prinz Eugen & Atomic Tests in Bimini


Photo taken between 26 May 1945 and 29 May 1945 in the North Sea.   Acting as “air sentries”, aircraft of RAF Coastal Command in which many RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) men are still serving kept a watchful eye on the two German cruisers Prinz Eugen and Nurnberg whilst they were on their way from Copenhagen to Wilhelmshaven under the terms of surrender.

(photo and caption from the Australian War Memorial)

German Navy heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen was still afloat after the initial tests but sprang a leak and rolled over.

Known as the “Lucky Ship” of the Kriegsmarine the ship survived World War Two in spite of dozens of hair-raising battles including the English Channel Dash (Operation Cerberus), being torpedoed by the Royal Navy submarine HMS Trident, and constant air attack by huge numbers Soviet aircraft in the eastern Baltic where the the ship was providing fire support to retreating German troops in the winter of 1945.

Unable to re-ammunition and under regular air attack, Prinz Eugen sailed to German occupied Copenhagen, arriving on 20 April 1945. German Navy High Command ordered her to remain there and the ship surrendered to the British on 7 May 1945 as they moved into Denmark. Germany officially surrendered on 8 May 1945 and the ship was handed over to the Royal Navy and subsequently to the US Navy.

Prinz Eugen was an Admiral Hipper-class heavy cruiser, the third member of the class of five vessels. This class was comprised of  Admiral Hipper, Blücher, Prinz Eugen. While five ships were to built, only the first three were constructed. All the ships were built with untested experimental engines which often would stop functioning at full capacity or just stop.

To the ever lasting confusion of historians, Lützow, a fourth ship of the class, was laid down and almost completed when it was sold to the Soviet Union 1940. Meanwhile, the pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee had been sunk during the Battle of the Rio Plata in December of 1939.

The first pocket battleship had been commissioned as Deutschland. Hitler did not like the idea of a ship named Deutschland being sunk so he had that ship renamed to Lützow.



Prinz Eugen as seen from the dive boat


(This  picture of German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen was taken by the photographer Spencer on 27 April 2007 and published over Panoramio. Copyright by the photographer )



wreck of the Prinz Eugen

photo courtesy of


(This  picture of German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen was taken by the photographer Spencer on 27 April 2007 and published over Panoramio. Copyright by the photographer )



Another view of the Prinz Eugen

photo courtesy of:






The Prinz Eugen anchored in the Baltic in the spring of 1941.

photo courtesy of


Bikini Atoll Explosion

Prinz Eugen at Bimini During Atomic Bomb Tests. The ship is located on the far right in this photograph. (Photo courtesy of the National Geographic)

Following from World of Warships Forum:

“Selected as a target vessel for Operation Crossroads, Prinz Eugen was readied at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in February-March 1946. This work involved removing two 8-inch gun barrels from turret “A” for additional evaluation. A fire control tower was also taken from the ship at this time.”

Prinz Eugen then proceeded to Bikini, arriving on June 11, 1946. There it was moored between two U.S. destroyers off the port quarter of USS Arkansas, 1,200 yards from the zeropoint. The vessel was not appreciably damaged in the Able test of July 1, 1946, nor in the Baker test three weeks later, when it was moored one mile off the detonation point, but was contaminated with radioactive fallout.”


View from the forecastle of the former German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, officially USS Prinz Eugen (IX-300). Circa March 1946

(official US Navy photograph)

Prinz Eugen, named after Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663–1736) is the only foreign warship commissioned into the US Navy in the modern era.

The text below is from April 1946 edition of US Navy “All Hands Magazine.”

Note that the 20.3 cm guns of turret “A” (also “Graz”) have been removed for testing.

“Prinz Eugen originally had a crew of 8 officers and 85 enlisted men of the U.S. Navy supervising 27 officers and 547 enlisted men of the former German Kriegsmarine for tests. The cruiser was sailed from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA), to San Diego, California (USA) via the Panama Canal to take part in Operation Crossroads. The German crew was gradually reduced to zero with the effect that the cruiser reached Pearl Harbor under tow on 10 May 1946, as the U.S. crew could not operate the ultra-high pressure boilers.”



Prinz Eugen inverted

(photo courtesy of  williamson-labs.com)



This bronze screw was salvaged from the wreck of the Prinz Eugen by the post war German Navy and is on display at the German naval memorial outside near Kiel. (Photograph by Darkone, 1. Mai 2004)




USS Prinz Eugen (IX 300) at sea during Operation “Crossroads”
Date 14 June 1946

US Navy Archives



USS Prinz Eugen passing through the Panama Canal in 1946.