An eerie, unnerving first-hand account of how the military used men as guinea pigs during the testing of nuclear weapons....

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COUNTDOWN ZERO

An eerie, unnerving first-hand account of how the military used men as guinea pigs during the testing of nuclear weapons. Both authors were unwittingly involved: Saffer, a marine lieutenant, was in trenches near ground zero during three ""shots"" in 1957; Kelly, for no apparent reason, was ordered to witness 22 H-bomb blasts at Eniwetok Atoll in 1958. The horror began in '52, when the Defense Department pressured the AEC to relinquish control of troop maneuvers at the testing sites. The marines started placing troops in flimsy trenches as close as two miles from ground zero. Immediately following each blast, the troops were ordered to ground zero, right to the edge of the nuclear crater, for maneuvers. They wore no protective clothing whatever. Saffer's description of what it was like to experience a nuclear blast has a nightmarish, surreal quality. Soldiers were apparently killed in these tests (since the bombs were experimental, no one could predict yield with certainty, and explosions were often several times larger than predicted); but the dead simply disappeared with no explanation. Those who asked questions were threatened or, allegedly, sent to the mental ward. Kelly later developed leukemia (he died in 1980), Saffer an unusual neuromuscular disease; the latter part of the book chronicles their fight to convince the VA that they were indeed injured by the tests and should receive disability pensions. But the VA continued to insist that no one had been exposed to harmful doses of radiation, and thus routinely rejected all ""atomic veteran"" applications. Though the second half of the book suffers from overwriting, the ghastly eyewitness accounts of being there when the bomb went off provide graphic backing for the Wasserman and Solomon Killing Our Own (p. 193).

Pub Date: May 31, 1982

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1982