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THURSDAY, JUNK 2. 1*94
? 7 VUstinas. 6-7
Atom Bomb Test Was A Crossroads For Local Veteran
BY ERIC CARLSON
sat week, veterans told Googieas about the
health ptubteun they have differed since the
* ^Yiaiau Gulf Wv and abool the FentMon'e re
ruaal to admit that they may hive been victims of
chemical or biological warfare.
Thousands of troops returned Gram the deserts of
bnq with mysterious for which doctors have
no other logical explanation Now the government
seems to want those veterans to quietly disappear.
It'a a scene that aeema all too familiar to Leroy
Tibbetts of Holden Beach. He's a World War D veteran
who has abo been plagued with iimwnal health prob
lems that don't seem to afflict other men his age.
For past 13 yesrs, T2?zss hss cspcrisaced Se
quent outbreaks of a strange rash that often gets so bad
ihai his akin bieeds. His legs and
swell to three timea their normal size. He hna had sev
eral heart attache Last year doctors found cancer in his
left lung, which had to be removed along with a rib and
all his lvmnh narit*. Thes is Jssusry HbbcSs s
stroke, which slowed his speech and dulled his memo
But not enough to keep him from asking questions
about why a 67-year-old man, who has otherwise led
an active, healthy life, should suddenly start falling
"What 1 want to know is the reason why all this is
happening to me and not to other people my age,"
Tibbetts said recently. There are guys playing golf in
tfti*w OA* V ?* "wnut ?!?!. ? y ? jy fHnffTC
without stopping to rest
"I think they're trying to push all this under the rug
and hoping that we'll all just dk off and go away."
By "they," Tibbetts means veterans affairs officials
in Washington, D C By "we" he means what are left
of the 42,000 American servicemen who were eye wit
nesses to the most powerful force ever imfeafhed by
humans on earth.
It was called "Operation Crossroads," becauae even
then, officials knew that once mankind ventured down
the path of nuclear warfare, we would never be the
Conducted in July 1946 on Bikini AtoU in the South
Pacific, Operation Crossroads marked the second end
third teats of the atomic bomb (if you don't count
Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and tne first blasts tram
which significant data would be collected on the effects
of sudesr wcspoBs.
After evacuating the population, a fleet of more than
20 shipa was anchored inside the ring of islands More
than IQjOOO measuring instruments were jnataBrri on
nearby shorelines, on observation ships and on the tar
gets themselves. Gather at were aat up to take more
than SO^OOO still phetomaphs and 1.5 mitlinn fact of
movie film. Drone airplanes were uaed to collect data
from aisidr the billowing muahroom clouds
At age 17, Tibbetts waa one of the youngest in a
fnrtiiMwH of IJ 55 Mninet .in' 1 * ? USS
Mount McKinley, the flag ship of Vice Admiral WJLP.
Blandy, commander of Operation Croaaroads. It was
there, lyias face-down on the *ek Hm? TMmm*
watched the ffcat of two atomic bombs ? designated
"You couldn't believe the flash," Tfobetts remem
bers. Even eight miles away, he recalls finding the
shock wave that npped away hundreds of tons of steel
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The Baker blaat 24 days later created a sight that was
even more aweaome. This time the bomb wa
ed 90 feet under water, ao there wasa't
Instead, the explosion instantly [fniHN a 10-million
ton column of water 2200 feet in diameter more than a
mile into the air.
T a. r in??(l ? *- - * - ? * S^ ? TImLm S - * - -
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you caa dearly see a full -sized hattfeahip on
its end in the riaing water column. Other ships look Hke
?' - *? - - - ^ . i jf , I * . ? -a* a ? # * * - ji ?
any toys, awaited oy me cylinder of rising water tnai
* smt mooo ir accMuo*
LEMOY TBSBETTS hath a fhotogrmfh of tkt ateomd of two wkmi r bomb blasts he 11 kmttmd om
SOlimiAmfm im mjpw&
would tend most of than to Ike bottom a few momoti ncaca."
ikdocus rememocrs ons oc oorai notn me oocn
floor niuBg down on the observation ship. The shock
_* iL. ?-? ? - ? -*?_??..?. ^m.,| _n ?;#?_ ffr.? ?*
oc me oust tmmcaiaieiy KUiea ui tee me sor gwiw
around. What was left of the taiget fleet was drenched
lie government's official historical wad of
Operation Grossronds, published ? 1946, talks about
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residual radioactivity as utxie more than a ?naanoe,
and not the slow, silent killer it has sinoe been found to
The rqport notes thst "This innocent-appearing but
rndioocrivc water was auch a hazard, even after four
days, that it was still unsafe for inspection parties to
spend any useful length of time at the center of the tar
Bs8 r"l^"~lf'r ayMf oCCuiiipMIiyUlg IOC icpoft,
show servicemen "deccntami
ra&ng" vessels by hosing them down with that same
TLa - - - A* - - - - A " jl , _ L *
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"washed down and made free from harmful ladioactiv
"We swam in thai water We in that water
Vfe washed oar dothes in that water," TBsbetts said. He
betievesejrposyre to the btaat itaelf and the resulting ra
OjmmAwi Sit ID ulBZnC Jim ncy | CI 1 1 DCSuul Irf iH_r H? * If
Hbbetts said his efforts to convince the government
of that have largely fallen on deaf earn. When he re
ported his condition to the Veterans Administration,
they naturally recommended that he report to a VA
hnsfntal for a compirte physical examination
The doctor never even asked me to get undressed,"
Tibbetts said "They just asked me some questions,
took my temperature, checked my blood pressure and
weighed me. inen they toid me ail my problems were
caused by smoking.
"When I was in the service, it was the government
that gave me the free cigarettes that got me smoking!"
Since he began to suspect that his health problems
might be associated with his days on Bikini Atoll,
Tibbett said he has read everything he can get his
hands on about other veterans with similar experiences.
The trouble is, most of them are already dead, he said
"Late one night I saw a documentary on TV ahrmt ?
guy from Operation Crossroads who went on board the
ipcusd a era ship after the Abie blast wearing oouiing
but a pair of tennis shorts," Tibbetts said. TWenty-five
years later he had to have his left leg amputated, then
his right, then his hands. They finally admitted it was
radiation just before he died in 1983."
Recently, Tibbetts'fbund a classified advertisement
from a veteran in Tfcxas who has filed a class-action
lawsuit in connection with health problems be suffered
since serving in Operation Crossroads. And Tibbetts
said the local Veteran Service Officer Virgil Batten has
been "very helpful" in getting him information and en
tering him in the computer network that keeps track of
Still, Tibbetts doesn't feel optimistic about getting
Hie government In admit that it tnioht hav#? micharvfUH
a military operation that happened a half century ago
and a half a world away.
There aren't many of us left to remind them,"
Tibbetts said. "And time is on their side."
Begins June 8
The summer session of diabetes education classes at
The Brunswick Hospital will begin Wednesday, June 8,
and will take place from 7 until 9 p.m. in the hospital's
The program educates diabetics about good nutri
tion, exercise, eye care and foot care associated with
the disease. It abo will focus on the stress and compii
Classci are free and open to all diabetic* and family
members involved in their care. Registered nurses from
The Brunswick Hospital will teach the dames, which
will continue for six weeks.
Program participants will be invited to join the hos
pital's Diabetes Support Group, which meets on the
tint Monday or each month at 7 pan. in me Hospital
conference room. The ? ?? .scheduled support group
mrrting is June 6 with guest speaker Igor Westra,
staff physician at Carolina Eye Associates
Westra will speak on eye qjnditiuns related to dia
? ? ?*- ? _ * ?? - ? ?? ? * ? g-_
pqq. nc b a spmum m tj?prnc retmopatny, macular
degeneration, retinal ocular tt? I and
proliferative vitreofctinopathy, aiiwuig of tier eye ds
For more information or space reservations, call
Sherry Hendricksen, R.N., or Pat Nutter, R.N., at The
Brunswick HospalaL 754-8121.
Westra will speak on eye conditions related to dia
?- - ??- !, _ ' i* * a?_a_ ? - - ?? ? sL ? i ? ? ??.1.,,
petes, tie a a specialist to qianmr rctmopemy, macular
degeneration, retinal <faahiiitua, ocular tumors and
proliferative vitreoretinopathy, among other eye dis
For more information or space reservations, call
Sherry Hendricksen, ILN., or Pat Nutter, ILN., at The
Bnmswick Hospital, 754-8121.
The Feminists Of
The Animal World
If the feminist movement has its counterpart in the animal world
it probably it the sphids. Mos* of the 4,000 or more species of this
? common garden peat begin life na an egg
laid near the bud of a plant like a roae.
When spring comes and the sap rises, the
bod begins to open and the rags hatch
out only wingless females, fhese females
dig their snouts into the bud and begin
extracting the sap.
Wuhis seven! days, these females give
birth to live females, and after several
days, they will also reproduce, bearing
only female aphids. Each aphid may