Operation Lighthouse

Australians with half a brain know that the terrible treatment of our nuclear veterans is a demonstration of the kind of justice which is meted out to nuclear victims everywhere, in all eras by nuclear authorities.


Australian Broadcasting Corporation
LOCATION: http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2001/s300334.htm
Broadcast: 21/05/2001
Secret documents detail plan to use servicemen in atomic tests
Reporter: Geoff Hutchison

KERRY O’BRIEN: And now to new evidence about an episode in Australian history which has already been under the scrutiny of another royal commission – the testing of Britain’s atomic bomb at Maralinga in South Australia.

Australian and British veterans of the tests have long claimed they were used as guinea pigs, and in the past fortnight, documents have emerged in Britain which give more substance to that claim.

Now, the 7:30 Report has received more secret documents.

They detail an official plan to subject nearly 2,000 servicemen to exposure to atomic blasts.

The object, among other things, was to assess the effectiveness of tropical blankets.

Code-named ‘Operation Lighthouse’, and scheduled for 1959, the plans were never implemented, largely perhaps because the British had by then acquired access to American testing grounds in Nevada.

But the intent was chilling.

This report from Geoff Hutchison.

PETER WEBB, MARALINGA VETERAN: They said, “Count down 90 seconds, you’ll turn your back to the tower, “cover your eyes, shut your eyes, cover your hands,” and they count down 10, 9, 8…

Vivid flash and even with your eyes shut and you’re looking through your hands – you can see an x-ray of your hands – heat hit the back of your neck and, you know, blasts went through.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Peter Webb spent just three months at the Maralinga test site between August and October 1956 witnessing detonations at One Tree Hill and Marcoo, in the frontline of British and Commonwealth experiments to develop a nuclear capability.

What instructions did you have?

What were you there for?

PETER WEBB: I don’t know and I still don’t know.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: And like thousands of Australia’s nuclear veterans, Peter Webb has spent the last 45 years fighting both illness and a conspiracy of secrecy.

What conclusions have you drawn about the experience?

PETER WEBB: I always thought we were put in there as guinea pigs.

The fact of the matter, as I understand it, is that the investigations conducted by the Royal Commission have not produced a single verifiable case.

SIR ERNEST TITTERTON, ATOMIC WEAPONS TESTS SAFETY COMMISSION, FOUR CORNERS, 1985: Of injury to a person – far less a death to any person – in either the white or Aboriginal population of Australia.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: But the conspiracy of secrecy is fast falling apart, documents long hidden now re-emerging.

ANNE MUNSLOW-DAVIES, RESEARCHER NUCLEAR VETERANS ISSUES: They were concealed in a person’s back shed in Perth and for me to find these documents – it had on the title “‘Operation Lighthouse’ – pertaining to Maralinga” was like, “Oh, wow, what have I got here?”

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Anne Munslow-Davies, herself a daughter of a nuclear veteran, has found a staggering new plan for Maralinga which would intensify testing and use more people.

The plan – to expose the equivalent of a whole battalion to a series of atomic blasts.

OPERATION LIGHTHOUSE, SECRET GUARD: ‘Lighthouse’ is being planned on the basis of the first round being fired on the 30 September, 1959, and thereafter up to three more at eight day intervals.

It is not possible at this stage to indicate the yields of the rounds which will be fired.

The purpose is to study the effects of heat and blast on men at rest and wrapped in a blanket designed for use in the tropics.”

DR WAYNE REYNOLDS, HISTORIAN, UNIVERSITY OF NEWCASTLE: The interesting thing, Geoff, about the document is that it’s ‘Secret Guard’.

Guard documents were usually those documents you didn’t show the Americans.

They were very sensitive.

They were for the intimate use of British Commonwealth members and from my reading of these documents, this would lend legitimacy to this as a bona fide British Commonwealth operation.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Far from being dictated to by their British masters, the Australians clearly wanted to be part of it.

OPERATION LIGHTHOUSE, SECRET GUARD: “The Australian Services are desirous that during the Lighthouse series, an indoctrination force of approximately 1,750 troops take part in an exercise involving construction of a trench system (upwind from ground zero) including command post, troop accommodation and weapon pits and that the system be occupied during the explosion. All participating troops to be blood counted before arrival on site.”

ANNE MUNSLOW-DAVIES: The theory at the time, I assume, was that if we lose a few good men in the process then far be it, if we save the country and they were dispensable.

And that’s what is indictable – the fact they ran these tests, made mistakes, people’s health were affected and they have never come clean with that.

DR WAYNE REYNOLDS: You must also remember that by 1956 Australia has a battalion deployed in Malaya as part of the strategic reserve – the British Commonwealth Strategic Reserve – and the documents show that one of the assumptions in the event of a limited war – or, indeed, a global war — would be that tactical nuclear weapons would be used in that theatre – in the jungle.

Now, what these documents are demonstrating is a concern about the effects of a tactical nuclear device on a battalion in a tropical setting.

So, to me, the timing is about right.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Dr Wayne Reynolds is a senior lecturer in history at Newcastle University who has written extensively about Australia’s link with the atomic bomb.

DR WAYNE REYNOLDS: But the sorts of things you are seeing here, the Americans had been doing in the early 1950s.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: Is this an indication that a good number of men were going to be used as guinea pigs?

DR WAYNE REYNOLDS: I think that’s a very fair assessment.

They’ve already done that.

I think that needs to be stressed.

In 1956, they had already tested a nuclear device with personnel one mile from ground zero.

PETER WEBB: And when you think, they knew what was going to happen and they put troops in there that, in my opinion, should never have been there anyway.

The orange is for the flame, I think, the brown is for the desert and the yellow is for the devastation.

I think they got Government permission, but the Government wouldn’t issue it.

We had to pay $30 for the medal.

GEOFF HUTCHISON: ‘Operation Lighthouse’ and the exposure of a battalion to atomic blasts never happened.

The British, having patched up their prickly relations with the Americans, then took their testing program to the Nevada Desert.

But for those who did experience the Maralinga blasts and continue to fight a Department of Veterans Affairs which still refuses to call their service ‘hazardous’ and thus give them the medical benefits they demand, time is running out.

ANNE MUNSLOW-DAVIES: What I would really like to see in those documents is the records from the Maralinga hospital.

To date, they have never been found and no-one knows their whereabouts.

PETER WEBB: But every now and again, when something comes up like this, Peter Webb comes up and says, “Hey!

I’m still here, I’m still alive, I’m still breathing’. What are you going to do about it?”

I still get the same answer – “Nothing, bugger off and die,” and that’s the sad part.

KERRY O’BRIEN: We should point out that Veterans Affairs Minister Bruce Scott has been out of the country and unavailable for interview.
end quote.

In basic training, I recall a little booklet I and other soldiers were given to read. “You can trust a Communist to be a Communist”.

My little blog is all about the proofs that show you can trust nuclear industry to be nuclear industry. The proofs of the lies being state secrets held by nuclear states all around the world. Subsidized deception foisted upon the people of the world as the evil empire grows by sponsored stealth.

Dave Whyte in England sent me an email with Operation Lighthouse attachments. When pruning excess emails, I accidently deleted your email Dave.

Anne found the documents some years ago in her Dad’s old back shed. Gormless as I was in 1971, Anne’s Dad was the guy who serviced the unit’s mass spectrometer at the place where I worked back then.

See also https://nuclearhistory.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/experimentation-and-lack-of-human-rights-for-nuclear-test-veterans/

One Response to “Operation Lighthouse”

  1. CaptD Says:

    It continually amazes me that governments try and label things secret then deny their existence from the very people that were in on the secret in the first place! This is not only a failure in Leadership but an affront to the families of all those exposed that also suffer.

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