Leukemia among participants in military maneuvers at a nuclear bomb test. A preliminary report.

The following initial survey of the participants of Shot Smokey was not to official liking.

The second survey study resulted in a continuing argument, with officials considering the cause of leukemia increase among the participants to be a mystery.

A finding which Australian and British nuclear veterans will find familiar.


JAMA. 1980 Oct 3;244(14):1575-8.
Leukemia among participants in military maneuvers at a nuclear bomb test. A preliminary report.
Caldwell GG, Kelley DB, Heath CW Jr.

Preliminary studies indicate that nine cases of leukemia have occurred among 3,224 men who participated in military maneuvers during the 1957 nuclear test explosion “Smoky.” This represents a significant increase over the expected incidence of 3.5 cases. They included four cases of acute myelocytic leukemia, three of chronic myelocytic leukemia, and one each of hairy cell and acute lymphocytic leukemia. At time of diagnosis, patient ages ranged from 21 to 60 years (mean, 41.8 years) and the interval from time of nuclear test to diagnosis from two to 19 years (mean, 14.2 years). Film-badge records, which are available for eight of the nine men, indicated gamma radiation exposure levels ranging from 0 to 2,977 mrem (mean, 1,033 mrem). Mean film-badge gamma dose for the entire Smoky cohort was 466.2 mrem.

[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

The American Cancer Society comments on the second Shot Smokey survey at follows:


In the late 1970s, a higher than usual number of cases of leukemia was seen among the troops present at the “Smokey” nuclear test in Nevada in August 1957. The question arose as to whether these cases were caused by radiation from the nuclear tests. Although the rate of leukemia was higher than expected, rates for all cancers combined were actually lower than expected, making the results difficult to interpret. Some cancers are known to have a long latency period – that is, they do not appear until decades after the exposure. The reason for the high leukemia rates of the “Smokey” test remains unexplained.

To date, follow-up of troops present at other tests have not shown an overall increased number of deaths from cancer. One study compared about 1,000 veterans who received the highest doses of radiation to other veterans who were minimally exposed. The risk of dying from some blood-related cancers (certain leukemias and lymphomas) was higher in those exposed to radiation, and the risk of dying overall was also slightly higher. However, the risk was not increased for other types of cancers known to be caused by radiation, and the overall risk of dying from any form of cancer was not higher.

Studies of British troops present at similar tests have not found that they have higher cancer rates or death rates overall, although these studies have also suggested that leukemia rates might be higher.

With the possible exception of an increased risk of thyroid cancer, studies of people who worked at nuclear weapons plant sites have generally yielded similar unclear results, as have studies of people living near areas where the weapons were tested.

Overall, the results of studies looking at a possible link between cancer and low-level radiation exposure have been difficult to interpret. end quote.

Caldwell et al were according to commentators pressured between the completion of the first survey and the start of the second survey.

The ACS statement that “follow-up of troops present at other tests have not shown an overall increased number of deaths from cancer.” is very difficult considering the finding of the 2006 Australian government health survey of Australian nuclear veterans which found this group suffers a profoundly increased risk of contracting various forms of cancer. In fact the ACS statement is just plain wrong.

The Australian authorlities, like the American ones, consider this increased risk to be “mysterious” for the Australian authorities consider that the exposure to radiation is not the cause of the greatly increased risk. The Australian authorities theorised, in the draft report, that petrol fumes in the desert the culprit.

There is a profound difference between the officially accepted surveys, the testimonies and experiences of the veterans and the results of independent researchers such as Sue Roffe, Massey University and others.

In the dim future there will come a time when official perceptions of the dangers imposed by nuclear exposures of both internal and external kinds will be seen for what it actually is. At that time the work of the very early researchers circa 1941 in relation to the metabolism of the fission products will no longer be cloaked by commerical considerastions.

That time appears a long way off. And thus, these things must be remembered. In regard to the early proofs, progress is a myth resultant from clear motive to bend statistics and to time exposures suffered by cells in a petrie dish to the phases of vulnerabilites inherent in the chromosome. While excluding known contributors to dose response variation.

I refer to the lecture given by Hamilton in 1946 in which he reports on his findings relating to the Metabolism of the Fission Products in the period of World War 2. Hamilton’s work built upon the work started in the 1930s by himself (in relation I131) J Lawrence and L.A Erf (in realtion to P32) and Pecher (Sr89). At these early times, the substances used were created by cyclotron. It was in the period 1939 on that the substances were identified to be fission products. The knowledge base created at EO Lawrence’s experimental medicine facility, based around the cyclotron, became of immense military importance from 1942.

Here’s what Hamilton had to say in 1946, in relation to experiments on humans which, in the early period, unlike much of the latter period, did involve the fully informed consent of the patients involved:

The Metabolism of the Fission Products, Hamilton 1942 on.

The individual and regular reports made by Hamilton to the Manhattan Project from 1942 are listed at the DOE Opennet online archive. The following is a post war paper dealing with what was learnt.


The Metabolism of the Fission Products and the Heaviest Elements

Jos. G. Hamilton, M.D.

+ Author Affiliations

Division of Medical Physics (Berkeley), Divisions of Medicine and Radiology (San Francisco) University of California

↵1 This document is based on work performed under Contract No. W-7405-eng-48-A for the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Energy Commission.

It is a brief version of material to be published in the Plutonium Project Record of the Manhattan Project Technical Series. Presented at the Thirty-second Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, Chicago, Ill., Dec. 1–6, 1946.


An investigation of the assimilation, distribution, retention, and excretion of fission products and the heaviest elements in the rat has been conducted at the Crocker Radiation Laboratory of the University of California. These studies were initiated Oct. 15, 1942, and are continuing at the present time. An extensive survey has been made of the metabolism of twenty different radio-elements. This project has been carried forward by Dorothy Axelrod, M.A., Asst. Prof. D. H. Copp, M.D., Ph.D., Josephine Crowley, A.B., Harvey Fisher, A.B., Ph.D, Henry Lanz, Jr., A.B., Kenneth G. Scott, A.B., L. Van Middlesworth, Ph.D., and the author. During the early phases of the work, we were fortunate in having the advice and aid of Professors I. L. Chaikoff, D. M. Greenberg, and their associates, who assisted the program materially, particularly in the studies with strontium, barium, and cesium. Also with the group, during the war, were Assoc. Prof. Roy Overstreet and Asst. Prof. Louis Jacobson, whose contributions included the radiochemical preparations necessary for the tracer studies. We acknowledge with gratitude the facilities that were extended to us by Prof. Ernest O. Lawrence to do this work in the Radiation Laboratory, the constant advice and encouragement given to us by Dr. Robert S. Stone and his colleagues of the Health Division in the Plutonium Project, the assistance and counsel from Dean S. L. Warren and his staff, the help of the operating crew of the 60-inch cyclotron for the preparation of most of the radio-elements used in these studies, and the cooperation of Profs. W. M. Latimer, G. T. Seaborg, and their associates in providing certain key radio-elements for these studies, notably neptunium, plutonium, americium, and curium.

Introduction and Methods During the early phases of the development of the Plutonium Project, it became apparent that one of the most serious problems to be encountered was the protection of personnel working in this field against the immense quantities of radiation and radioactive materials produced by the chain-reacting pile. The most important hazard that arises from the release of nuclear energy are radiations produced directly from fission and subsequently emitted by the resultant fission products and plutonium. The fission products can produce injury either as an external source of radiation or, if they gain entry into the body, by acting as an internal radioactive poison, quite analogous to radium poisoning. This latter consideration is a major concern, since the amounts required within the body to produce injurious effects are minute compared to the quantities necessary to induce damage by external beta and gamma irradiation.

A comparison with the history of the radium industry gives an index of the magnitude of the problem presented by fission products and plutonium to the medical protection program of the Plutonium Project.

end quote. It is only if one ignores the findings of Aebersold and Pecher and Hamilton as above that there can be any mystery in regard to the differing effects of internal vs external exposures.

Further, the actual documents generated by Hamilton pursuant to the first contract awarded him by the Manhattan Engineer District (the correct name of the Manhattan Projec – it was all code names, MED being the proper abbreviation) are available for download from DTIC and Opennet.

Here’s the DTIC links

US Defence Technical Information Centre records “Metabolism of the Fission Products”

[PDF] Progress Report on Metabolism of Fission Products for Period Ending October 15, 1943:

[PDF] Progress Report on Metabolism of Fission Products for Period Ending 15 April 1944

Technical Progress Report on the Metabolic Studies of Fission Products,
Citation: Accession Number : ADA321704

Title : Technical Progress Report on the Metabolic Studies of Fission Products,


Personal Author(s) : Hamilton, J. G.

Handle / proxy Url : http://handle.dtic.mil/100.2/ADA321704

Report Date : 02 MAY 1944

Pagination or Media Count : 3

In regard to the Australian Nuclear Veterans Health Survey, the current Deparment of Veterans Affairs website at http://www.dva.gov.au/HEALTH_AND_WELLBEING/RESEARCH/Pages/health%20studies.aspx#nuctest
States the following:
“Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests in Australia

The findings of the Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests in Australia Study were released in June 2006. The Study examined whether there is an increased rate of death and cancer among male nuclear test participants compared to the general Australian community, and identified whether there is any relationship between overall cancer incidence or mortality and radiation exposure.

The findings of the Study are presented in two volumes. Volume 1, Dosimetry 2006, reports on the radiation dosimetry study which used data from the tests and modeling to estimate the radiation exposure of participants in the tests. Volume 2, Mortality and Cancer Incidence 2006, reports on the mortality and cancer incidence of participants, and a case-control study on the occurrence of leukemia in relation to radiation exposure.

The Study was commissioned by the Repatriation Commission, managed by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and conducted by Adelaide University in association with organisations such as the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency. ”
The link to the survey publications is: http://www.dva.gov.au/aboutDVA/publications/health_research/nuclear_test/Pages/index.aspx

My brief summary of the result is this: the Australian government found a profoundly increased risk of many forms of cancer among Australian nuclear veterans, and taking the cue from the “mystery” US authorities claim regarding increased leukemia among Shot Smokey particpants, Australian authorities claim that though the increase risk of disease among Australian nuclear veterans is clearly seen, its cause is mystery to them. The Australian authorities deny the exposures to radiation suffered by the Australian nuclear veterans is the cause of their greatly increased risk to diseases which are radiogenic in whole or in part.

“Mortality and Cancer
Incidence Main Findings” document of the Australian Participants in British
Nuclear Tests in Australia Study, June 2006, states the following:
“The cancer incidence study showed an overall increase in the number of
cancers in test participants, similar to that found in the mortality study. The
number of cancer cases found among participants was 2456, which was 23%
higher than expected. A significant increase in both the number of deaths and
the number of cases was found for (figures in brackets show increase in
mortality and incidence):
• all cancers (18% and 23%)
• cancers of the lip, oral cavity and pharynx (50% and 41%)
• lung cancer (20% and 28%)
• colorectal cancer (24% and 16%)
prostate • cancer (26% and 22%).
The number of cancer cases (but not the number of deaths) was also
significantly greater in test participants for the following cancers (figures in
brackets show increase in incidence):
• oesophageal cancer (48%)
• melanoma (40%)
• all leukaemias (43%)
all leukaemias except chronic lymphatic leukaemia (61%).
Other findings included:
• of the 26 mesothelioma cases in test participants, 16 occurred in RAN
personnel, which was nearly three times the number expected
in RAAF personnel, there was nearly double the expected number of deaths
from melanoma, and cases of melanoma were increased by two–thirds.
The increases in cancer rates do not appear to have been caused by
exposure to radiation.”

It is in my opinion for Australian authorities to find the above, in confirmation of the concerns, experiences and sufferings of nuclear veterans, and yet to claim it a mystery. Especially when independent research undertaken, collected and presented by Sue Roffe, as funded by the New Zealand government, was the challenge which incited the defensive official response, which, also, excluded for the third time, Australian Aboriginal people from the survey. Despite earlier promises to include such people.

History has not been kind to the integrity of nuclear authorities, and more than one US President has found cause to confirm this stance. One has said sorry, admitting at the same time “Sorry” is not enough.

Well it isn’t, is it?

History will continue to be unkind, sufferings will continue and belated “Sorry” will continue to be the order of the review days.

Denial in the fact of confounding proofs – both technical and medical – show that throughout the nuclear era the cheapest and most common ‘technical fix” has not been physical engineering or remedies via law and justice, but social engineering.

It just goes on and on.

It is all very well for Japanese authorities to claim in 2011 that “atomic bomb testing never hurt anyone”, but it is also clear why those authorities made such a stupid statement.

This confounding of the issue, even as nuclear veterans and downwinders continued their fight, came about as nuclear authorities knew the cost in Yen was more than could be borne by the afflicted corporate agent involved at that time and now in that place.

Truth always wins in the end, though the end is not in sight. The end will come in sight when there is no longer any enterprise dependent upon denial in order to make a profit.

The end will not come in sight until the technology used to meet aims of the Nation State has changed.

Nuclear technology is not the high point of science. The patents of the 1930s upon which it rests have blocked both progress in competing means and the doors to the halls of justice.

The history of nuclear veterans and downwinders is in fact one of both immediate and longer term harms.

I shall undertake to relate the experiences of those who died first, those who became afflicted close in time to their experience of living and working close in to the nuclear sites and those lived under the paths of the atomic clouds.

Once again, back to the fifties.

It is getting very late in day to do this and expect any positive outcome. No matterf, one foot in front of the other, repetitive and boring as each step is. The landscape gradually changes – the distance slowly comes closer.

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