New Hope for Compensation for Downwinders of the Trinity Nuclear Test?

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Secrets beget lies the way rabbits beget rabbits. And the longer secrets are kept, the more complicated the untruths of the cover-up become.

Most lying about secrets involves denial: it never happened, hence it could never have had damaging consequences.

Of all the nuclear bomb tests conducted by the United States, the most secret was the one conducted on July 16, 1945, at the Trinity Site, north of the town Tularosa, NM.

Of course, to the 40,000 people who lived within 100 miles or so of the test site there was no mistaking that something had happened. Something lit up the pre-dawn sky with a flash that Ernesto Borunda says his cousin’s wife watched from her window, and went blind within months. Something blew out windows 120 miles from Trinity Ground Zero, and people felt the blast 160 miles away.

But for years, the US Government kept the Trinity test, which paved the way for the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, secret, and denied that anything, anyone had been hurt by it.

Graphic by Amy Marash, public domain. please use with credit

In the Cold War years after World War 2, nuclear testing became a public spectacle, documented on film released as US Government public relations, to shock and awe our enemies, and encourage taxpayers to support and pay for the nuclear weapons program.

When rising rates of certain kinds of cancer and other ailments were observed downwind of the Nevada tests, a lot of people figured out the probable cause. Slowly and grudgingly, Congress set about compensating those who were sick. And, by the way, NOT requiring them to prove the cause of their illness. If they had the requisite diseases and had been in the right place at the right time, they got an official apology and $50,000 compensation under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, (RECA.)

But everybody knew about the Nevada nuclear tests, hundreds of millions of people around the world had seen the mushroom-shaped clouds. And millions of them had been saddened, when they came to know of the downwind effects.

Very few people knew about the secret Trinity Test, and few of them know the story of the after-effects on the lives and health of many of those people who lived downwind.

This has made it easier for that same government that, for understandable reasons of wartime security, had made the Trinity Test a secret, to continue hiding the facts of the test and its aftermath for decades.

And this, in turn, has enabled Congress to deny the downwinders from the secret Trinity test the apologies and benefits granted to downwinders of the Nevada tests.

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