Nuclear Exposure Japan 1961


Daily Prompt


Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.

Nuclear Exposure

The one-word prompt is exposure. I thought about exposure to my body, mainly ears and nose from spending my life in the Upper Midwest of the United States. Winters here are known to be downright long, bitter cold, with nasty strong winds. I have also been exposed to hard times and good times, bad jokes and good jokes, bad memories and good memories. I guess you might say I have almost been overexposed.

The word exposure invariably takes you to radiation exposure, which brought me back to the time I was stationed in Northern Japan in 1961 and 62. I was stationed on the far north end of Japan, at Misawa Air Force Base. This was also a place to easily get a hundred inches of snow in the winter and also very cold temperatures.

The Russians tested 57 different nuclear devices between 1 September 1961 and 4 November 1961. Weather patterns on our planet earth travel from west to east. The radiation fallout from the Russian tests came right down on us, changing our daily lives very dramatically for a few months. Time outdoors was cut to a minimum during falling rain and snow.

We had an assortment of fallout meters and geiger and ion-chamber survey meters. Learning how to run some of that radiation test equipment was a hurry up process, as very few people on the base were familiar with using them. Most of our jobs we’re all about working with airplanes out of doors so we had to be outside. It all came down to limiting the amount of time we were exposed. We spent most of the day going back inside to have radiation levels checked. If they got to a certain limit you had to shower and stay indoors longer. The base laundry and showers were busy 24/7.

Our airplanes would return from flying through highly contaminated clouds, we still had to perform intake inspections on them. Intake inspections required crawling up into the intake and checking for foreign object damage. I never felt quite clean enough, even showering after coming back out of one of those jet intakes. They had been sucking up a lot of radiation contaminated air, the geiger counter made a lot of noise inside those large intakes.

Fallout continued a long time before the radiation levels got low enough to let us get back to a fairly normal routine. I have often wondered just how high some of those levels got. It was probably just as well, not to know numbers. Even after the Chernobyl Nuclear incident in Russia, many people lived there for years and never left the contaminated areas.

We went on one RED alert while I was stationed in Japan. My Chief Master Sergeant had a look on his face that I had never seen before. Everyone went into full alert mode, instantly. The sergeant told me, “We had about 15 minutes to get our airplanes in the air where they would be safe, before we became vaporized and turned into fallout.” I asked, “What can we do?” He told me, “The best thing you can do after we get these planes out of here, bend over as far as you can, spread your legs, put your head up between your legs and kiss your rear end goodbye.” I didn’t think that was a very comforting statement.

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