Operation Hardtack I
During Operation Hardtack 1 and 2 (1958) there were 62 US atomic weapons fired into the atmosphere, fifteen other devices were detonated underground. The Soviet Union also fired 34 atomic weapons above ground in 1958. The British exploded 5 weapons at Christmas Island. There were 16,000 DOD personnel involved in the US tests.
The 24th Helicopter Squadron (HS)was on of the many organizations that were involved with supporting Operation Hardtack.
The USAFHPA website has excellent information and pictures of the 24th HS. Fellow Rotorhead Don Damoth is the USAFHPA Webmaster and has put together an excellent article. Don was also a member of the 24th HS during the Pacific tests.
Another fellow Rotorhead, Charlie Nachbar, was a member of the 24th HS during Hardtack. Charlie is a member of the US Atomic Veterans Association and following is a letter he wrote concerning his duty during Hardtack.
From: "Chuck & Sally" email@example.com
Subject: Operation Hardtack, 1958 "24th Helicopter Sq. USAF"
Date: Thu, 24 Feb 2005
My name is Charlie Nachbar. I transfered to Eniwetok in 1958 from Japan with the 24th Helicopter Squadron of the USAF.
I do remember the old B-36 landing and taking off. I think it had a B4 Bag painted on the the nose that said "Have B-36 Will Travel."
We had mostly H-21 helicopters and one H-19 which we lost while I was there. We also lost one of the top atomic scientists with it. It went down at night in shallow water, rolled on it's side and someone opened a 20 man life raft in the cabin trapping the scientest. I think Ron Daniels from Grants Pass Oragon was crew chief of that H-19.
I do remember the great job the US Army did at the mess hall with the steaks on Fridays. The nights spent at Duffies Tavern. Parties over on Japtan, and eating the coconuts before we read the sign by the landing before we went over in the Helicopter, and the old rusted ship left from the war, I think it was the Nickajack Trails and the old cement hull ship in the lagoon we would sometimes land on, the Holmes & Narver mess hall where they served family style dinners and very good pies, fishing was excellent.
I remember seeing through your hands when you didn't have goggles to wear even with your back to the to the blast and when we had tests going on there was no water for showers so they could wash the planes down and taking the pilots out of the sampler planes with a fork lift so they wouldn't touch the plane. When we came back from picking up the instruments after the blast getting another set of shorts and shirt and a good shower.
I also remember the Coconut crabs. and the large Killer clams. They must have weighed 400 lbs. Then there was the giant shark that use to hang out accross the atoll where we were. On a previous test they had blown an island right out of the atoll, nothing left but the water line where the shore use to be.
All in all the experience in the 24th Helicopter Sq Det 4 was something that a very few got to see and hope I never see one of these bombs used again.
I did get to see some of the damage they did in Japan while there in 57 and some of the people they paraded though the streets on May Day.
Well before I write a book I'll save some room for someone else.
Fellow Atomic Vet
LETTER COURTESY OF CHARLIE NACHBAR