"Atomic Veterans" sickened from H-bomb testing meet Physicist who helped create it

June 01, 2017 04:17 AM

MANCHESTER -- World-changing events during the cold war era united perfect strangers over half a century later in Vermont Wednesday evening.

“The very first weapon we set off in November 1952 had the explosive power of 700 Hiroshimas,” said Dr. Kenneth Ford.  

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On one side of those events was Ford, a physicist who helped develop the hydrogen bomb for the U.S. Military in the 1950's, speaking at The Manchester Community Library. On the other side were Hank Bolden, 80, of Connecticut and Edward Kohn, 87, of Massachusetts.

They men are among 200-thousand people known as atomic veterans because of exposure to nuclear radiation in atomic weapons testing, which was the H-bomb in their cases.

“There's no actual physical work that we had to do other than standing in the hole...and wait for the bomb,” Bolden said.

“In order to study and developed the methods for walk-through in a setting with an actual bomb."

Bolden said he has suffered several illnesses from the radiation, including cancer.

“The government has not compensated me,” he said. “I have an appeal that's on going now.”

Kohn had part of his spine removed and he believes the radiation effected his two daughters.

“My sister and I have both had miscarriages and tried for many, many years to become pregnant and we're unable to,” said Kohn’s daughter, Rachel.

Dr. Ford's work advocating for nuclear disarmament after the Vietnam War changed his views on the issue possibly came full circle during Wednesday night’s event.

“I think that view of America as, special, exceptional, exceptionally moral, disappeared during the Vietnam War,” Ford said.

Event Organizer, Garry DuFour, is making a documentary about the experiences of atomic veterans. 

“They’re so much of our history, of our country,” DuFour said. “And, again they were used as guinea pigs. Participants. You know that's a proven fact.”

“All of the costs of combat not just on the terrible victims who were wiped out then and there but the continuation of the damage,” Kohn said. “We should understand if we can all of the costs of the nuclear process.”

Dufour is also a Vietnam veteran and former member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee who helped secure health care benefits for atomic veterans while doing that work.


Nia Hamm

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