nervousness and was unable to take care of her children, which resulted in a divorce.” Yet her diagnosis, included in a Utah Department of Health report prepared by a veterinarian, attributed her problems to a hysterectomy, adding that the symptoms were “complicated by neurosis.” Carole Gallagher is an accomplished photographer, and her black-and-white prints are remarkable in the way they capture pathos while preserving dignity. Photographs of men lying in hospital beds, of children whose retardation to this day the government denies was caused by radiation, aggrieved women, some widowed twice by cancer, of a woman rendered bald and wearing a hairpiece and of a man who had most of the right side of his face removed, all suggest an honest photographer who approaches her subjects with an eye for what is edifying but not flattering in their character. Particularly poignant are her portraits of subjects holding photographs of lost family members. Always, Gallagher’s subjects are older than the people in the photos they hold, and in the years that lie between the two images lie entire lives they might have lived together. IN THE 10 YEARS SINCE she began the project, Gallagher has also become a fine oral historian and journalist. She obviously understands that a reporter often works best when she simply provides her subject the space to tell the story. In interviews, Gallagher treats her subjects, Nevada Test Site workers, atomic veterans and downwinders, with the same respect she accords them when she photographs them. Test site workers scrambled onto ground zero, or into tunnels after underground tests, to recover instruments set out to measure radioactivity. “We went on reentry thirty minutes to an hour after they detonated to recover instruments when the ground is still smoldering hot. … We breathed the air out there, we were exposed more highly than the people that cleared Nagasaki or Hiroshima because everything fell back onto the Nevada Test Site,” said Ben Levy. His story was like stories told by other test site workers. And the government’s response to his request for compensation is the same as it is in other cases Gallagher exposes: protracted litigation. Atomic vet Russell Jack Dann witnessed his “first shot” in August 1957. “It was [the equivalent of] 44,000 tons of TNT [Hiroshima was 13 kilotons]. The tower seemed so close, and you could count the light bulbs in it. . . . Nobody knew how big the bomb was. We wore no protective clothing, no gloves, no gas masks. We were in completely open space, right on top of the hill, like a bunch of dummies out there. At 3.8 miles the heat and light is instant. First of all, when the bomb went off, the light was like a thousand suns and the sound was like a thousand cannons. Then we saw this tidal wave of dirt and dust and sagebrush and rattlesnakes and wires coming after us.” When he returned to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, doctors denied that Dann was ill and said they had never heard of atomic maneuvers. Within a year of the two blasts he witnessed, Dann’s teeth fell out, he was found to be sterile and skin lesions that erupted immediately after he was exposed still had not healed. Thirty years later he is confined to a wheelchair, fighting for compensation for his service-connected disability. Of 250,000 to 500,000 atomic veterans, only 5,000 have been given medical disability pensions. “This day that I went out in my garden to clean it out, in the evening when it was time to come in, I was so exhausted I felt so terrible and sick all through. I didn’t even bathe, I just washed my hands and listened to the radio and found out for the first time about this,” downwinder Agatha Mannering says. “The next morning, my lungs and my throat and my sinuses burned so badly, it felt like they had been scalded or seared. I went to see my doctor. There was a lot of people waiting for him.” [The nurse] said “that goes with the radiation that’s there. The AEC told us to look for that but not to be worried. …” “Soon after this, the next day or the third day, the top of my head began to feel like it was being stung with hundreds of red ants. And it wasn’t long till my hair started falling out.” Mannering said she has been sick ever since. “I’ve had 114 cancers taken off the surface of me.” She is angry at the government’s refusal to compensate victims of radiation, whose lives were changed forever because on a given day they decided to weed the garden, go camping, or walk to the J.C. Penney’s store in Cedar City. When the first atomic bomb was detonated at the Trinity Site in 1945, the photographer hired to document the event said the emulsion was burned off his film, creating a reverse image of the world’s first atomic explosion. American Ground Zero, which was begun as Carole Gallagher’s blank slate, achieves a similar effect: a searing portrait of the beginning of the nuclear age. Her 464 pages of words and images are a fine example of a journalist speaking truth to power. This is a book for every high school and college library. How bright is the future? John Gofman codiscovered uranium 233 and isolated the world’s first milligram of plutonium for J. Robert Oppenheimer during the Manhattan Project. After running an AEC lab, with a budget of three and a half million dollars a year and 200 people working under him, the AEC staff began to describe Gofman as “personally incompetent” once he openly described Edward Teller’s plans to use hydrogen bombs to build a canal as “biological insanity.” Described by Teller as “the enemy within,” Gofman was driven from the AEC and would later suggest that the Nuremberg Principles are the standard by which the worldwide “nuclear military-industry” complex might be judged. The industry, he told Gallagher, “will not tolerate that nuclear radiation is dangerous. … At every opportunity you see them struggling to make it safe on paper. I wouldn’t give you two cents for any of them.” Before his final break from the Gofman said he was surprised to learn who was really after him: “The fiercest attacks came from the electric utility industry.” L.D. The Gay Compromise MAYBE, AS THE MAINSTREAM news media seems to agree, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gays and lesbians in the military is the best “compromise” we can expect in the current political climate. Perhaps, as President Bill Clinton said, he could not have imposed a more sweeping change on the military without seeing Congress overturn it. But we can’t help but regret we missed a moment when the United States could get over its hangup on this emotional issue. It’s still hard to believe that a majority of Americans who purportedly prize their own rights to privacy support official discrimination against people simply because of their sexual orientation. But in the past six months of vigorous discussion there hardly has emerged a public consensus for allowing gays and lesbians to come out of hiding as long as they do not engage in sexual misconduct. Instead, the military “compromise” has the effect of keeping gay and lesbian soldiers in the closet. Similar compromises kept black Americans in chains of segregation and inferior status for a century after they were officially freed from slavery during the Civil War. So it is doubly disappointing that some African Americans did not recognize the gay and lesbian cause as a civil rights issue. “President Clinton may have finally laid to rest criticism that he strives too hard to please everyone,” the Dallas Morning News editorialized in its appreciation of the compromise. The Austin American-Statesman, which called the military’s ban on homosexuals “unconscionable,” disagreed: “The policy will satisfy no one, the issue will continue on the front burner for a long time, and the president will continue to be regarded, by all sides, as a man who can be counted on to waffle when the chips are down.” J C Note to our readers: With this issue, the Observer goes into its summer interval, a three-week period that allows staffers some rest and recuperation from the regular fortnightly schedule. Our next issue will be dated August 20. 4 JULY 16, 1993
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