PLATTSBURGH — Frank Bushey has a military wall in his Plattsburgh residence.On it hangs a black-and-white image of his father, Frank A. Bushey, circa 1920 and just back from France. The senior Bushey was attached to the 26th Infantry Division at the Plattsburgh Barracks. With the New York National Guard, he fought against Pancho Villa during the Mexican Insurgency and later in both world wars and the Korean War.Nearby are photographs of the younger Frank's sons: Craig Bushey, a former U.S. Air Force captain (KC-135 navigator), and Lt. Col. David Bushey, who is deployed with the 25th Artillery Battalion "Wolfpack" in Afghanistan.Between his father and sons are photographs of a fresh-faced Frank at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. There is also an image of the mushroom cloud of "Shot Badger," taken on April 18, 1953.It was the sixth of 11 atmospheric nuclear-weapons tests at the Nevada Proving Ground, the Atomic Energy Commission's continental nuclear test site.Badger was fired on a 300-foot steel tower in Area 2 of Yucca Flat.According to a Defense Nuclear Agency Report: "The primary objective of the event was to investigate the possibility of increasing the yield of a standard fission-type weapon by varying the composition of the device. Other important objectives included evaluating the blast, thermal and radiation phenomena produced by this nuclear detonation and conducting a simulated air and amphibious assault under nuclear battlefield conditions."The report says Badger yielded only 23 kilotons of the expected 40 kilotons of energy. The blast "illuminated Las Vegas like daylight and was evident 500 kilometers to the southwest in Los Angeles."Frank Bushey knows what happened within his bones. He was one of 2,167 that comprised the 2nd Marine Corps Provisional Atomic Exercise Brigade, there for tactical troop maneuvers.
With rifles, helmets and packs, the Marines entered 4-foot-deep, narrow trenches parallel to the bomb tower, about 3,600 meters away.Like the others, Frank assumed a right-knee kneeling position with his right shoulder pressed against the trench's forward wall during the quiet before countdown:"10""9""8""7""6""5""4""3"
"2""1""0"About Badger's detonation, he writes."The ground shook so bad, it threw us back and forth in the trenches. The sound of the blast was very, very loud. The 23-kiloton bomb had a lot of kick. I smelled something very acrid, and there was a crack that sounded somewhat like thunder, but much higher pitched."The whole valley went from total darkness to brighter than 100 suns ... come to life all at once. I was looking down and saw the rocks on the ground in the trenches right through my eyelids. I glanced over to my left and saw the (Marine) that was there, whole skeleton — one huge X-ray."
The blast's winds were hurricane force. Brush and mesquite burned. Birds fell from the sky."We got the word to stand and look at the fireball. There were all the colors of the rainbow. It was beautiful and yet ugly in some ways (like angry). Our plan was to attack an imaginary enemy at Ground Zero. We were ordered out of the trenches and into a skirmish-line attack to Ground Zero. A battalion size operation with about 800 Marines. Shortly into the attack the wind starting coming up and into our faces as we advanced."Frank's nose and throat were embedded with dust. Afterward, he was "hot" and "swept down" for radioactivity three times before deemed OK."The First Battalion 8th Marines were exposed to an unexpected and unanticipated amount of radiation dose caused by a wind shift," according to a Defense Nuclear Agency document.
Flash forward.Sitting at the dining table, Frank recalled Badger as his wife, Martha Rose, mills about."It was a scary moment for me," he said. "I didn't know if I was going to take my last breath on Earth or not. I knew it wasn't going to be a piece of cake when that thing went off."Almost 54 years later, he says he is living with the fallout: radiation cataracts removed from both eyes, two triple bypasses, prostate and colon cancer, osteoarthritis and post-traumatic-stress syndrome.Frank is a member of the Radiated Veterans of America and the National Association of Atomic Veterans.The latter group is "dedicated to assisting an estimated 1 million U. S. veterans, from all service branches, who were first-hand participants in atomic weapons test detonations, from July 16, 1945, to Nov. 23, 1992."In March, the Veterans Advisory Board for Dose Reconstruction concluded: "Congress should consider passing a bill that would recognize America's Atomic Veterans as a 'special group' for VA claims and purposes, and that such bill also offer America's Atomic Veterans 'special relief' that would not require radiation-dose reconstructions when filing a claim for ionizing radiation-induced illnesses."Frank was a tender 19 when he witnessed atomic energy unleashed."This would destroy the planet in a very short time if we start to exchange nukes," he says now.
"It follows with nuclear winter, and everyone dies."