Ash samples

My book will cover the famous incident whereby a Japanese fishing vessel, the Lucky Dragon, became engulfed in fallout from the Castle Bravo thermonuclear tests at Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954. That incident reverberated for years, resulting in, among other things, the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty nearly a decade later. What struck me recently, when doing a kind-of-stocktake of references, was the moment when the commissioners of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission became apprised of the event.

AEC Mar 16 1954 minutes
AEC. 1954. AEC Meeting 967 minutes, Mar. 16, 1954. “Vol. 13, 1 of 2,” Box 7, Entry 19, RG 326. NARA II, College Park, Maryland.

The details and nuances of this meeting don’t interest me much, but the meeting as a whole intrigues. At the start, the commissioners are informed of “newspaper accounts that 23 crew members of a Japanese fishing vessel had suffered radiation injury as a result of fall-out from the first shot in the current [thermonuclear bomb] test series… The Commissioners discussed this situation which had developed and indicated that until accurate accounts of what had occurred were received no new public statement should be made on this subject.” The minutes refer to “extensive discussions.” And here’s an interesting aside: “Mr. Murray said that he wished to emphasize the importance of preventing access to the vessel because of the information that might be gained from ash sample.”

Ash samples? I can only surmise that Murray, a fervent Cold War warrior, was worried that someone would pass ash residues to the Soviets, who might then be able to glean the technical secrets of the American H-bomb!