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Atomic Veterans Offered Certificates For Their Sacrifice

Observers watch an explosion during Operation Hardtack in 1958. 35 nuclear te...

Credit: Nevada National Security Site

Above: Observers watch an explosion during Operation Hardtack in 1958. 35 nuclear tests were conducted in the Pacific, exposing troops to radiation.

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More than 500,000 American veterans were exposed to nuclear weapons tests from the 1940s to the early 1990s. Now the veterans who were exposed to the radiation from the weapons program will be offered a certificate marking their contribution.

Aired: August 21, 2019 | Transcript

More than 500,000 American veterans were exposed to nuclear weapons tests from the 1940s to the early 1990s.

These so-called “atomic veterans” were not permitted to speak about their participation in the tests until 1996 when the Nuclear Radiation and Secrecy Agreements Laws were repealed. Now the veterans who were exposed to the radiation from the weapons program will be offered a certificate marking their contribution.

Some say a piece of paper is not enough, especially considering the health problems they have faced in the years since the exposure — problems like cancer, infertility and nerve diseases. Host Frank Stasio speaks with American Homefront Project reporter Stephanie Colombini about her story on the Pentagon’s offer of certificates for atomic veterans.

This story is part of our American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration on in-depth military coverage with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and The Patriots Connection.

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