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The Atomic Marine

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
February 3, 2023 3:00 am

The Atomic Marine

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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February 3, 2023 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Richard Muniz tells the story of Toby Madrid and his experience of partaking in the testing of an atomic bomb in Nevada.

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Say free this week into your Xfinity voice remote. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. And to search for the Our American Stories podcast, go to the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcast. From 1945 to 1992, the United States conducted 1054 nuclear tests as a part of the nuclear arms race with Soviet Russia. Many of these tests were conducted in Nevada, where soldiers were sent to be tested on by military scientists and upper brass trying to figure out the psychological and health effects brought on by the use of nuclear weapons. One of those soldiers was Toby Madrid. Here's listener Richard Muniz who worked with Toby with the story of this atomic marine.

The only two people I know of that ever heard this story is myself and his son JR. As far as JR knows, he never told this story to anyone else. Toby was in the Marines and in 1951 to 1957 out the Nevada Proving Grounds, it was a small camp, it was called Camp Desert Rock. And it was barracks and mess halls and things like that, but it had one mission, one purpose.

It was to support military personnel while tests involving the atomic bomb were conducted. I remember Sheriff Toby Madrid, we were in his office. If you can call a broom closet with a light and a desk and an office.

He had a cup of coffee in his hands and he has feet up on the desk. I mean it was a totally laid-back attitude, but I could see the tension in his jaw. The funny part about it was he wasn't looking at me, he wasn't looking at JR, he was looking at the wall. I had this distinct impression that if he bothered to look at either one of us, we'd never hear the story. He said they stuck us out in the middle of nowhere.

And if you've ever been out that section of Nevada, it's pretty much the middle of nowhere. And he went on to say that they told us we'd be part of an atomic bomb test. Now the name of these tests that I looked up later on was called the Desert Rock Exercises.

And this is what we call Desert Rock 4 Operation Tumbler Snapper. Well he said they took them out there and they were there for several days beforehand. The Sheriff said they took them out there, had them dig trenches, they built defensive fortified positions, all that stuff.

Now the idea was they would be able to stand in these or squat in them, provide for some cover. And then he said I remembered as we were digging, there were trucks carrying tanks and jeeps and things like that, some of the vehicles were towing artillery pieces out there. And some of the Marines he was with went out with them. And they came back to saying how they're sort of dummies that were in uniform and some of them were standing up, some were lying down, that kind of stuff. Now I went on to research a little bit more and it seems to be that he was out there for what they called a shot dog nuclear test.

And this happened on May 1st, 1952. It involved the dropping of what we call a Mark 7 bomb. Now the Air Force was doing the drops and they were using either B-50s or B-45s to do these.

So he said the day of the test they got them up, they had breakfast and they took them out there to the site. And they got in their trenches and see what they were told to do. They were told to crouch below the rim of the trench, have their faces down and their eyes closed when the blast happened. Now they would get plenty of warning beforehand that this was going to happen. You know, they'd give them a warning, they'd hear the bombers coming in, stuff like that, and they needed to be doing this. So you said along around 830 or so, they heard the aircraft coming in and that's when the warning happened.

So they climbed into the trenches and they got in the position they were told to get into. He said he was crouched down, he had his head down, his eyes closed. And even with this, all of a sudden he said there was light. He seriously felt that he had actually seen the blast of the bomb. Now what he had witnessed here was the detonation of a 19 kiloton bomb and it exploded about a thousand meters above the ground. And then he went on to say that the light faded, but as it faded there was thunder like he'd never heard before, and then there was wind. I mean the wind just came up and it was so intense it rocked him back against the back of his trench and then the wind reversed directions, came back and pushed him face forward into the front of the trench.

And so then a few seconds later came the order to leave the trenches. So they climbed out and as he put it, we've all seen movies of the mushroom cloud an atomic bomb generates. But he says seeing that in real life it was like, it just wasn't real.

You know you can't wrap your mind around something like this. And you can sit there and look at it and say something humans built generated this. And he said it was already towering up into the sky. He compared it to something that was like a cloud that was boiling up from hell. And they told him to start walking forward and they did. He went on to relate that as they moved along he started seeing some of the things that had been set up a few days before, like for one location we've ever seen a Sherman tank. He said it looked like the Sherman tank had been swatted aside by some giant's hand.

And then he started encountering some of these dummies had been set up. Some were almost burnt up entirely, others were smoldering. So they kept walking, they got within about three quarters of a mile of where the bomb had exploded and they stopped them. They turned them around and marched them back out of there. And he said he remembered hearing somebody saying it had gotten it was too hot to go much further.

And while that basically meant it was too radioactive. Then he marched them to a certain site. There they swept them off, hosed them off and he said he was actually surprised by how much dust came off of him in his platoon.

And rather than keeping the uniform he'd been wearing, he wadded it up and threw it away. Like I said that's the only time that we know of, that's myself and JR, that Toby actually ever talked about the day of the bomb. A lot of people wound up getting sick and dying because of exposure to fallout. Thing is, I don't think a lot of people knew what they were headed for. They were at a pivotal moment in history and they didn't realize it.

I know the sheriff didn't. And this is why we routinely celebrate our veterans on this show because our soldiers serve in so many distinct and dangerous ways and you just heard about one. The story of Toby Madrid, the atomic marine, here on Our American Story. Folks, if you love the stories we tell about this great country and especially the stories of America's rich past, know that all of our stories about American history, from war to innovation, culture and faith, are brought to us by the great folks at Hillsdale College. A place where students study all the things that are beautiful in life and all the things that are good in life. And if you can't get to Hillsdale, Hillsdale will come to you with their free and terrific online courses.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-03 04:14:53 / 2023-02-03 04:19:38 / 5

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