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Nuclear weapons tests are experiments carried out to determine the effectiveness, yield and explosive capability of nuclear weapons. Throughout the twentieth century, most nations that have developed nuclear weapons have tested them. The United States, after using the Atomic bomb to hasten the end of WWII, developed the Hydrogen Bomb whose yield was approximately 1000 times that of the Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The first Hydrogen Bomb testing by the United States was conducted in 1954 in the Marshall Islands and in particular, the Eniwetok Proving Ground under the code name �Operation Castle�. From 1946 to 1958 the U.S. tested 67 nuclear weapons. In 1956, the Atomic Energy Commission regarded the Marshall Islands as "by far the most contaminated place in the world".
American Legion Post member, W. R. �Bill� Johnson was a young sailor assigned to one of five destroyers that provided security duty during the Operation Castle H-Bomb testing. This painting depicts his ship, the USS Epperson, DDE-719, patrolling off of the Eniwetok Atoll. His ship was assigned to Task Force 7.3 of Operation Castle and was responsible for denying entry of unauthorized vessels into the test area and to patrol the test area out to 600 miles to detect, report and warn surface shipping. Bill reports that his ship moved fifteen feet sideways when the initial blast shock-wave hit.
The Epperson was a Gearing Class destroyer that was commissioned in 1949 and was home ported in Pearl Harbor. She made two Korean War combat deployments during which she carried out shore bombardment, patrol and antisubmarine missions. After the Operation Castle duty she helped recover manned and unmanned Mercury and Discoverer spacecraft. In seven cruises from September 1965 to April 1973 Epperson was frequently engaged in combat operations off Vietnam. The Epperson was ultimately sold to Pakistan in 1977 where she served for another 20 years.
October 5th, 2011
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