Interview With Earl Hettick

From the interview with Earl B. Hettick of Roscoe, ND conducted by Nancy Vleck by phone on March 15, 2005 from the Fort Worden History Center. Mr. Hettick served from 1951 to 1953 in the Shore Battalion, 369th EASR at Fort Flagler and Camp Desert Rock. Here he talks about his time at Camp Desert Rock:

“In January of 1952, we transferred a bunch of stuff to Camp Desert Rock. That’s where they tested those atomic bombs. I was there until July.

To start out with it was just nothing but a flat desert. We set up a bunch of tents just out on the ground, there were hundreds of them. We weren’t the only ones that came there, there were a lot from other forts, and then a bunch of Marines came. After we were pretty well established, we moved up north about 40 or 60 miles from our camp. There we dug a bunch of trenches for the people to sit in when they dropped the bombs. I saw seven of them.

They tested seven of them. They dropped it down right in the middle of us Three were let down by air. The plane went up 30 to 40,000 feet and dropped it down right in the middle of us. Then we had four what they call tower shots. These bombs were up on the tower about 300 feet high and they detonated them there. We had a machine that dug the trenches that the troops were in when the bombs went off. The trenches were about five or six feet deep. There were 35-40 trenches, about 50 yards apart. Each trench was about a quarter mile long, the closest ones were about seven miles from the blast. Actually, the troops squatted down in the trenches. They were told not to watch the bomb when it went off, but just as soon as it went off, they stuck their heads up and then the concussion moved along the ground. It knocked them down against the back of the trench.

While we were there, we built a water tank for a water supply. The water was piped down to where the tents were. My job was to haul water into that tank from Nellis Air Base, which was about 20 miles from there four or five nights a week. I hauled it at night because at the air base they were pretty skimpy on water during the day.

I also had to run the water truck. It had a big water tank on the back with a sprayer. Just before they set the bomb off, I had to spread water in front of the troops so the dust wouldn’t blow into their eyes from the impact. Then I had to stay in the truck. I drove away about 12 miles from there to a spot where they told me to park. When the bomb went off, you could see the concussion coming. The ground just moved in front of you. It moved that way all the way up to where I was, I could see the ground move in front of me and when it got to me, it was a pretty good shock. When the wave hit me, that’s when I heard the boom. I didn’t have any face or ear protection.”

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