Interview With Walter M. Myren

From the interview with Walter Myren of Miltona, MN conducted by phone by Henry West from the Fort Worden History Center on July 6, 2004. Mr. Myren served in Company D of the Shore Batallion, 369th EASR from 1951 to 1953, most of the time at Fort Flagler. Here he relates his experience at Camp Desert Rock, NV during the atomic bomb teats:

“We built all the buildings there. There weren’t any buildings when we got there. I ran a rock crusher, and we crushed rock right out of the side hills or next to the mountains. We made an airport, landing strip. We put up a few officers’ permanent tents, not with a floor in. They were dirtier than those that didn’t have any floor because the wood dried out and then the wind would come along and all the dust and dirt would go up inside the tents.

We had many thousand people down there. …We put up tents for the 101st Airborne. They landed right at one of the blasts–they landed right with us or even in front of us. We were forced to go up to practically dead center. …We were there to witness four different tests. There were two drops from airplanes up about ten thousand feet, then they set it off about 1,000 feet off the ground and then we had a couple tower shots. The predawn blast, that was something to see. Every color of the rainbow was in that 4:00 o’clock in the morning. We were as close as anybody–within four miles. All the big brass, and I remember Senator Hubert Humphrey from Minnesota being there, were in what was called a knob about ten miles from ground zero. They didn’t have any protection at all where we were in foxholes.

We had no eye protection. We were instructed just before anything happened that we could look about so many seconds after it went off, we could look and watch. When the wind went out from there they had that timed perfectly. Then we had to get down in the foxholes. Then we could raise up again after it passed over us. Then you had to wait so many seconds and that wind rushes back to the center of the blast just as fast as it went out. …It was dust and wind and fire. It was so hot that the mesquite brush in front of our foxholes, they were all set on fire.

We had Geiger counters in camp and then if you got contaminated then you had to go to the decontamination shower and get different clothes. We had to get scrubbed down with soap and water, then they’d take the Geiger counter and take a reading on you. When it got down to practically zero, you’d put your clothes on and get out of there.

I was in the squad that had to pick up all the stuff that was experimental except the sheep. They were taken away with a helicopter to the center of atomic research outfit there. They had mortars and machine guns. They had M1s, carbines, they had bazookas lying or sitting up every quarter of a mile for at least two miles out, and that stuff was hot. We had to lift and carry, load all that all up and take it to a pit on the other side of our camp about five miles. There they had a big pit and we dumped it there. Even brand new Jeeps, and there were a few guys in our outfit who came back from Korea. They were really mad because they said that in Korea they had older equipment that was probably worthless, here they were using brand new stuff to experiment with.”

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