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American Ground Zero: Secret Nuclear War [Hardcover]

Carole Gallagher
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 April 1993
"American Ground Zero" is the product of one photographer's decade-long commitment, a courageous collection of portraits and interviews of those whose lives were crossed by radioactive fall-out. For 12 years beginning in 1951, the United States government conducted above-ground testing of nuclear weapons in the deserts of Nevada. For more than three decades it has tried to cover up the human and environmental devastation wrought by this testing. In "American Ground Zero", Carole Gallagher has penetrated the veil of official secrecy and anonymity to document the story of the Americans whose misfortune it was to live downwind of the nuclear detonations - those citizens described in a top-secret Atomic Energy Commission memo as "a low-use segment of the population" - and of civilian workers and military personnel exposed to radiation at the Nevada test site. The above-ground nuclear testing was "the most prodigiously reckless programme of scientific experimentation in United States history", Keith Schneider notes in his foreword to the book. Many of its 126 fall-out clouds floated across the American West and eastward with radiation levels comparable to those released at Chernobyl. Yet residents of the downwind areas were consistently told that there was no danger, and were even encouraged to "participate in a moment of history" by coming out to watch these fall-out clouds drifting over their homes. Abandoning her career as a New York photographer, Carole Gallager moved to Utah in 1983 and spent the next seven years networking among radiation survivors' groups and finding people willing to be photographed and tell their story. She covered six downwind states in all, including test site workers and atomic veterans. The result is a striking gallery of the undecorated casualties of an undeclared war. Never exploitative, Gallagher's photographs only rarely convey the subjects' considerable physical sufferings: instead, they invite the viewer to witness the beauty and value in these ordinary lives.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press; First Edition edition (6 April 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262071460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262071468
  • Product Dimensions: 26.4 x 26.3 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,601,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I have had this book for two years. Reading it completely 9 times and countless partial times. Gallagher in her effort "to become a blank slate upon which the stories could be written" has embodied the voice of a people not just a position of personal opinion. Hearing that voice cause's the reader to open there eye's to the stark reality of what "we the people" have allowed to happen. Revealing just how fast the holocost of the WWII was pushed out of the conscientious of the people. Allowing the same mentality that drove the Nazi's, to develope in the country "were that could not happen". Without a doubt this "work" is not for the light hearted. Reality with weight, forces the reader to think. Cause's the reader to question not only the government structure and poilcy's we have let be set but the moral code by which we justify a means to a end. How do you determine who live's and who dies? What and Who determines the worth of a human being? You will be challanged, morally, and emotionally. Carole Gallagher has painted people, words, and pictures together in a way that you will not shake off anytime soon. Personal stories will bury themselve's deep into your heart and mind. You will hear the echoed cry's of a people for which there was no justice, no hope. The bottom line reality is we let it happen. This is "the wake up call" Gallagher presents the reader with. It is very disturbing wake up call.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Carole Gallagher has written the most informative and descriptive book ever about the how the U S Government knew that innocent americans would die from the atomic bomb tests and were considered as GUINEA PIGS for the effects of radiation on humans and how the Government is still, to this day keeping documents top secret that contain information regarding how radiation effects humans when exposed to it, yet we are still being exposed to man made radiation and all for a profit for the corperate world and their bank accounts. This book is a eye opener This is written By a atomic veteran that worked on the atomic bomb while in the U S Air Force (50-54) in underground tunnel systems in New Mexico and Texas and participated in one atomic bomb test at Fort Hood, Texas. During the four (4) years I was in the USAF and has read 28 books on the subject. I was hospitalized six (6) times and treated as a outpatient thirty five (35) times and all I was ever told that there is not enough radiation to harm me. I now have 15 chronic diseases linked to radiation exposure plus cataracts. Carole Gallagher is a great author and cares less whose feet get hurt so the truth can be told. This is a must read Vernon F. Sousa National Association of Atomic Veterans Research Coordinator
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very compelling set of stories and B&W photographs... 19 April 2005
By John Hansen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm a science writer, and I was conducting some research at the M.I.T. library regarding the 1962 series of nuclear tests at Johnston Island in the Pacific. Mostly I was seeking highly technical information -- but I saw this volume sitting on the shelf next to the monographs I was reviewing, so I took what I originally intended to be a quick glance.

After several hours' reading of "American Ground Zero", I found myself quite upset, for this collection of highly credible, first-person accounts clearly demonstrates ongoing efforts of the federal government to ignore, downplay -- even falsify -- data regarding the atomic testing of the 1950s, '60s, '70s, and '80s, particularly the atmospheric tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site near Las Vegas up through 1962.

In today's debate regarding DOE's Yucca Mountain Project, the credibility of the federal government and its experts is a big issue in Nevada. This volume shows why -- through first-hand accounts and compelling photography, presented with the perspective of subsequent time. (Yucca mountain is an underground facility located on a corner of the old Nevada Test Site, and it is to become the nation's primary repository for high-level nuclear waste.)

For at least fifteen years, I have been following in the scientific literature the research & development of Yucca mountain. My own feelings on the matter had been ambivalent for high-level waste must be stored somewhere. Recently, I had become concerned with revelations regarding falsification of data by DOE employees and its contractors.

However, in one fell swoop -- this book completely persuaded me to the righteousness of the cause of those many Nevadans who oppose Yucca mountain. It clearly shows that Nevadans (along with residents of Utah and other downwind states) have already suffered far beyond their fair share of the nation's nuclear burden.

Sadly, the sacrifice of these citizens is not only largely unacknowledged today -- this work clearly shows that their earlier "cooperation" was concurrent with misrepresentations by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the predecessor to today's Department of Energy (DOE), as well as by various military authorities.

Many of the individuals profiled in this volume are (were) former employees of the AEC and its contractors, or are (were) military veterans who participated in these atomic tests. Their accounts all seem to have one common thread -- that there were repeated efforts by authorities to downplay, or ignore, radioactive releases and associated health effects from both above- and below-ground nuclear tests.

The author, Carole Gallagher, deserves our nation's appreciation for documenting so eloquently the experiences of these otherwise ordinary citizens and bringing them to our collective attention. Unfortunately, their living testimonies and images are quickly passing...
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compassionately denying one's ability to hide truth. 4 Jun 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have had this book for two years. Reading it completely 9 times and countless partial times. Gallagher in her effort "to become a blank slate upon which the stories could be written" has embodied the voice of a people not just a position of personal opinion. Hearing that voice cause's the reader to open there eye's to the stark reality of what "we the people" have allowed to happen. Revealing just how fast the holocost of the WWII was pushed out of the conscientious of the people. Allowing the same mentality that drove the Nazi's, to develope in the country "were that could not happen". Without a doubt this "work" is not for the light hearted. Reality with weight, forces the reader to think. Cause's the reader to question not only the government structure and poilcy's we have let be set but the moral code by which we justify a means to a end. How do you determine who live's and who dies? What and Who determines the worth of a human being? You will be challanged, morally, and emotionally. Carole Gallagher has painted people, words, and pictures together in a way that you will not shake off anytime soon. Personal stories will bury themselve's deep into your heart and mind. You will hear the echoed cry's of a people for which there was no justice, no hope. The bottom line reality is we let it happen. This is "the wake up call" Gallagher presents the reader with. It is very disturbing wake up call.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Carole tells how the Gov't. knew they would kill US Citizens 21 Dec 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Carole Gallagher has written the most informative and descriptive book ever about the how the U S Government knew that innocent americans would die from the atomic bomb tests and were considered as GUINEA PIGS for the effects of radiation on humans and how the Government is still, to this day keeping documents top secret that contain information regarding how radiation effects humans when exposed to it, yet we are still being exposed to man made radiation and all for a profit for the corperate world and their bank accounts. This book is a eye opener This is written By a atomic veteran that worked on the atomic bomb while in the U S Air Force (50-54) in underground tunnel systems in New Mexico and Texas and participated in one atomic bomb test at Fort Hood, Texas. During the four (4) years I was in the USAF and has read 28 books on the subject. I was hospitalized six (6) times and treated as a outpatient thirty five (35) times and all I was ever told that there is not enough radiation to harm me. I now have 15 chronic diseases linked to radiation exposure plus cataracts. Carole Gallagher is a great author and cares less whose feet get hurt so the truth can be told. This is a must read Vernon F. Sousa National Association of Atomic Veterans Research Coordinator
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gallagher's book is conduit for voices of the downwinders 24 Feb 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I grew up in Northern Arizona on the Utah border. Living close to St George and Cedar City, Utah, we heard rumors of families with unusually high incidents of leukemia and other cancers and the ensuing speculation about the cause. Gallagher's compilation of stories supplies the most human view of the downwinders. She documents a dark and frightening chapter in our goverment's history. Most compelling were the stories of the workers at the test site who were not even afforded the pretense of protection from exposure. I would have appreciated additional focus on the effects of the testing on the Native American tribes in Utah and Northern Arizona.
Gallagher has given us a treasure by documenting the stories of radiation exposure victims who deserve to have their stories told. Once started, I could not stop reading this book and found myself studying each photograph for several minutes before reading the accompanying story.
Thank you Ms. Gallagher for leaving your New York roots, succuming to the fashion dictates of southern Utah and permitting yourself to become the blank slate upon which these stories were etched.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading in every school!!! 15 Jun 2006
By Kenneth M. Ashton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've read and reread this book so many times I've lost count. In addition I've loaned it out to multiple friends just to get them to open their eyes. Each time I read it I'm still amazed at the liberties taken by the military during this period of time. There is so much important information here I could never even scratch the surface in a short review. The poignant stories told by the victims of these nuclear tests (mostly patriotic mormons who felt the govt. could do no wrong) will move you emotionally, besides backing up Gallaghers claims. If you consider yourself a patriot, prepare to have your world shaken. Just buy it, you wont be sorry.
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