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The Firecracker Boys: H-bombs, Eskimos, and the Roots of the Environmental Movement: H-bombs, Inupiat Eskimos, and the Roots of the Environmental Movement [Paperback]

Dan O'Neill

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In 1958, Edward Teller, father of the H-bomb, unveiled his plan to detonate six nuclear bombs off the Alaskan coast to create a new harbor. However, the plan was blocked by a handful of Eskimos and biologists who succeeded in preventing massive nuclear devastation potentially far greater than that of the Chernobyl blast. The Firecracker Boys is a story of the U. S. governments arrogance and deception, and the brave people who fought against it-launching Americas environmental movement. As one of Alaskas most prominent authors, Dan ONeill brings to these pages his love of Alaskas landscape, his skill as a nature and science writer, and his determination to expose one of the most shocking chapters of the Nuclear Age.

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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, moving, richly detailed 21 Feb 2008
By Ronan Rooney - Published on Amazon.com
I read this book a few summers ago, and I couldn't put it down. O'Neill's exhaustive research--including many personal interviews--helps solidify this book's place in the pantheon of great historical non-fiction of the 20th century. "The Firecracker Boys" picks up after World War II when the United States government, eager to find peaceful uses for nuclear power, proposed building a harbor near the remote Alaskan village of Point Hope using megaton nuclear explosions in a plan called "Project Chariot." The ambitious plan, which supporters felt could redeem nuclear weapons before the very eyes of a generation who saw its horrific power demonstrated on Japan, met fierce resistance among biologists, anthropologists, and most importantly local Alaska Native villagers of the region. These opponents feared radiation, debris fallout, and that the government continued to deny or downplay dangers of Project Chariot. O'Neill charts, in beautiful detail, the high-minded idealism of Project Chariot supporters against the burgeoning grassroots resistance which demanded fair recognition of Project Chariot's irreversible damage.

While Project Chariot first arrived, and met its doom, in a remote quarter of the globe, this story is firmly fixed on the world stage. This is not the anecdotal story of a failed gimmick; rather, this is the genesis of the movement towards limiting nuclear power, recognizing environmental impact, and treating Alaska Natives as more than haphazard bystanders to industrial progress. People, personalities, subplots, and larger impacts for the whole of humanity enliven this story and give Project Chariot a rich context. I whole-heartedly recommend this book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How did this almost happen!!! 23 July 2012
By Dominick J. Lemas - Published on Amazon.com
In 1956 the Suez Canal was nationalized which prompted the British and French to attach Egypt in order to secure the strategic passage. Although the conflict was ultimately settled by the United Nations, transportation through this region was halted for many months and the industrialized economies needed an alternative transportation route. During this same period the US and the Soviet Union were testing nuclear bombs and international community was requesting nuclear test-bans. Until reading this book, I was unaware the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) developed the Plowshare program to demonstrate the feasibility of nuclear blasts for civil engineering projects, namely the Panama canal. Given that non-military applications of nuclear bombs would have vast economic potential to reshape the globe, there was incredible pressure to locate a remote US territory where such a non-military nuclear blast could occur. Firecracker boys is the astonishing tale of Project Chariot, a Plowshare program aimed at excavating a large harbor in Point Hope, Alaska using nuclear bombs that would be 100+ times larger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from both the perspective of someone who has lived in Alaska and from the perspective of someone interested in federally mandated science projects. Dan O'Neill does a good job of distilling out the huge amount of information and misinformation that surrounds the events leading up to Project Chariots termination. This book describes the early days of nuclear testing, the scientific innovations that catalyzed many of today's current policies regarding nuclear energy and the personalities involved. I am currently a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and was surprised to read that many prominent leaders in Alaska supported Project Chariot in large part because of the federal revenue that was funneled into the state by the AEC. Overall I recommend this book as a MUST read for all Alaskans and those interested in the history of thermonuclear energy in the US.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Engaging Historical non-fiction about America's largest State 31 July 2010
By Lily - Published on Amazon.com
A fascinating account of a ludicrous plan by top US scientists to destroy the culture and land of a Alaska's native people. Well written with interesting details filling out a comprehensive image of Alaska's role in cold war history.

An interesting read for people who want to glimpse Alaskan politics as well as local cultures.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for all Americans 7 Dec 2013
By J. Martin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you want to know the true nature of American government, this is a must read book! Project Chariot is when the US government wanted to explode a nuclear bomb in Alaska, and the fight it took to prevent it. Today is a good day to read this because history is repeating itself........
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a great book 30 Jan 2014
By Roger Green - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have an Alaska background, am an environmental biologist, and was in the same university department with Bill Pruitt (one of the stars of this book) for several years - and yet I stumbled across this book by accident. Please don't just read it - also recommend it and loan it around to friends. Whether you care about Alaska, care about the environment, worry about things nuclear, worry about academic freedom's vulnerability to politics, or you like Dan O'Neill as an author (his "A Land Gone Lonesome" for example), you have to read and spread the word about this book. It's one you will not just read, but will re-read.
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