Nation: Rediscovering the Past

Congress investigates injuries caused by atomic tests

To the troops stationed at the Army's Camp Desert Rock in Nevada in the early 1950s, it must have seemed like an innocent joke. After being required to witness explosions of atomic weapons, some of the men were given commemorative diplomas certifying their successful completion of courses in "alpha ray education, beta ray orientation, gamma ray examination and nuclear radiation." As an added fillip, the mock documents declared them to be "perfect physical wrecks."

Nearly 30 years later, no one is amused. Among the soldiers and civilians...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!