by Tony Medley
Of all the nonsensical decisions with deadly consequences made by the autocrats in Washington who run our lives, including Korea, Vietnam, the 2nd Gulf War, Afghanistan, opening the border, and financing the war in Ukraine, none equates in moral depravity with the “testing” of nuclear bombs within the borders of the United States for more than 40 years.
From 1951 to 1992 the United States detonated 928 large scale nuclear weapons in Nevada. While they claimed they owned the land, in fact it was part of the Shoshone Reservation, land which is held “in trust” by the Federal Government for the Shoshones, so that was a lie, unless you believe that it was not a breach of trust for the Trustee to blast the land into total uselessness. It was Shoshone land. These people knew that, but their reasoning was obviously, “Hey, we’ve screwed the Indians from the start (see the Cherokees and Georgia and President Andrew Jackson et. seq.), nothing can stop us from continuing.”
Producer/directors Mark Shapiro and Douglas Brian Miller have pointed their cameras at the story and it’s about time. They let it all hang out. People today are only vaguely aware of this bombing of America. In fact, the only reason they know anything about it is because RKO filmed the John Wayne film The Conqueror (1956) in St. George, Utah, which was downwind (hence the title) from the Nevada desert location of the blasts. At that time there had already been nine blasts. Out of 220 people on the set, 110 died of Cancer, including Wayne and Susan Hayward and director Dick Powell.
But they weren’t all. Everyone knew that the nuclear fallout was as dangerous as the blast, if not more so. But these Machiavellian buffoons didn’t care about that, even though they were aware of it. According to the film, one reason they held the tests where they did was that they didn’t want the fallout to go to Southern California where there were so many people who could be infected. The prevailing winds would blow it eastward where there were fewer people, and eastward it went. How callous is that?
Claudia Peterson, medical social worker in St. George says the authorities were passing out potassium iodine pills after the test to inhibit the absorption of the radiation. There’s a radio broadcast from the government played that says due to a change in wind the fallout will be over St. George, adding “there is no danger.” Oh yeah? Then why were they passing out potassium iodine pills they (probably falsely) claimed would help? She tells how it infected six members of her family, who all died of the effects of the blast, including her beautiful three-year-old daughter, Bethany, who died of neuroblastoma/leukemia at age 6. Watching this is heartbreaking.
The film has interviews with victims and with people like Ian Zabarte, Principle Man of the Western Band of the Shoshone Nation of Indians, who tells of all the members of his family who died of cancer caused by the blasts. Also interviewed are Patrick Wayne, John’s son, who spent two weeks on location for The Conqueror, and Michael Douglas. Patrick told me that his father blamed his cancer on all his smoking throughout his life, but that is unknowable.
The film shows the hypocrisy of the evil people sponsoring these blasts who put out PR films by the Atomic Energy Commission lying about their effects, one in 1957 saying things like, “Radioactive fallout more than 2-3 miles from the test site has not been known to be serious.” That, of course, was blatantly false. If these blasts that killed innocent Americans were not criminal, how else can they be described?
Unfortunately, the film does not get to the essential question of why did these insular, callous despots think they had to drop 928 nuclear bombs on America? What did they say afterwards, “Yep, it’s a bomb. It really goes ‘Boom!’ And it always has a mushroom cloud! Let’s do it again…and again…and again…”? And the bodies kept piling up. There is lots more in this film; I’m just scratching the surface.
I’m excited to announce the world premiere of the documentary feature DOWNWIND, the Spotlight Screening at the @Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
Monday, Jan. 23
11:45 a.m. – PANEL DISCUSSIONhttps://t.co/uo0JIOyEM0
— Matthew Modine (@MatthewModine) January 17, 2023
Tony Medley is a columnist, and MPAA-accredited film critic His reviews are published in The Larchmont Chronicle, Telicom Magazine, The Tolucan Times, CWEB.com, robinhoodnews.com, on Rottentomatoes.com, the Movie Review Query Engine, and at www.tonymedley.com. Tony Medley holds the rank of Silver life Master, is an American Contract Bridge League Club Director, and has won regional and sectional titles. An attorney, he received his B.S. from UCLA, where he was sports editor of UCLA’s Daily Bruin, and his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law.
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