Scary 1950s Nuke Test Story

This guy was apparently a test pilot. They would fly near nuke explosions (Operation Redwing) to see the effects on aircraft and pilots. This recollection is scary as hell.

Nuke the Pilot – Military Aviation – Air & Space Magazine: My “live shot” day began at 4 a.m. with steak and eggs, a special meal for the pilots and flight crews participating in the tests. I was to fly a late-model F-84F-25, at the time the sturdiest aircraft in Air Force inventory. The other aircraft—a B-66, B-57, and F-101A—were positioned farther from the blast than I was. Chuck Kitchens, in an older F-84F, would measure the side load of the shock wave.

Following my last-minute briefing, I lifted off into the black sky. It was always about as lonely a time as I have ever spent. About 10 minutes later, I closed my protective hood and continued flying on instruments to the test site over northern Enewetak Atoll.

The countdown went perfectly and the radar controller’s commands were easy to follow. As zero approached, I pulled the black goggles down over my eyes and covered the lenses with my gloved left hand.

Detonation. Shards of brilliant light penetrated all the protective devices and severely pained my eyes for a few seconds. As the brilliance faded, I could see the bones in my hands. Suddenly I began to feel as if millions of long, hot needles were shooting through my body.

We did not have fire-resistant garb; I was wearing only a lightweight flightsuit. When I pushed the goggles up, instead of seeing the light fading the way it had in previous blasts, I had the horrible sensation of being on fire.

I wasn’t braced for the shock-wave impact. When it hit, I was affected more by the flaming debris in the cockpit than by the force of the impact. I wasn’t sure what was happening except that it was different—and not good. I could see flames around my feet, causing me to pull them back into the footrests. When I tried to unfasten my protective hood, the heat from the metal zipper and snaps burned through my gloves. When I finally pulled the hood back, a shower of burning fabric covered me.

I continued to have the sensation of needles burning through my body for several weeks.

Whether the overexposure contributed to the life-threatening melanoma I developed seven months later, I’ll never know.”