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FTR #163 Interview with Peter Vogel: Update on Port Chicago

(Two 30-minute seg­ments)

Con­duct­ed in August of 1999, this broad­cast updates the inves­ti­ga­tion of the Port Chica­go explo­sion. The bulk of the dis­cus­sion is very sim­i­lar to the top­i­cal con­tent of FTR-129. (Check the descrip­tion for that broad­cast for a detailed sum­ma­ry of the pro­gram con­tent.) This broad­cast does con­tain sev­er­al points of analy­sis not con­tained in FTR-129. In this pro­gram, Mr. Vogel high­lights the issue of resid­ual radi­a­tion at the Port Chica­go site. (Port Chica­go is now part of the Con­cord Naval Weapons sta­tion.) Crit­ics have main­tained that Port Chica­go could not have been a nuclear explo­sion, because there would be detectable radi­a­tion at the explo­sion site. Peter points out that this is incor­rect. With­in 10 years of a British test of a much larg­er weapon (also det­o­nat­ed in a marine envi­ron­ment), the back­ground radi­a­tion lev­els had returned to nor­mal. The British test was of a 25 kilo­ton weapon and Port Chica­go yield­ed the equiv­a­lent of 600 tons of TNT.

Peter also dis­cuss­es eye­wit­ness tes­ti­mo­ny of injuries to sailors who sur­vived the Port Chica­go blast. Med­ical per­son­nel who sub­se­quent­ly became acquaint­ed with radi­a­tion burns voiced the opin­ion that the burns to Port Chica­go sur­vivors were, in fact, radi­a­tion burns. In this pro­gram, Peter includes two new ele­ments in his research. Declas­si­fied doc­u­ments indi­cate that the prin­ci­pals involved with the devel­op­ment of the Mark II (an ear­ly atom­ic bomb) fore­cast that it would be avail­able by the fall of 1944. (Peter’s research indi­cates that the Port Chica­go explo­sion, in July of ’44, was the test of the Mark II.) Recent­ly, Peter filed a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act request for access to the sev­en lin­ear feet of doc­u­ments about the Port Chica­go explo­sion at the Los Alam­os Nation­al Lab­o­ra­to­ry. His request was denied and those doc­u­ments are now clas­si­fied. Bear in mind that these doc­u­ments sup­pos­ed­ly per­tain to the explo­sion of a World War II ammu­ni­tion ship. Why have they now been denied to the pub­lic? (Please note that, due to an inter­rup­tion of the record­ing process due to tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties, Mr. Emory neglect­ed to include dis­cus­sion of the Wil­son con­den­sa­tion cloud that was appar­ent­ly present at Port Chica­go. One of the evi­den­tiary points in Peter’s arti­cle, the pres­ence of the cloud is dis­cussed in FTR-129.) (See also FTR-129, as well as Mis­cel­la­neous Archive Show M‑23.) (Record­ed on 8/1/99.)

Note: There is some dis­tor­tion on this tape, though it is still easy to dis­cern.