Veterans’ Tales by Vassar Bushmills
I had the good fortune of meeting a retired Army Sergeant Major (E-9) named Frederic Barnett at a gym, where his son brings him for physical therapy. Mid-80s, uses a rolling walker, SGM Barnett is very affable and I approached the both of them and gave them the VeteransTales site address. I said I wanted to hear some of his stories, and would bring a tablet and let him tell some of them the to me and I’d write them up.
29-30 years in the service serving all over the world, he was itching to tell me about his first duty assignment, as an E-2 private, in May, 1953, when his unit, the 136th Ordnance Company, Special Weapons unit, was trucked from Ft Sill to Frenchman’s Flat at the Nevada Atomic Test Facility, to sit on the ground and watch an atomic fireball. Since 1951 the Air Force had been dropping bombs to test the for all sorts of effects on buildings and people.
But this was 1953, and they wanted to test a cannon, which shortly after this this test, would be deployed to Europe and serve as a mightly deterrent as the Soviets had not been able to build one.
It was called “Operation Grable” and this was the first and only firing of a nuclear shell from an artillery piece, the M65 280mm “Atomic Annie”. It was a 6.25 mile shot, air detonation at 200 feet[…]