The North Bend Eagle

 

 

Veteran glows with memory of atomic testing

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 11/6/19

Zeke Beranek graduated from North Bend High School in 1949 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. His military experience is a little different from most veterans.

Beranek was trained as a radio operator. Towards the end of his enlistment, he was stationed on the U.S.E. Elkhorn anchored at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The Army needed a radio repair man, Beranek was sent. He did not fit the job, so he was sent to the Air Force to be a coxswain on a AVR, aviation rescue boat, used when a plane overshot the short runway.

Beranaek arrived on the Atoll in August, 1952, at the age of 20. Prior to his assignment, federal agents had come to North Bend to talk to people about Zeke, as his mother, Edna, reported to him.

There were 43 nuclear tests conducted on Eniwetok Atoll from 1948 to 1958. The civilians had been removed from the island, but a military presence remained. On Nov. 1, 1952, 67 years ago, the hydrogen bomb (10.4 megatons, one megaton equals 1 million tons of TNT), called Shot Mike, was dropped. All personnel and their personal belongings, were evacuated from Eniwetok. They were on a ship about 35 miles from the detonation site.

All personnel were given dark goggles and were told to face away from the blast.

“As the flash came, we saw through our arms, we saw our bones, saw through our bones,” Beranek said. “Two members where we were standing took off their goggles and watched the blast with their eyes. That was the last thing they ever saw. They were blinded.”

Great waves rolled over the nearby islands. The fireball was 3.5 miles in diameter. Within 15 minutes a mushroom cloud was 25 miles in the air and over 100 mile in diameter. The power of this detonation was over 250 times the power of the bomb that had been dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. A high level of radiation covered Eniwetok and beyond.

Three days after the detonation, Nov. 4, the military returned to Eniwetok.
On Nov. 15 the routine was repeated when “Shot King” was dropped. It was 500 kilotons (one kiloton is equal to 1,000 tons of TNT), a much smaller bomb that Shot Mike.

 

 

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