Hello Walton Shipmates,
In 1956 I was on board the Walton as a young E3 / Shipfitter striker, home ported at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii. All of a sudden a group of scientists came aboard and supervised the installation of what they called a water wash down system. We had never heard of such a thing before this.
After installing the wash down system we deployed to the central Pacific (Marshall Islands). We spent a couple of weeks there anchored off an Island called Eniwetok. While the construction crew was working under the guidance of the scientists building a large platform on the beach we were taking shore breaks by duty sections playing ball and exploring the Island. Then in May 1956 the Walton, along with other ships, took our station around the Island and observed the detonation of a 20KT Atomic Bomb.
Many of us, including the scientist, were standing on the main deck with purple goggles on watching this explosion. As they were counting down I felt like I should not be exposed like that so, at the last minute, I stepped behind mount 51. I did not get the full effect of the Gama radiation like the others did but I did get enough to peg out my DT-60 and Film Badge.
We all ran inside and dogged the doors closed as the base surge was approaching. We had our water wash down system energized. Afterward those of us in Repair Division (SF / DC) suited out and took our AN-PDR 27 Radak instrument out on deck to monitor hot spots. We scrubbed down hot spots for a couple days until the DCA and scientist thought we were at a safe level. You can read all about the “Operation Redwing” of 1956 at http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Usa/Tests/Redwing.html .
I reported aboard the Walton in late 1955 and remained there until April 1959. In 1958 the Walton transferred to San Francisco, Treasure Island as a Reserve Trainer. I still have many fond memories of the West Pac cruises and all the good friends.
Tom Loftis, SFFN, A & R Division.
Thanks for the story Tom. You were indeed, a witness to history. Since you didn’t mention any health problems, we are all glad you survived the radiation exposure. – Ed