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Dorset man seeks to shed light on early nuclear tests - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Dorset man seeks to shed light on early nuclear tests

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DORSET, Vt. -

Garry DuFour recently had visitors from the U.S. Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee that were interested in some unique documents the Dorset resident has.

During the time DuFour worked for that same committee decades ago, members were trying to uncover the impact of nuclear testing on soldiers.

"So I went around the corner, quietly, to the Xerox machine and copied them. I was probably shaking like this.  I said, I have history here," DuFour said.

For fear that many documents would never be seen again, DuFour made copies for himself of letters and other items that passed through the committee -- some with top secret information about the post-World War II program that exposed soldiers to radiation for research.

The letters sprawled across his dining room table depict a horrific tale of soldiers who agreed to trade a few days of freedom, to be guinea pigs for nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands -- called Operation Redwing. The government told soldiers little or no radiation would be felt, and the effects would be minimal. But the participants describe a much different experience.
"Sometime during the explosion or immediately after -- which was still a part of the explosion -- he opened his eyes but kept his fingers there. And he said, 'My gosh, I saw the bones of my fingers,'" DuFour said.

Some letters describe even worse outcomes like fatalities. In response to those participating soldiers who were hospitalized, lost eyesight and suffered severe health issues post-testing, DuFour has letters that the government wrote back.  They state things like: "Medical science has no proof that exposure to low levels of radiation is hazardous to health."

The committee Dufour worked for collected the first data that eventually led to key legislation for veterans to receive benefits from radiation exposure. He says he hopes to be a voice for the soldiers who didn't survive the testing -- and the government's documents that were kept secret.

Reporter Ali Freeman: What ever happened to those results?

Garry DuFour: We all would like to know that answer."

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