Supressed from the public

The Black Mist and its Aftermath -Oral Histories by Lallie Lennon
A Submission to the Government of South Australia, the Commonwealth Government of Australia and the International Atomic Energy Agency
Oral Historian Michele Madigan, 2006 and 2009
Transcription and Commentary by Paul Langley

The story of Lallie Lennon has been public since 1981, when Lallie spoke, on film, of the ordeal she and her family had been through. The family was engulfed by a portion of the fallout cloud created by the 1953 Totem 1 atomic bomb, detonated about 180 kilometres south west of their location, Mintabie, where they were looking for opals.

In the years since, she has continued to wonder how it was that the skin eruptions she suffers, at first constantly, now more or less cyclically, were caused. Her son Bruce has the same affliction. The two young daughters she had at the time were sheltered under a canvas tent slung over a tree. Lallie and Bruce were out in the open, engulfed by the fallout cloud which snaked through the trees.

The suffering has been great. It felt like being “rolled in a fire” and first broke out about two weeks after the Black Mist rolled through their camp.

Doctors looked at Lallies’ skin and attempted to treat her condition. When asked, doctors could not or would not give Lallie a diagnosis. That changed in the 1980s, when a doctor in Adelaide did give her his opinion of what Lallie suffered from. This was more than 30 years after the event which Lallie believes caused her suffering. She didn’t suffer the affliction prior to the 1953 event. It first erupted about two weeks after contact with the Black Mist.

Beta radiation burn is a common outcome of contact with nuclear fallout. It has been reported since August 1945 in victims of nuclear weapons. From Japan to the Pacific, including the USA, it is an outward affliction suffered by many officially recognised victims from contact with Beta emitting particles. Fission products in nuclear clouds are generally Beta emitting particles.

In Australia, it is a condition that has been ignored in regard to Australian victims.

In this paper I focus on Beta Radiation Burn, Local Radiation Injury, caused by contact with beta emitting fission products. It is a well known condition. A wealth of information exists describing it detail. The signs of Beta Burn occur about fortnight after exposure. It is a painful condition which may become permanent and cyclic. It may affect skin pigment.

Lallie wishes that as many people as possible know her story. I have done my best to take Lallie’s story and compare it with the civil and military records. Records that describe nuclear fallout, what it is and what it does. How it behaves and how it leaves its victims.

My training for doing this is basic. During my military service, undertaken in the early 1970s, I was trained as a radiological safety corporal. In that military workplace, which repaired and calibrated radiation detectors, my role was that of a technical clerk. I was trained to monitor the workplace for alpha radiation, caused by the decay of radium into radon and hence into other radioactive decay products. I was trained to use a scintillator based detector for this. I daily charged up and issued personal dosimeters and subsequently read the recorded exposure readings. I received basic radiation safety training. It was nothing exceptional, nothing that could not be taught in High School. My workplace was safe. It was a properly managed facility where the radiation readings I took inside the building were lower than the usual readings obtained outside. Neither were cause of any concern at that time. I was merely trained to consider radiation because radioisotopes, used to test radiation detectors, were present at that now old and closed workplace.

Lallie and many other people exposed to the Black Mist were not as lucky as
I. At the time of their exposure they had no training in understanding ionising radiation, no means known to them to measure it, no understanding that their possessions and clothing would trap and contain the radioactive particles. No-one met them and advised them after the incident. There was no official effort to use the then known principles of Radiological Safety and Health Physics to measure their exposure nor was there any effort to minimise the impact of it after the event.

This paper will be submitted to the South Australian Government, the Australian Government, the British Government, the European Parliament and to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

I believe Lallie deserves an urgent diagnosis of her long standing condition. A diagnosis made within the context of and in compliance with IAEA guidelines regarding the diagnosis and treatment of Local Radiation Injury – skin contact with Beta emitting substances. Beta Burn to Skin. The diagnosis should be made by suitable Health Physics professionals who are independent from Government influence.

There are two editions of this paper. One for Governments and the IAEA. One for general readership. This is because the Government/IAEA text contains two photographs of ground level nuclear clouds: one photographed 100 miles from its tower shot point at the Nevada Proving Grounds, Mercury Nevada. The other was photographed at about 80 miles from that place. These photographs are precious. Copyright permission was sought from a publisher. However, individuals own the photographs. I have chosen thus to provide the photographs only as evidence to Australian politicians and the IAEA. These two photographs are deleted in the public edition of this paper. I urge the general reader to consult the original books in which the photographs appear. These American “Grey Mists” (Nevada Proving Ground soil is a much lighter colour than the soil type found at Emu Field, the place where Totem 1 and 2 were detonated in 1953) represent to many Americans a similar profound sorrow and mark the same process of official denial and battle by victims as experienced in Australia. Both photographs were taken in 1953.

This paper is my best effort. I remain focussed on External Hazard due to skin dose. This enables me to concentrate my report on one factor in as a precise manner as possible. Lallie and her family, as well as many others, suffered and described, as untrained people, the same signs and symptoms as those which describe Acute Radiation Syndrome. Radiation Sickness. I make no apologies for my focus. I leave it to others skilled in the understanding of the culture, language and meanings of Australia’s First Nation to further examine this paper. The information presented here must be explained in the light of a full understanding of Aboriginal culture and with further descriptions of the full range of symptoms and effects suffered by many Aboriginal Australians impacted by the British Nuclear Tests in Australia. Beta Burn due to external contact is but one of these. I am moving one step at a time, as carefully as a I can, as I have done since I first heard and saw Lallie in film.

I am grateful to Lallie for talking with me and for giving me permission to continue to walk along the songline, a songline which is, as I attempt to show, technically correct, in a most sophisticated manner, when compared with the texts prepared for people who are trained to fight nuclear war. In October 1953 there was a “Friendly Fire” incident. I do not know how many others there were. The impacts are officially denied still.
I thank Michele Madigan for her endless patience as she acted as the interface between two worlds. My own and Lallie’s. I ask the reader, if my world is too remote, too hard to understand, just read Lallie’s words. They are sufficient and always have been. To those in power who hold the evidence, they are a proof and an indictment.
Paul Langley February 2010 Port Willunga South Australia.

Part 1 Introduction
A Brief Account of Beta Radiation Burns to Skin -Castle Bravo
The 1 March 1954 US nuclear weapon test named “Castle Bravo” [1] caused radioactive fallout to fall “like snow” upon the people of the Marshall Islands. [2]

News of the disaster was broadcast around the world. On the 23rd of March 1954, the BBC screened film footage described as “local fishermen are being treated for radiation burn.” [3] The footage appears to show the beta radiation skin burns suffered by the crew of the Japanese fishing vessel “The Lucky Dragon”, which was about 70 nautical miles from blast point. The Marshall Islands were over 100 miles distant. [4] The Beta Radiation Burns suffered by the people were photographed and widely reported. The condition was well known and described in many books. I shall refer to some of these texts in a later section.

The Castle Bravo H bomb was triggered, as are all such devices, by a fission bomb in its core. The fission products in the Castle Bravo disaster caused the effects suffered by the people of the Marshall Islands. [5] On May 14, 1954, the New York Times reported that the leaders in the Marshall Islands sent an urgent plea to the United Nations for the end of H bomb testing near their islands. [6]

Castle-Bravo Officer E.P. Cronkite urgently dispatched human skins samples, taken from the Marshal Islanders, to Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory for study. His memo accompanying the samples states that, “Some of the lesions that are developing are beginning to resemble the beta burns that occurred in sheep and cattle…” Cronkite refers to an early report by “Pearson”, “available through the AEC”. He cites this early report as a diagnostic aid. [7]

Cronkite’s reference to Pearson’s memo provides an important guide to earlier events. Foreknowledge. These events occurred in areas adjacent to the Nevada Test site in 1953. At that time Pearson authored a number of reports recording harms, including beta radiation skin lesions suffered by livestock in Nevada and Utah via contact with nuclear fallout clouds, including those generated by tower shot fission bombs detonated in Nevada. Four of Pearson’s reports of beta burns and losses to stock in Nevada and Utah are referenced here. These reports were all created in 1953. These include:
June 1953 [11]

Certainly the Pearson documents admit to the effects of beta emitting fission products from bomb fallout on livestock in Nevada and Utah in 1953, and Cronkite highlights the relevance of the resultant beta burns inflicted upon the US livestock to the Beta Burn skin lesions suffered by the people of the Marshall Islands in March 1954. The common feature is not the bomb type, but the biological effect noted – Beta particles on skin and hide produce Beta burns, whether from tower shot low yield fission bombs or high yield fission fusion devices. The same effects were noted by Cronkite.

E.P. Cronkite went on to provide detailed testimony on the nature of beta radiation burns in general and those suffered by the Marshall Islanders in particular to a 1957 US Congressional Sub Committee Hearing. He stated that “Evidence for the development of Skin lesions commenced approximately 2 weeks after exposure….. With deeper lesions the pain was more severe. The deeper foot lesions were the most painful and caused some of the people to walk on their heels for several days during the acute stages. Some of the more severe lesions of the neck and axillae were painful….. Later the skin began to shed from the inside of the pigmented plaques to the outside, and in some cases resulted in the production of large depigmented areas.” He refers the Hearing to Kodachrome photographs of the afflicted people. In regard to internal contamination of the afflicted people he states: “Rare and alkaline earths accounted for about 70 percent of the urine radioactivity. Strontium 89 was about at the maximum permissible level……”  [12]

The March 1954 disaster and those harms which are visible to the naked eye – Beta Radiation Burn to skin – have become widely known. The condition, one of many health effects caused by the incident, was diagnosed by American specialists such as Cronkite and has been officially acknowledged by the United States Government since that time. Radiation skin burns from contact with the radioactive Black Rain among Hiroshima victims is officially recognized by the United States. [13]

With such a long and documented history, official Australian ignorance of Beta Radiation Burn to skin as a consequence of contact with nuclear fallout has no excuse. Certainly, the catalogue of official documents recognizing beta radiation burn due to fission product contact with skin dates from 1945, linking Hiroshima victims from an air burst fission weapon, livestock in Nevada and Utah from tower shots in Nevada in 1953 and Marshall Island victims from the fission-fusion device in the South Pacific in March 1954. All are considered relevant in respect to Beta Burns by authorities appointed by the United States of America. The knowledge regarding human Beta Radiation Burns was released to the public in Chapter 12 the volume “The Effects of Nuclear Weapons”, Compiled and Edited by Samuel Glasstone and Philip J. Dolan, in 1950. The Third Edition, prepared and published by the UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE and the ENERGY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ADMINISTRATION, was released in1977. [14]

The Australian Royal Commission into the British Nuclear Weapons Tests in Australia was dealing with a global phenomenon in its local consideration of the British nuclear weapons tests in Australia. It found however found that the nuclear blasts conducted by the United States were not directly comparable to those conducted by Britain in Australia. This questioning centred around particle size. [15] Where the US saw a uniform basis for the risks and outcomes from contact with ALL its many and varied nuclear tests, the Royal Commission found that “….the Australian and US tests are not directly comparable…” [16]

All nuclear weapons detonations have well documented and predictable health consequences as described in “The Effects of Nuclear Weapons”. Compiled and Edited by Samuel Glasstone and Philip J. Dolan. The Royal Commission referenced this text in its description of the technical aspects of nuclear detonations and the formation of fission products. [17] The British bombs were late arrivals to the nuclear club and were not unique in principle. They produced fission products as described by Glasstone et. al.

The complex techno-politico-medico setting of the Royal Commission attempted to reconcile the eye witness accounts of victims with its own amalgam of what occurred from a model based technical reconstruction. I shall study this dichotomy in a later section.

The Australian Black Mist
The Black Mist ground level atomic bomb cloud incident of October 1953 affected many Australians. [18] It was generated by the bomb test named Totem 1, exploded from a tower at Emu Field, South Australia, on 15 October 1953 (local time, British sources give the time and date as 14 October 1953
21:30 GMT – AWRE Reports T1/77 and T2/80) . [19]

Lallie Lennon and her family are primary witnesses to this Australian event. It occurred in the isolation of the Australian bush a mere 5 months prior to the Castle Bravo disaster. Unlike the later event, the Black Mist event was not covered by the press at the time. That press coverage would not commence until many years later. However, the witnesses continued to suffer, remember and report their experiences. The Black Mist was a persistent individual and cultural presence within sections of Australian society. For example see the Adelaide Advertiser, front page, Monday, May 12, 1980, “A-Test ‘Mist’ May have Killed 50”, by Robert Ball and Peter De Ionno.

In response to the persistent reports which related the horror of the Australian Black Mist incident, in 1980 Professor Titterton, Chair of the Atomic Weapons Test Safety Committee told national radio : “No such thing can possibly occur. I don’t know of any black mists. No black mists have ever been reported until the scare campaign was started. …If you investigate black mists sure you’re going to get into an area where mystique is the central feature.” [20]

Despite such official denials the stories of the events of October 1953 continued. Witnesses such as Yami Lester continued to speak of what was seen and suffered as a result of the Black Mist from an atomic bomb blast.
[21] The Black Mist rolled through places occupied mainly by Aboriginal people. European Australians saw it also. For example, Mrs A. Lander, Mrs G. Giles and Mr Ernest Giles testified to the existence of the cloud. [22]

Lallie Lennon
Lallie Lennon has spoken consistently for decades of how the Black Mist engulfed her family and of the suffering experienced since.

I learned of Lallie and her experiences from watching the film “Backs to the Blast, an Australian Nuclear Story”. The film had been produced and directed by Harry Bardwell in 1981. [23] In this film Lallie describes the Black Mist she saw. She shows the visible scarring on her skin which resulted from contact with the nuclear fallout.

In December 2009 Lallie explained her role in the film. She told Michele Madigan: “The people who made “Backs to the Blast” interviewed me in 29 Conroy St Port Augusta – taking photos of me and asking about when it (the bomb) was and that. They got a tape recorder.” [24]

The testimony and visual record of Lallie Lennon as she appeared in the film caused me great distress for I had seen similar skin damage and read similar stories years before, but in relation to Castle Bravo. I have been convinced ever since that Lallie’s experience is similar to that suffered by the people of the Marshall Islands and for similar reasons.

I was staggered to hear Lallie report that she had not been able to find out the cause of her skin lesions. Lallie has never received a diagnosis in context with her contact with radioactive material. The diagnosis that she has received came decades later and after a number of doctors over the period of years could not or would not give Lallie a diagnosis. When a diagnosis was finally given to her, it was a diagnosis isolated in time and distance from the event which caused the condition. [25]

In a later section I compare photographs of Lallie Lennon’s skin condition filmed in 1981 by Bardwell and photographed in 2006 by Madigan with photographs taken in the 1950s of Marshall Islanders suffering officially diagnosed Beta Radiation Burn due to skin dose from beta emitters in nuclear fallout. This visible condition is indicative of the potential for other, unseen, effects that also cause suffering and loss.

I will show in the following pages the failure of authorities to diagnose Lallie’s suffering in the context of radiation exposure. I will show how this failure is in breach of International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of specific conditions such as Beta Radiation Burn.

The oral history given by Lallie to Michele Madigan in 2006 provides an important review of events since Lallie’s 1981 appearance in film. It also provides an opportunity to place Lallie’s statements and experiences in context with another witness, the late Jessie Lennon. It will be shown that the testimony and memories of Lallie and Jessie conform to technical military documents describing nuclear weapons fallout and its effects. Michele and Lallie met again in December 2009 to finalize and confirm the oral history which follows this introduction. [26]

Totem 1 and distance to Mintabie from Emu Field. Map credit Google

In the following transcripts, Lallie states she and her family were at Mintabie when they were engulfed by the Black Mist. GeoScience Australia gives the map coordinates for Mintabie as Lattitude: 27º 18′ S and Longitude: 133º 18′ E. The map coordinates given for Emu Field, the site of the Totem 1 nuclear detonation are: Latitude: 28°41′54″S Longitude: 132°22′17″E [27] Using these map coordinates, the distance between Emu Field and MIntabie is shown to be 180.2 kms or 111.98 miles. [28] [Calculated using the online calculator located at]
Map 1. Totem 1 to Mintabie. Made possible by the online services of Google.
The time frame, the distance, the weapon, the type of shot, and the witness statements of Lallie Lennon all conform with events reported by eyewitnesses to the effects of nuclear detonations in the United States. These aspects will be examined.
The Need to Review History, Advise Government, Inform the Public and Properly Diagnose Australians Suffering Beta Radiation Burns.
Professor Titterton’s official pronouncement that the Black Mist Incident “could not possibly occur” is accepted by some sections of the Australian society still. This denial impedes the consideration of radiation in the diagnosis of conditions suffered by people who are victims of the Black Mist nuclear cloud.
In 2003 journalist Andrew Bolt wrote an article in the Herald Sun in which he restated the Titterton line that the bomb tests were safe and that no harm resulted to anyone. [29]
A technical rebuttal to this “Titterton Line”, is very possible in regard to the Black Mist. As an introduction, I submit two photographs:
The 1953 photograph of a Grey Mist type nuclear fallout cloud (colour type due to Nevada Test Site soil type) traversing farm land in Twin Springs, Nevada, USA by Joe Fallini Senior and supplied by Martha Bordoli Laird to Carole Gallagher:
Photograph deleted from Public Version for Copyright reasons. Please see referenced text for Original photograph.

Photo 1 Source: Gallagher, Carole, “American ground zero : the secret nuclear war”, ISBN: 0262071460 Publisher: [Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press],1993. Pp 116 -117. This photograph is deleted in the public edition of this paper. The photograph is copyright and must not be reproduced from the government and IAEA editions of this Paper.

Twin Springs is about 80 miles from the shot point of the tower detonated bomb in Nevada. [30]

A photograph of a Grey Mist type nuclear cloud (colour type due to Nevada test site soil type), traversing ground at Warm Springs, 100 miles from the Nevada shot point of the bomb detonation from a tower. The photograph was taken by Joe Fallini Snr and supplied by Martha Bordoli Laird to Richard L. Miller in rural Nevada. To obtain the photograph Mr Fallini placed his camera in a lead lined camera box to shield the film.
Photograph deleted from Public Version for Copyright reasons. Please see referenced text for Original photograph.
Photo 2 Source: Miller, Richard L., “Under the Cloud: the Decades of Nuclear Testing”, New York: Free Press, London: Collier Macmillan, 1986, ISBN: 0029216206. PP: 315. See also pages 225, 257, 283 & 300 for accounts of Fallini’s observations regarding the clouds he photographed. This photograph is deleted in the public edition of this paper. The photograph is copyright and must not be reproduced from the government and IAEA editions of this Paper. [31]
Low Altitude Nuclear Fallout Clouds Occurred Repeatedly
Witnesses reports of the Black Mist ground level nuclear bomb at distance from the site of the cloud’s point of origin in Australia in October 1953 are therefore not unique. Lallie Lennon was about 180 kms or 112 miles from the shot point of Totem 1. (See Map 1.) It was not the only similar cloud event to occur in Australia. [32] As the Fallini photographs show, it was not the only ground level nuclear bomb cloud in the world. Lallie’s observation of the Black Mist occurred at a distance from the Totem 1 detonation point that is similar to the distance of the Warm Springs “Grey Mist” from the shot point in Nevada. This was photographed by Joe Fallini Snr in 1953 and published in Miller. There are colour variations in the ground level and other nuclear clouds around the world. In a later section I describe these differences in the light of the descriptions and explanations provided by technical military documents declassified in 1981. Briefly, they are due to soil type present at each tower shot.
The McClelland Royal Commission Report describes what it calls a “possibly similar incident in the USA”. However, the Royal Commission cites only the 1962 report of the low altitude cloud created by the US “Sedan” underground nuclear detonation. [33]
The Royal Commission appears ignorant of the 1953 Nevada events recorded photographically by Joe Fallini Senior as cited above. It appears ignorant of the Cronkite and Pearson memos and reports of Beta lesions. Testimony of Nevada witnesses to the 1953 and other events in the US was reported by the American Press. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,24 April 1979, in an article entitled “Nuclear Test Victim Testifies”, reported: “A woman (Martha B. Laird) whose ranch was in the path of fallout from nuclear tests in the 1950s stood before a Joint Congressional Committee yesterday and charged that she and her family “were forgotten guinea pigs.” The paper continues: “A series of Hearings, co-chaired by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. Bob Eckhardt, D-Texas, is being conducted to determine if there is a link between the atomic tests and an increase in cancer related deaths in southern Utah and Nevada. The Committee met in Salt Lake City last week.” “Rep James Santini, D-Nev, a member of the committee that called for the investigation earlier this year, said 87 above ground blasts were exploded during the 1950s, possibly endangering 170,000 persons within a 300 mile radius.” “We would see the big flash, get the concussion and a little while later the clouds came over” she (Mrs Laird) said. “One time my sister got burns on her eyes. During this time our cows got white spots on them and got cancer eyes. At school children broke out with rashes from the radiation.”
I am not aware of any consideration by the Royal Commission of the relatedness of this testimony at 80 miles from shot points, to the testimony of Lallie Lennon at a distance of about 112 miles from shot point. On reading Lallies’ oral histories, one is struck by the similarities. These similarities are reinforced by the Pearson memos confirming widespread beta burns suffered by mammals vulnerable to the open air.
The Royal Commission did find that: “There was a failure at the Totem trials to consider adequately the distinctive lifestyle of Aborigines and, as a consequence, their special vulnerability to radioactive fallout.” [34] However, it did not define specific outcomes. As the information provided by Cronkite (1954) and Pearson (AEC, 1953, repeatedly) shows, one outcome from contact with fallout from nuclear clouds is beta radiation burn to skin. (See Sources 7 -12). In the 1950s Pearson specifically addresses beta burn to cattle from contact with nuclear fallout in the US in official memos. The cattle skin turned white. The Royal Commission appears ignorant of the evidence.

The skin damage to livestock and the sore eyes the family suffered in Nevada in 1953 conforms with the testimony of Lallie Lennon and others who suffered the same effects in the Australian bush in October 1953. The Royal Commission sought out US nuclear test information in relation to fallout cloud contact . [35] Surely the Royal Commission was aware of the nature, causes and factors of enhanced vulnerability pertaining to Beta Burn to skin.

In 1980 a US House of Representatives Subcommittee reported “The (US) Government’s program for monitoring the health effects of the tests was inadequate and, more disturbingly, all evidence suggesting that radiation was having harmful effects, be it on the sheep or the people, was not only disregarded but actually suppressed.” [36] Certainly in Australia the diagnosis and monitoring of Lallie Lennon and her family and of all other such witnesses since 1953 has been of a like standard.
The testimony of US and Australian witnesses are very similar. The US clouds at or near ground level were uniquely photographed by Joe Fallini. Similar clouds in Australia were not. The US photographic record, created by Joe Fallini Senior in 1953, is of immense importance in the Australian context. The skin conditions suffered by Marshall Islanders and livestock in the US has been diagnosed with due to consideration to radioactive fallout clouds. The diagnosis is “Beta Radiation Burn”. In Australia, victims such as Lallie Lennon waited decades for any diagnosis at all. When diagnosis was given about 30 years after the event, radiation appears not to have been considered in the diagnosis. [37]
The Royal Commission concluded that it “believes Aboriginal people experienced radioactive fallout from Totem 1 in the form of a black mist or cloud at and near Wallatinna. This may have made some people temporarily ill. The Royal Commission does not have sufficient evidence to say whether or not it caused other illnesses or injuries.” [38]
Had the Royal Commission applied available US evidence to the Australian experience, a sensitivity to and awareness of the probability of beta burn to the skin of vulnerable people would have been recognized.
Had the Royal Commission investigated the unused photographic film Lallie Lennon had with her when she was engulfed by the Black Mist, the means to determine external dose would have been present.
Had Lallie Lennon’s skin condition been diagnosed within the context of Health Physics principles developed over decades, the Royal Commission would have had a means by which to determine dose received.
Had the Royal Commission examined any clothing, tent material, food containers, vehicles, engine air cleaners and other objects including plant material subject to exposure during the Black Mist event, and soil from the affected area, even if collected in the 1980s, the Commission would have held evidence upon which to base conclusions from a basis of knowledge rather than belief. The type, shape and size of particles to be looked for are discussed, after all, by the Royal Commission and its witnesses. [39]
The Commission’s statement of belief stems from ignorance due to omitted evidence. One outcome of this chain of events has been the failure to diagnose Lallie Lennon’s skin condition in accordance with Health Physics principals established by the IAEA. Australia is a signatory to IAEA directives, guidelines and procedures. [40] Belief, no matter how worthy, is not legal proof. While comforting, belief is not able to act as a legal remedy for those who have suffered. This is tragic as evidence was ignored in my opinion.
Conclusion to Part 1
Many Aboriginal people stood before the McClelland Commission and its assembly of Health Physics and nuclear weapons experts from England and Australia. These experts were uniformly mute on the matter of Beta Radiation Burns. This silence has been maintained by authorities to the present day. One wonders why, for we shall see, the US government technical publication by Glasstone et al, “The Effects of Nuclear Weapons”, provides relevant photographs and descriptions of the condition in its Chapter 12. [41] However, the Royal Commission cites Glasstone et al in regard to technical aspects of fission bomb detonations. The publication is used as a source that provides a description the processes of nuclear detonation.
One of the people who appeared before the esteemed and qualified experts in 1985 was Lallie Lennon. This was 32 years after the events described and 4 years after her appearance in film.
Lallie’s oral histories follow. I will compare Lallie’s statements with military documents dating from 1948 up until the declassification date of 1981. I will also compare Lallie’s description of her injuries with current civilian Beta Burn medical information as provided by the US Centres for Disease Control and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Some of the information contained within Glasstone et al, 1977, as possessed, [42] but apparently not referenced in this regard, by the Royal Commission. It is time for an open review of Australian victims of the Black Mist in the light of modern knowledge.
Although what the experts say has become more sophisticated over time, the testimony given by the Australian Aboriginal witnesses has never changed. The skin condition suffered by people from the Black Mist event conform generally to the older descriptions of the condition, and more closely to modern descriptions of it. This external sign is a marker of the potential for other harms due to the entry into the body of the radioactive particles. [43]
Cloud chase planes failed to locate portions of the Totem 1 nuclear clouds. Those portions of the clouds that were located were so radioactive that US B29 aircrews, who chased the Australian Totem 1 cloud, were “aghast”. These US crews were veterans of many blasts. They stated that the Totem 1 The use to which authorities put Lallie’s reports and what was done with her knowledge is of great importance. Lallie saw a secret thing. [45] The protection of the secret was given great care. Lallie has asked doctors for a diagnosis for her condition since the 1950s. Not until the 1980s was one given. That diagnosis was apparently made without reference to the cause of the condition. [46] Where radiation may be present, radiation must be considered in the diagnosis – IAEA.
The harsh and arid Australian bush offers little hope of decontamination. In a statement to Congress in 1957, Dr. Eugene P. Cronkite reported the following in relation to the beta burns experienced in the Marshall Islands: “FACTORS INFLUENCING SEVERITY OF THE LESIONS -Certain lessons were learned from the Marshallese experience. Burns were caused by direct contact of the radioactive material with the skin. The perspiration as common in the tropics, the delay in decontamination and the difficulties in decontamination certainly favored the development of the skin burns. Those individuals who remained indoors or under trees during the fallout developed less severe skin burns. The children who went wading in the ocean developed fewer lesions of the feet and most of the Americans who were more aware of the dangers of the fallout, took shelter in aluminum buildings and bathed and changed clothes. Consequently they developed only very mild beta burns. Lastly, a single layer of cotton material offered almost complete protection, as was demonstrated by the fact that skin burn developed almost entirely on the exposed parts of the body.” [47]
In fact military documents reveal that the modes of protection from and decontamination of Beta emitting particles were well known in 1948. [48]
The following transcripts of Lallie Lennon’s words show that no warnings or protective advise were given. They reveal the time span from exposure to anything approaching “decontamination” – removal of the radioactive particles from the body, particularly the hair, finger nails, and other parts liable to collect and retain it. Protective measures were known by authorities.
This lifestyle, this way of thriving in an arid place where others have perished for lack of similar skills, has enabled the Australian Aboriginal Peoples to thrive for thousands of years. Existing in intimate contact with the land, skills and ways that had been successful became special vulnerabilities in the face of the detonation of nuclear weapons on their land and the deposition of nuclear fallout across it. The Black Mist was a concentrated event that assailed ways of life, resources and individuals. This forms part of the “special vulnerability” suffered by Aboriginal Peoples during the British Nuclear Weapons Tests in Australia as acknowledged by Royal Commissioner McClelland. [49]

Part 2 Lallie’s Transcripts.

A Transcript of Lallie Lennon’s statements included in the film “Backs to the Blast, An Australian Nuclear Story”, produced by Harry Bardwell, 1981.
“We went out there looking for opal and we heard on the news – we had a little portable wireless with us – and this bomb’s supposed to went off at 6 o’clock. So we got up early on, me and the kids. While I was waiting I made bottles up for that morning and er, we waited for it to go up. Holding our ears. We thought it was going to be all – you know – that scared.” (Scene changes in film.)
Lallie continues: “Just as we were getting ready for breakfast, this smoke, you know, you could see it between the trees coming through, it went right through, over us. Could smell the gunpowder smell. And on the tent it had this grey blacky sort of dust. And we came back with this skin trouble, me and the boy, and we thought it might have been that that caused it. It must have been 3 years when it started coming all over the body. Even the boy had big scabs all over him. All over his face.” Approximate total run time: 1 minute 22 seconds. [1]
Lallie observed that “grey and blacky sort of dust” had been deposited on the tent, and that she and her son, Bruce had suffered skin trouble that was present on their return from their camp. After a period of time, the skin condition then changed to that of an outbreak that had spread, “coming all over the body”.
A Transcript of an Interview with Lallie Lennon and Michele Madigan, Port Augusta, May 2006. A follow up editorial interview took place on 31/12/09 at Port Augusta.
Transcribed by Paul Langley 26.5.06. Amended and corrected Jan 2010.
(At commencement of the interview Lallie and Michele were looking atphotographs and commenting on them. One purpose of the meeting was tolook at old photos taken of Lallie and the skin condition she has suffered fromsince exposure to contact with the Black Mist.)
Michele: “When was this, was it at Wallatina or Port Augusta or where?”Lallie: “That was here at Port Augusta.”Michele: “Port Augusta.”Lallie: “Legal Rights.”Michele: “Oh Legal Rights.”Lallie: “I was standing here.”Michele: “Oh Andrew Collett, that was years after the thing though wasn’t it?”Lallie: “Yes. I was really bad then.”  [end extract.]
The knowledge regarding the effects of radioisotopes, first studied by doctors such as John Lawrenc, Stone and Hamilton in the 1930s and 1940s, was applied to the prediction of the effects of atomic bombs by Groves, Compton, Stone and Hamilton, predictively from from 1942, and actually from 1945.
The suffering experienced by the victims of the 1953 South Australian Black Mist Incident was foreseen .
The true nature of the suffering inflicted remains supressed today.
It is very surprising that although similar events in other parts of the world have resulted in acceptance of the reality of Beta radiation burns, this external marker of suffering and harm is ignored by organisations and government in Australia.
This entry was posted on April 20, 2010 at 12:53 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Christina MacPherson
Congratulations on this thorough and detailed account of your research into the Black Mist, and Lallie Lennon’s witness to this experience.
This is an Australina national shame – the treatment of those aboriginal people, and others, who were subjected to the effects of atomic bomb testing in South Australia.
I am not surprised to learn of Professor Titterton’s disgraceful dismissal of the aborigines’ witness to these events and their effects. This was not the only time that Professor Titterton, in the interests of furthering the nuclear industry, successfully covered up the effects of ionising radiation. He was instrumental in closing down the monitoring of radioactive particles in clouds reaching Eastern Australia from the French atmospheric atomic bomb testing, in the 1970′s
While the Australian government and nuclear physicists are happy to wait until all the South Australian atomic victims have died out, fortunately their case is now being taken up in England, with a legal action that has every chance of at least exposing this shameful episode in Australian history. And perhaps even providing some sort of belated justice for the aborigines, soldiers, and pastoralists who were affected.
Australia’s shame: ignoring its “Black Mist” atomic radiation victims « Antinuclear
Congratulations on this thorough and detailed account of your research into the Black Mist, and Lallie Lennon’s witness to this experience
By nuclearhistory
The full text of the following extract may be downloaded from MediaStorm 
Versions:Official: Contains copyright evidence. Not for release into the Public Domain.
Public: Copyright material referenced and described, but not included. Public version may be freely transmitted and copied with acknowledgement.
Published by Paul J. Langley
Aldinga Beach LPO P.O. Box 47 Aldinga Beach South Australia
17 Feb 2010

3 replies »

  1. This legacy is a negative stain upon the nation and it would only be a guess as to the magnitude of impact upon countless individuals and families, dislocated, thrown into chaos, made sick from the hasty and unplanned actions of Britain, the US and I guess Australia which loves to attend most military gigs sponsored by the aforementioned nations.

    That Paul Langley is describing the effect and listening to the stories is maybe part of the healing process for all – to recognise the ill-effects of nationalistic actions without regard the owners of the land and lore is not just culpible but foolhardy actions, no doubt at the time supported by someones law.

    This issue like so many covered on this fine news site, highlights the government and corporate blindspot to human and social effect of what on paper may have looked like totally reasonable plans – to a general or a prime minister seeking to drive home the message that we are powerful and capable – or otherwise said grown up boys playing with their toys and being found out later for the mess created.

    Settlement, Exploration, Pastoralism, Farming, Mining….the list goes on in a very fresh and late chapter of colonial history. For all the trickery of the wicked acts no amount of cash or compensation is an adequate replacement for dignity and respect, and of these successive Australian governments have been found lacking in the truth.

    Creative and adaptive people survive and people that have lost sight of their gods fight, steal and plunder, perhaps for want of anything better to do.

    May the lands and people that have suffered be allowed to heal and may the governments and corporations that have acted recklessly either step down, or start showing some respect for country, people and community – on the land that you have taken and for which you have shown little respect.

  2. To Michelle Madigan, after reading your story about Lallie’s experience in regards to the black mist of maralinga, I wanted to ask you if you remember my mum Millie Taylor (nee Lennon). She once told me that she too was interviewed by either you or maybe someone else and she too was recorded on tape.

    I did find a mention of her name at one stage along with Eileen Winfield, Jessie Lennon, Edna Williams, Lallie and a few others in a list but that was all. I would very much like to find out more about her interview.

    She did tell me some stories where she said she and her parents were also at Mintabie with me and my two older brothers (I was 18 mths old at the time). I guess I just want to find out what she said in her interview. I’ve been searching for it for a long time now, and I need confirmation and closure of mum’s accounts. I too am telling my story about past wrongs committed against my family.

    My grandmother Molly Lennon was covered in the ash fallout and she lost all memory of who she was. Mum was very upset when she was sent to an Adelaide mental institution where she died without ever remembering her family. She was buried in Adelaide somewhere and to this day we still dont know where. I personally feel that when we do find her all will be revealed as her bones will have a story to tell.

  3. Thank you very much for this important information. During my stay in Cobber Pedy and my work at CP Hospital I was allways worried when the dust storms came rolling in from the south west lifting up massive amounts of soil from this contaminated sites.
    The wrong that has been done to Anangu, not only through the test’s but before and after are without number. Now being back in my native Germany I am bewildered that nobody, nobody ever has heard anything about all this. It is time to tell a story.
    Gerhard Steiniger – former RN at Coober Pedy Hospital

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