Introduction to Project Milrow

 

 

 

 

 

Following Project Long Shot, an 80 kiloton nuclear explosion, that was detonated October 29, 1965, on Amchitka Island, and supported by the 17th Troop Carrier Squadron. Scientists measured the seismic energy from the test at 5.75 on the Richter Scale. A second underground nuclear test, with an 1.2 megaton yield, was detonated on October 2, 1969. This second test was code named Project Milrow. According to sources observing Project Milrow, "the blast 'turned the surrounding sea to froth' and forced geysers of mud and water from local streams and lakes 50 feet into the air." Two crews from the 17th Tactical Airlift Squadron provided support.

Amchitka, one of the Rat Islands, is a 43-mile-long island in the Aleutians, and is located not far from the last island in the Chain, Attu. The island was a military outpost during WWII, and the airfield and base camp from that facility were reused for the Long Shot and Milrow nuclear tests.

Site: 5125'01.6" North and 17910'56.3" East

 

The Project Milrow Mission

It was around the middle of September when two C-130 aircraft from the 17th Tactical Airlift Squadron were assigned to provide mission support for a special event known as "Project Milrow." My name was pulled out of the hat to be a member of one of the two flight crews. The year was 1969.

We departed Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, at Anchorage, and flew to Adak Naval Air Station, Alaska, which is located on the Aleutian Chain. There we joined the project personnel comprised of both civilian and military representatives of "The Atomic Energy Commission," as well as several additional aircraft and crews.

The following day we were briefed on the purpose of the project and what our role would be. We were told that there was to be an atomic blast 5,000 feet underground on Amchitka Island. The C-130's were to fly over the blast site with radiation monitoring equipment aboard and check for leakage. (Note: Milrow was detonated on October 2, 1969 at 4,000 feet below the surface of the island.)

In addition to radiation monitoring, the C-130's were stationed there early in order to fly personnel and equipment to Amchitka as needed. Sailors based at the Adak Naval Air Station were concerned about their safety if a mishap were to occur. Not being schooled in aircraft, they thought the five forward support planes were there to fly them off the base to safety--all 4,000-5,000 of them.

The day before the detonation we flew a dress rehearsal. From the air we could see ships from many countries such as Japan, Russia, Korea, and many more snooping around the island. Some even tried to jam our navigation and communication radios. Since Amchitka was a major seal breeding island, the environmentalists launched a full-blown objection to the test, resulting in much apprehension about the blast actually taking place.

On the morning of the "shot," we met for final briefing, then headed to Amchitka to take up our assigned position and be ready. My aircraft was to head into the blast site, to be five miles out and straight into ground zero. By monitoring the radio we were able to hear the countdown...5...4...3...2...1...fire.

Immediately upon detonation there was a shock wave that moved out and away from ground zero (like a stone tossed into a still pond). It took only seconds to reach us. I was braced for a severe shock of turbulence, but it passed us without a burble. Relieved, we flew on across ground zero at 1,000 ft., checking for leakage. None was detected, much to our satisfaction.

After returning to Adak NAS for a debriefing, we expected to go home. Not so. My crew was selected to remain in the area to provide further support. We stayed for seven more very uneventful days. Needless to say, we were happy to head for home.

Due to the passage of time, I have experienced a lapse of memory and cannot recall the names of all the crewmembers. I think that my pilot was Don Gould, and Don Thompson may have been the navigator. I know that Bob Mattingly was my loadmaster. All I remember of the other crew is that Ed Highfield was flight engineer, and Sandy Hudgins was load master. My apologies to those whose names I did not include. Maybe some one out there can help me out.

Bruce P. Huff
9206 Willowview Lane
Houston, Texas 77080-7423

 

 

 

 

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