President Harry Truman made a personal journal entry on July 25, 1945. It speaks of anguish. "We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world."

On August 6, "Little Boy" was released on Hiroshima and three days later "Fat Boy" was released on Nagasaki. Some victims were vaporized, others terribly disfigured and deaths from radiation exposure continued for decades. In an "unspeakable second" the world was changed forever.

Those horrific bombings by the U.S. signaled the beginning of the nuclear age and the United States began to test nuclear weapons in an effort to perfect and expand its nuclear arsenal.

The earliest tests were conducted in the South Pacific, but a location for testing within the continental United States was imperative. In 1949, a permanent site 65 miles north of Las Vegas, in Nye County, Nevada was selected. All U.S. and British tests would be conducted there for the next 43 years.

The area which became known as the Nevada Test covers 1350 square miles, 100 square miles larger than the state of Rhode Island. The perimeter fence follows the east side of Highwy 95, from just south of the Mercury exit to just north of the small town of Lathrop Wells. Its deadly imprint runs deep into the Mojave desert.

A series of tests in the 1950s became a scientific experiment using infantry soldiers. They were placed a few hundred yards from ground zero for the blast and then marched directly to the site of the explosion. The Army studied their reactions for use in war plans.

The Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in August 1963 forced the atmospheric tests underground. According to the Gallery of U.S. Nuclear Tests, between July 16, 1945 and September 23, 1992, 1054 nuclear tests were conducted at the Nevada Nuclear Weapons Test Site. The cost for each ranged between $6 million and $60 million. Forty-two underground tests were documented to have ventings of radioactive gases beyond the boundaries of the Test Site area.

Protests at the site date back to 1957. By the 80s, there was a series of protests at the Nevada Test Site, primarily organized by two Las Vegas-based organizations, Nevada Desert Experience (NDE) launched in 1981, and American Peace Test (APT) launched in 1985.

But...there had never been a permanent presence at the location until Art Casey from San Diego moved onto the land directly facing the entrance to the Nevada Nuclear Weapons Test Site. This website documents his story and honors the 25th Anniversary of the founding of Peace Camp.

His determination to create an encampment and make a daily peace witness at the entrance to the Nevada Test Site would change the history of nuclear resistance and create a Peace Camp which would ultimately host 536 demonstrations involving 37,488 protesters and 15, 740 arrests.

--- Janice Keaffaber, San Diego, May 1, 2011


The story of resistance to nuclear weapons is ultimately a mystery story. Resistance has triumphed over the most powerful military advocates for sixty five years. The whole story, the whole truth, remains elusive but many pieces are small enough to be remembered. Remembering nuclear resistance focussed on the Nevada Test Site is the aim of the Peace Camp 25 blog.

Twenty five years ago (1986---1989) a permanent Peace Camp was established near the entrance of the Nevada Test Site. Now a Nevada Historical Site it is a part of the international effort which stopped the testing (exploding) of nuclear warheads. This remote desert site was chosen (1950) by the US for the convenience of the design laboratories at Livermore and Los Alamos. Resistance at the site was sporadic until the widespread deadly effects of atmospheric testing created international resistance which forced a moratorium (1963) on above ground explosions. The change to underground testing undercut resistance efforts which were again sporadic (1963---1977). Then a small Franciscan community in Las Vegas began personal vigils at the site. In 1982 the California Franciscans led by Louis Vitale organized the Nevada Desert Experience.* The ongoing worldwide Nuclear Freeze movement first came to the Nevada Test Site in October, 1985.

A permanent Peace Camp in this desert seemed foolhardy. The site is nakedly exposed to a harsh desert climate. Other than a highway (US-95) there is nothing at all to support a camp. Once again mystery is the only explanation for the establishment of Peace Camp. On October 5, 1986, Art Casey with only remote support of friends, NDE, and the American Peace Test began as a solitary camper maintaining daily vigils. Peace Camp 25 tells this and other parts of the story of nuclear resistance at the Nevada Test Site.

The current government euphemism for the site is the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). Portions of the land within its boundaries will remain dangerously radioactive forever.

*See Ken Butigan's book, Pilgrimage Through a Burning World.


PROTEST November 17, 1986

San Diego protest contingent with Art Casey
Song from American Peace Test Songbook, lyrics by VIP Short
sung to tune of Take Me Out to the Ballgame

American Peace Test

November 14, 1986

NUCLEAR ALERT: Test "Gascon"
conducted at NTS November 14, 1986

November 11, 1986

November 2, 1986

Art Casey and Jim Merlino at the fence-- Art on the outside and Merlino on the inside!

October 16, 1986

NUCLEAR ALERT: Test "Belmont"
conducted at NTS October 16, 1986


Peace Camp Maps

Official Peace Camp Map 1987

Desert Waves AG Map circa 1988



1986: Peace Camp Begins

Art Casey's lonely vigil

San Diegan takes a stand for peace at nuclear test site

Author(s): Peter Rowe Staff Writer Date: October 15, 1986 Section LIFESTYLE
In the desert, his prayers are offered to counter the "idolatry" of the weapons testers.

"What are we doing out there blowing up bombs at an ever-increasing rate?" he wondered. "There is no military purpose. It is counterproductive politically. We look like asses to the rest of the world. I can't believe that we need it to keep the economy going.
"It has got to be an act of faith that in nuclear violence lies the salvation of the United States..."
Casey is not totally alone in his resolve. This summer, he appealed to fellow parishoners for prayers and money.
"When he came to us," said Sister Louise McDonald, a staff member at Christ the King,"he came to us for support. He said he didn't have any other basis for support." Many responded wholeheartedly. Others had misgivings. "There are people here who feel very strongly that this is just a big waste of time, that when the bomb falls, the bomb falls. What can one voice do?" said the Rev. Bob Fambrini, S.J., the pastor"But our spiritual tradition impels us to look at that one voice and what it can do."
Casey makes no claims for his mission. In his life, things have rarely worked out as planned. Born in Anaheim, he was reared in the Nevada desert, first in Moapa, a remote whistle stop where father worked in the train station, and then Las Vegas.

At USC, he earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. Upon graduation, he heard the same magical word whispered in the ears of a generation of West Coast engineers: "aerospace."For years, the work was steady and good. Casey landed jobs with General Electric, Hughes Aircraft, the Army, General Dynamics, yo-yoing between Los Angeles and San Diego.

But his conscience also embarked on a long-distance commute, from untroubled patriotism in the 1950s to vague uneasiness in 1968, the year Vietnam exploded in the Tet offensive and the United States was torn by the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F Kennedy.
"A crazy year," he said. "A year of explicit knowledge that I was devoting my life to weapons of death and destruction. It was the first time I remember hearing people talk of the Death Industry as a code word for the military-industrial complex."
His marriage unraveled. So did his career, as aerospace slumped nationwide. He clung to various industry jobs through 1975, when Control Data Corporation in San Diego cost-cut his job into oblivion.
Alone and unemployed, Casey followed his instincts. He joined a    volunteer grass-roots urban planning group, pushing mass transit and opposing the Naval Hospital's expansion in Balboa Park. But in 1982, another crisis hit. This time, Casey needed to do more than reevaluate his career. After reading Schell's "Fate of the Earth," he needed to reevaluate his faith in God.

Reared Catholic, Casey had started attending Christ the King church in 1971. Newcomers to the predominantly black parish invariably comment on the hand-clapping rhythms of the Gospel choir, but Casey recognized that the church offered more than soulful music.

"It is a community that moves people," he said. "I really do experience a powerful connection with the prayers that happen in that community."But after reading "Fate," he questioned his beliefs. If man can cause his own extinction, what do the prayers and hymns mean? His faith, built on the notion of a benevolent Creator whose love suffuses the globe, wavered.
"We people have the whole world in our hands. It's ours to destroy. That is new," he said. "I don't need any more information, I don't need any more studies, I don't need any more computer models. To me, it's a fact. Any one of a number of ordinary human beings can initiate the end of life on Earth.'

So Casey demonstrated at Ballast Point. At a fall 1983 protest outside the Kearny Mesa plant of his former employer, General Dynamics, Casey trespassed and was arrested.
But it is the Nevada Test Site that seems to exert the strongest tug on his conscience, drawing him to relatively brief demonstrations in 1984, 1985, and 1986.
On the first Sunday in October, eight cars left Las Vegas, carrying Casey, 18 members of the Christ the King congregation and two representatives of American Peace Test, an anti-test group based in Las Vegas.
They drove north on Interstate 95 and the city petered out, as though Nevada's stocks of concrete were exhausted. Then all was rock and Joshua tree, jagged peak and dust-choked arroyo.
An hour later, the cars took the Mercury exit. Two miles within the test site boundaries, they parked. The 21 protesters had an Energy Department permit for an hour-long prayer service.
Standing in a circle, they held hands and read from slips of colored paper stuffed in a ceramic pot sent from Christ the King. Casey closed his eyes as the prayers rose on the cool desert wind.
"God, please give Art the strength he needs to be a witness..."
"Art, we pray that you will be the first of many to be called to the desert..."
Some of Casey's companions wept.
"Peace requires constant ferment, it doesn't mean passivity," said Lillian Macy, a Christ the King parishioner. "Art is full of ferment."
They linked arms and marched down the road to a white line. On the other side stood two Nye County sheriff's deputies and a handful of armed security guards. The familiar ritual -- demonstrators are a constant fact of life at the Nevada Test Site -- began.
"Good morning," Casey called out.
"Good morning," a deputy warily returned, rolling a thin cigar between his lips.
Casey wished them well and notified them he will not be arrested today -- he will not trespass by crossing the white line.
"Thank you," Casey finished.
"Thank you," cigar-smoker replied.
Their hour-long permit expired, the protesters drove off the test site and up a dirt road leading into the foothills. Casey wanted to camp by a rusting water tank a mile from the highway, but found it guarded by 30 head of cattle and a truck.
Edward Frehner, 61, a bluff, weather-beaten cattleman, leaned out of the cab and told Casey to move on. He watched with a bemused smile as Casey and his followers set off.
"Don't make a damn to me as long as they stay away from the water," said Frehner, who leases 1,400 square miles here. He laughed. "Damn fools."
Casey led his group north of the cattle. At a junction in the power lines -- a spot some 40 miles southwest of Pahute Mesa, site of tomorrow's test -- they set down his supplies. Casey walked them back to their cars and said goodbye.
And then they were gone.
Casey checked his supplies: seven gallons of water, a large sack of granola and packets of dried peaches and bananas. Inside the pack were jeans, shirts, thick woolen socks, a parka, a camp stove, matches, a lighter, sunscreen, a clock, paper and pens.
No books. No radio.
The wind flattened the nylon sides of his home, a narrow yellow and white mountaineering tent.
"I don't understand all this stuff that I'm doing," he said. "I don't understand all this stuff I'm talking about."
Some links to civilization are unbroken. Once a week, the American Peace Test will resupply him and deliver mail. Each morning, Casey will walk to I-95 and greet workers entering the test site. He will hold a banner: "Christ the King Peace Witness, San Diego, CA."
But now, on the borders of a kingdom where the nuclear genie is regularly uncorked, he clung to a belief:
I am alone but unabandoned.
"That is an act of faith," he said. "Spiritual power can be present somewhere physically different than where it is offered. I don't have any doubts about that."


On Being Welcomed

Years of practice at being a guest
has heightened my awareness
of welcome or its absence.
Tonight I'm slightly afraid
of what reception awaits.

I am going into the Mojave Desert
at eleven pm on Dec. 31, 2002.
Arriving at the highway boundary line
of the Nevada Test Site is familiar;
the organizers have a small campfire going.
The temperature is in the low 30's
and Brother Wind is gentle, almost absent;
hopeful signs but I've had hard lessons
of indifference from this desert.

I want to hear the silence of the desert
and wander out into the dark.
Sister Moon is on the sunny side of Earth
so the stars have the sky to themselves.
Their beauty is startling bu the
Milky Way, our home galaxy,
puts all else in the background.
And then she very quietly, very lovingly,
floods WELCOME over me.

In gratitude, Art Casey