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.


April 2-9 Tonopah Jail

Top photo: Saying goodbye at at the Nevada Test Site fence
Middle photo: Art Casey preparing to surrender at Beatty Jail
Bottom photo: Gail Weiss, Janice Keaffaber, Mike Murphy, Ellen Murphy, Pam Rider
 singing outside Nye County Sheriff

Tonopah Jail
April 9, 1987

Dear Friends,

The whole Sheriff's organization is in an irritable mode since their management has announced severe layoffs due to exhaustion of funding before the end of the fiscal year in June. We (there are nine peace people in here) feel this is more Nye County-Federal government in-fighting with the primary purpose of increasing Nye County reimbursement and a secondary purpose of making life more difficult for peacemakers.

My guess that Tonopah Jail is better than Beatty has been confirmed. The physical facility here may be worse but the daily routine is much more humane. Especially important now is that we prisoners interface with trustees (fellow prisoners) instead of Deputy Sheriffs for routine stuff like food, mail, clothing (we're in prison jump suits), sleeping materials. The trustees wander around the outside of our cage quite frequently. In Beatty any contact was typically 3 times a day unless prisoners were going in/out. I feel quite steady, peaceful here so far. The only serious frustration is access to my stuff. Next is the general obscenity/bullshit that runs out of the T.V. several hours a day.

Since leaving you I've just been in continuous motion, but mostly all good times.

Thursday, April 2 - night flight - good pick up at airport by Duncan MacMurdy, short night at Franciscan House.

Friday, April 3 - vigil (at entance to Test Site) - return to camp - all was well even though abandoned for three days.  Night rain - wind - restless. Got wet because of vacillation about rain cover on tent.

Saturday, April 4 - early to vigil - found single peace person there in drizzle rain. We left at 8:30 A.M. for Las Vegas - Saw the Franciscans coming out as we were going in - spent the afternoon with the Franciscans - good program, prayers, talk, evening meal. Slept on the floor at St. James.

Sunday, April 5 - mass, civil disobedience at Test Site. Beautiful, prayerful morning. Went to camp - dried everything and packed up, secured everything loose. Amazed, pleased by afternoon visit from Janice Keaffaber and Gail Weiss from San Diego (Desert Waves Affinity Group). They stayed the night in camp near highway interchange. Wonderful night - calm, clear, first quarter moon, kind of warm.

Monday, April 6 - hot breakfast with Janice and Gail. Meeting with Pam Rider, Mike and Ellen Murphy from San Diego. Good vigil - lots of fun with Jim Merlino and Nevada Desert Experience people. Everybody (all San Diego) off to Beatty. We supported Murphy's trials - had last lunch and checked into jail. San Diego supporters sang me in with "Peace is Flowing" and "Down by the Riverside" - irritated the Sergeant on duty but amused court clerks.

Beatty Jail Monday night - generally poor experience - fellow prisoner a 'career criminal" - quite disturbed and verbal diarrhea. Fellow peace person checked in Tuesday afternoon - (one woman in there too but no contact possible) and all of us moved here Tues. afternoon. Thankfully the Deputy who drove us up (hour and a half) was courteous, easy with himself and us.

Tonopah Jail April 7 - checked in here, was back to irritation/hostility as far as Sheriffs go. But once through that and into this cage all has been reasonable.

Peace, Love,
Art Casey

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Nuclear Alert: Test :"Middle Note"
conducted at NTS March 18, 1987