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 27, 1987 Tonopah Jail

Tonopah Jail
Monday, April 27, 1987
Day 21 - 3 to go

Limited, Conditional Love
Three weeks in this man-made "world" of jail paints a sharp garish portrait of "Love One Another" reduced to man's vision. Such love that survives reminds me of similarly polarized magnets restrained in a common space. Prisoners do relate to one another, affect one another, but force maintains separation not community. Even when we had a number of peace people here my perception was isolation (we, I, name it Anarchy)above community. There are alliances, friendships (?) that form but those seem selfishly defensive arrangements to maintain separation. This jail is too small to create gangs but the lines of force favoring such a pattern are clear. Lines of force, bars of force, badges of force, laws of force, all here is force, fear, patriarchy at its purest form of top down power. And what that 10,000 year-old error allows to trickle down to the prisoner is powerlessness.
So all of us who have voluntarily (like a "voluntary" abortion, a desperate selection among evils) chosen to be prisoners wrestle with our powerlessness. I suspect that few of us (certainly not me) move very far through the grieving process that such a loss of life warrants. Denials that we have "died " is easy. The fact that we do live, that we will be released, that our "resurrection" is predictable (we know the date), all reinforce this first step in grieving. We make posters and sing songs about our "free" spirit no matter how incarcerated our body. But I know that body and spirit are one so that this denial of jailed spirit is some kind of lie.
Anger is easy for me, a staple of my energy, but of no use in this cage. It was anger directed toward deputies that made Beatty Jail so trying last October. This session anger is vague, fuzzy, directed at "the system" which chooses death at almost every turn. But clearly that kind of anger does nothing to move me through the grieving process that jail, this personal loss of life, deserves. Bargaining with jail is not impossible, but this too is insincere.
I promised myself (and all of you) that I would buy my way out of here rather than sink into a personally destructive experience. I still believe that I'm being honest in that promise but denial has overridden the need to face up to real bargaining. Literally bargaining has been serious for just a few hours and always terminated with the noise of jail routine - or the noise of other prisoners flailing at the jail system. Several young men and one Shoshone Indian exactly my age, (59) doing six months in here for trivial crime block my bargaining mind when the calendar shows just days to go.
Depression is another of my emotional staples but like anger it stays fuzzy, is limited to nothing more serious than boredom. And not much of that. Again, there is the distraction of noise - either the jail staple, or my own internal noise of wrestling with ideas in preference to dealing with emotion. With such a frustration of completing the early stages of denial, anger, bargaining and depression in the grieving process, it is just plain impossible to deal with acceptance of the "death" which jail is. I hope my resurrection next Thursday is joyous in spite of my denial of dying in this tomb.
Peace, love,
Art Casey
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