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.


February 25, 1987

Desert Peace Witness
February 25, 1987

Snow Day

Today was the day for snow on the desert floor. Yesterday, even though it was cold with occasional gusts of wind, I just had to be out to look. Snow showers on the mountains to the south, snow showers on the mountains to the north, blue sky (well, some of the time) and sunshine on me. Last night, knowing precipitation was finished, I pinned open the rain cover doors and left my boots outdoors. On a midnight excursion, half the sky was a star-filled black and the other half clouds. At 3:30 A.M. I heard "rain" on the tent and started my usual procrastination -- just a moment's shower, right? Remembering how often I've been wrong, and sorry for dilatory action, moved me to secure boots and tent. Sounds easy, but that requires loosening the mummy cords on sleeping bag, opening the velcro zipper lock, unzip sleeping bag, unzip tent door -- didn't feel any rain -- grab boots and put inside (under my nose, that's why I prefer them outside), remove clothes pins right and left holding rain doors, grab door and pull hard together, hold with one hand, haul down zipper with other hand, then zip tent door. And it takes longer to do that than it does to write this.
By this time I had doubts about the precipitation and checked with the aid of flashlight. All that other stuff goes easier with two hands feeling -- flashlight is a hindrance, not a help.

Snow, just fat white snow flakes inside where the door was momentarily open, snow on my boots, snow in my boots. Bah! Grabbed towel (I never use it except for mopping up), wiped things off, knocked snow out of boots and mummied back into sleeping bag. I was quickly warm and dozed off and on until 5:15 A.M. The world was darker than usual for that hour but I wanted up and out to see.

Beautiful, beautiful desert with maybe an inch or two of snow. No wind, trivial snow falling, comfortable temperature all encourage me to do daily vigil. Interesting walk across desert that looks so different. Desert pavement areas absolutely uniform white, creosote bushes and yucca very obvious since neither care to catch lots of snow. Smaller bushes all completely transformed into smooth mounds of snow, except for ephedra needles sticking through looking very funny. My dark walking worry, the pencil cholla, very obvious in dim light since snow collecting in thorns has made "stems" fat and visible. The hedge hog cactus had collected snow very directionally from the driven side and had a peculiar half cactus, half snow cone appearance. The golden cholla with its haze of thorns was the best snow collector of all, seemingly catching and holding every flake, creating a bare spot at its base.

The "new" world clearly excited Test Site workers as well as me. There were more honks than ever, lots of waves, even a first time ever wave from a bus driver I had firmly buried as a zombie. Snow flurries came and went, visibility stretched and collapsed but the snow was "dry," the wind non-existent. The two hours at the cattle guard ran shorter than usual.

The walk back to camp saw brightening sky even though without blue, much less sun, and the end of snowfall. My regular breakfast requires warming water to dissolve powered milk. The stove had been open and was snow covered. Ignoring that, I lit it. That worked fine for half a minute until snow on the burner liquefied, plugged the pin holes and extinguished the flame. Some frustration ensued trying to restart the fire until I settled down, got my wash cloth from the "grooming" yucca and dried the burner. After that, the stove was fine. The picnic cooler with breakfast food was de-snowed to open and breakfast prepared quick as usual. I shook and whisked off (with a yucca whisk broom) the chaise lounge, sat down and enjoyed breakfast.

The day was warming up and snow on desert pavement began to disappear. To better appreciate this transformation to a wet desert, I made a cup of tea and drank it while strolling about camp. Light snow began again, melting at once where there was rock, but piling higher wherever there was vegetation. This created fanciful patterns in the desert pavement areas because every piece of fluff grass became a little mound of snow surrounded by wet rock. This "wet" snow raised a question of clothing and after some watchful waiting I made a quick open-grab-close from the tent and put my rain suit on over everything thicker. All my negotiations with the spirits of sky and cloud changed nothing. I grabbed some food and retreated inside the tent.

Being inside with no window was very hard. I did eat some lunch but then simply had to peep out. A snowdrift completely filled the little crack between the bottom of the rain cover and the front wall of the tent. I pushed that away with the lid of my lunch food container. Then I could see big dry snowflakes piling up where I had just cleared. Opening the rain door a little revealed another new world -- all white. Thought a little, listened a little (no noise) and decided to get outside.

There was perhaps three inches of snow standing where wet desert pavement had been little more than an hour before. I tromped around hunting for a big raised flat rock. My idea was that such a spot brushed off would help keep my feet dry. That search was fruitless so on an arbitrary rocky place, I stomped until I had a circle of wet rock underfoot. And there I stayed for an hour and a half watching the snow, the desert, the highway (trucks, RVs and the snowplow). Visibility reached out sometimes as far as five miles and never less than to the highway, about a quarter of a mile. In spite of the fascinating beauty and dynamics of the day I eventually began to negotiate with the sky again. If it would stop, I would make a cup of hot chocolate and toast. No deal. Eventually made and drank the hot chocolate in light snow. Then I dug away all the snow drifts from around the base of the tent and secured myself inside here

I just made a brief excursion out to watch the sunset. Beautiful, soft, pastel orange, with just a moment of clear sun and real dayglo orange. Very light snow falling and starting to re-cover even those places I had stomped clear to wet rock. I'll not even try any more negotiations with sky spirits. Today has been full of beauty and wonder, so thank you to the Creator.

Peace, Love,
Art Casey